In the shadow of the George Washington Bridge, near an off-ramp of the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Nets are on the toll road to NBA history. In their sights is the league’s worst record ever and, with a little less effort, they could go winless.
At the moment, the Nets are 0-13.
After studying their schedule closely, I have determined it is possible – make that likely – the Nets will go 0-82.
(Disclosure I: In 2008, I declared – six weeks into the baseball season – that the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera would go the entire year with a 0.00 ERA. He gave up a run the day after my column appeared.)
(Disclosure II: My NFL Team of Destiny this season, the Detroit Lions, appears to be destined for 3-13, and my Player of Destiny, USC freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, appears to be destined for the Poinsettia Bowl.)
(Disclosure III: Occasionally, I am wrong.)
Two NBA teams – the 1988-89 Miami Heat and the 1998-99 Los Angeles Clippers – have started a season 0-17. Within a week or so, the Nets could be 0-18. Then they would be free to zero in on the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers’ season-long futility – a 9-73 mark – a record that once appeared unassailable by any non-Kevin Loughery-coached team. And, finally, the unthinkable 0-82 might follow.
To be fair, it must be pointed out that the Nets have been health-challenged.
They have had as many as seven players out with injuries. Among those missing last week were All-Star Devin Harris (sprained right groin), Courtney Lee (strained left groin), Yi Jianlian (sprained right MCL) and Eduardo Najera (sore lower back).
Uh, anyone on the Nets’ training staff ever hear of Advil?
I glanced at a Nets’ box score Saturday and saw the names Brook Lopez, Trenton Hassell, Josh Boone, Rafer Alston and Chris Douglas-Roberts. That’s not an NBA starting five, that’s an El Paso forensic law firm.
(Incidentally, Douglas-Roberts reportedly had the swine flu earlier this season, but I believe he just had excessive exposure to Hubie Brown.)
For many games, the Nets have dressed only eight players. Other teams usually wear them down; however, they have the most efficient car-pool system and lowest laundry costs in the league.
(Speaking of jerseys, regarding LeBron James’ recent offer to stop wearing No. 23 as a way to honor Michael Jordan – which seemed like a marketing ploy – I was flabbergasted by the widespread Sports Nation discussion. Everyone was weighing in on this – “Around The Horn” shouting heads had to work double shifts – heck, I thought LeBron had donated both kidneys and his crab dribble to science, or to the Knicks.)
The Nets are the league’s worst shooting team, second-worst 3-point shooting team and second-lowest scoring team. As a rule, they consider every shot as a rebounding opportunity. Alston alone has missed 92 of 138 field goal attempts; he could drive right past the Grand Canyon and miss it.
When the Nets reached 0-10, they created a “10 Is Enough” promotion featuring $10 tickets to the next home game against the Pacers. This induced an announced crowd of only 11,332; there were more people buying bookcases at nearby IKEA that night than there were watching the Nets at the Izod Center.
Meanwhile, the team has been trying to move from East Rutherford to Brooklyn for five years, but traffic’s so bad, they can’t get past Newark.
The Nets’ principal owner, Bruce Ratner, recently sold 80 percent of the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov, I am told, plans to auction off all the team’s assets and convert the arena into in-laws’ quarters.
If he keeps the team intact, he might want to think about an “Eighty-Two Is Enough” promotion.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Why are you always complaining about something? (Matt Armstrong; West Allis, Wis.)
A. To take my mind off the fact that we lead meaningless lives in an inexplicable universe before hurtling into a dark and perpetual oblivion.
Q. Were you just as galled as my neighbor Maurice over the France-Ireland World Cup handball fiasco? (Michael Smith; Spokane)
A. One day the French, the Irish and the rest of the world will come to America’s way: Instant replay everything and get nothing wrong.
Q. How much does a personal seat license cost for a spot on your couch? (Jim Read; Victorville, Calif.)
A. Well, it cost me two marriages.
Q. The Pabst Brewing Co. reportedly is on the market for about $300 million. Will it go to the Yankees or the Redskins? (Bob Dalton; Arlington, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.