NBA: Nets need 2 wins to avoid NBA’s worst record
By TOM CANAVAN
AP Sports Writer
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — All the New Jersey Nets need in their final 12 games are two wins.
While it may sound like one of those no-brainer tasks for most teams, the Nets aren’t your ordinary team.
This is one looking to avoid the stigma of being the worst in NBA history.
New Jersey has won SEVEN times in 70 games. That’s a 7-63 record, or one victory in every 10 games.
Now the Nets have to win twice in the final 12 to avoid ending the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers’ 37-year stranglehold on the league’s worst mark at 9-73.
The situation has gotten so tense that the team’s chief executive got into a brief shouting match with a fan who wore a bag over his head at times during Monday night’s 99-89 loss to the Miami Heat.
During the exchange, Brett Yormark pointed a finger at the fan before eventually walking away.
“Our fans have been great and they’ve stuck with us through a tough season,” Yormark said in a statement Tuesday. “I did not agree with the way this person expressed his opinion of our team last night and I let him know. It’s been a frustrating season for all of us, but I will continue to stand up for our players, our fans, and our organization. We have an exciting future ahead and we appreciate all of our fans’ support.”
What the Nets need, though, is wins.
“Our sense of urgency is high now,” said guard Courtney Lee, who just last year played in the NBA finals with the Orlando Magic. “We have to get three wins because no one wants to go down in history in the way we are heading. We have to.”
It’s going to be tough. The Nets have lost eight straight games overall and a franchise-record 14 in a row at the Izod Center. In a loss to the Heat, starting small forward Terrence Williams sprained his left foot and ankle in the third quarter and had to leave the game.
The rookie did not practice Tuesday. He is wearing a plastic boot and his status for Wednesday’s game at home is questionable.
The good news is that Sacramento is coming to New Jersey to start a five-game road trip. The Kings are 3-7 in their last 10 games, and they will be without guard Tyreke Evans, who leads all rookies in scoring (20.3). Evans suffered a concussion in a recent loss to Milwaukee.
Sacramento is 7-28 on the road.
“This is one we have to have, simple as that,” Nets point guard Devin Harris said. “Banged up or not, we’re running out of opportunities, so this is one we have to have.”
Of the 12 games left, the Nets have five against teams that are in the top eight in their conference — San Antonio, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Miami. They also have two games with Chicago (33-37), which is ninth in the Eastern Conference and fighting to make the playoffs.
The others are against Sacramento, Detroit, New Orleans, Washington and Indiana.
“We look at every game saying we have to win this one, but like you said tomorrow those guys are banged up,” Lee said. “A couple of those guys are not playing. It is a game we should win and a game we definitely have to win.”
Winning has been a topic the Nets discussed last week at a team meeting. No one wants to finish as a member of the league’s worst club, even though this is a franchise that was stripped by management so it could have plenty of cap space for free agency this summer, a time when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all might be on the market.
Over the last two years the front office has traded Richard Jefferson, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, the trio that helped the team reach the NBA finals in 2002 and 2003.
That’s left Harris and second-year center Brook Lopez to carry a team with very little depth.
Lopez insisted all he has tried to do is work hard.
“That’s what you get paid to do and you have to be professional and come in every day,” he said. “We want this team to improve and win as many games as possible.”
Harris said he basically has stopped watching television and reading the newspapers, insisting he gets all the news he wants from the guys covering the team and veteran Keyon Dooling’s daily discourses.
“I really don’t think we’re 7-and-60-whatever until I come in here and look at it on the board,” Harris said. “It’s not something I go home thinking about. I think it’s in the corner of a lot of guys’ minds at this point.”
Harris even smiled when reminded he played for Dallas when it won 67 games in 2006-07.
“Yeah! I thought that was the highlight,” Harris said. “This is a tough season for all of us. We want to try and end it on a high note.”
Harris said the year has not changed his view of basketball.
“I still love the game. You have to take the highs with the lows,” he said. “This is a low for everybody. It all depends on how you respond from it. It will make me mentally stronger to know this is possible. I don’t think anyone in the NBA could really realize this could happen. You take it with a grain of salt and continue to get better as we go along.”
“Everybody’s watching,” he added. “You don’t want to be a part of what we’re heading towards as of right now. But if we continue to work hard we can live with it.”