Words. Anthony Rizzuti
How exactly do you transform the ugly duckling into Miss America? Well, you follow a number of elaborate steps. First, you make her over. Give her a modern, beautiful look. Next, you teach her how to perform. Practice her etiquette, show her how to walk down the stage, and give her an interesting talent. And lastly, train her into a winner. Teach and instill the values of winning into this project and make her something the whole country will drool over.
This is the exact situation Mikhail Prokhorov, Billy King and Avery Johnson are looking at. How do you make the New Jersey Nets, the ugly duckling of the NBA, a playoff team?
During the 2009-2010 season, the Nets scrapped together 12 wins. Yup, that was not a typo, 12 wins. On the way to this pitiful display, the Nets failed to chalk up a single victory in their first 18 games (the worst start in NBA history), challenged the ’72-’73 Sixers for most losses in a season, and managed to further dampen the already sullied reputation of New Jersey.
Now how do you fix this mess? Well, like every great project, you must have a Plan A and Plan B. And just to throw Jay-Z into the mix, we’ll name this two-part plan, the Blueprint 3.
Plan A: (Usually the less realistic out of the two)
Step 1: Move out of New Jersey. I know this is already in the works, but no one will come see your games in New Jersey. (Especially now that you play in Newark.) No support equals low morale.
Step 2: Make a ridiculously unfair trade where you give away your worst player for a star. It seemed to have worked out for the Lakers.
Step 3: Sign three of the biggest superstars in the game. Oh sorry, someone already did that. This means we must move on to Plan B.
Plan B: (The reasonable and more likely choice)
Step 1: Gain an identity. There is no doubt that the 2010-11 Nets are more talented than the 2009-2010 Nets. With the additions of Derrick Favors, Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow and Troy Murphy, this team has already assured themselves at least a couple more wins. They now have a young superstar in Favors, a proven winner in Farmar, an instant source of offense in Morrow, and a highly-skilled forward in Murphy. Add these guys with guard Devin Harris and Brook Lopez and you have a credible offense. The Nets should be known as a group of young and eager guys looking to outlast their opponents on the offensive end. And with Avery Johnson now at the helm, this team should embrace and translate their collective talents in becoming a scary offense.
Step 2: Play big in big games. Do you want to be taken seriously? Then you have to put a scare into the top teams in the League. No more rolling over whenever teams like the Lakers, Magic, Heat and Celtics come to town. These games should now become events for New Jersey’s young roster. I’m not saying to have each player come out and drop double-digit points en route to a win. I’m not saying they even have to win those games. Just look like a legitimate ball club that can run the court with the NBA’s best. Playing well in these games not only makes the team more appealing to the fans, but helps morale and confidence in the locker room and shows opponents that you are a force to be reckoned with.
Step 3: Let Brook Lopez be the Man. What do all great championship teams have in common? Dominant big men. The Sixers had Wilt Chamberlain, the Celtics had Bill Russell, the Lakers had Shaquille O’Neal and the Spurs had Tim Duncan. Johnson has to make his Lopez the center of the team. This seven-footer has the potential to become of the NBA’s big names. Last year, he averaged 18.8 points and grabbed 8.6 rebounds per game in an unfavorable situation. Now with the latest additions to the Nets, Lopez should have no problem utilizing his skills in a much more respectable offense.
What do you think? Will the Nets make the playoffs this year?
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