Thirteen games, 13 losses. Here are 13 reasons the Nets are in the position they are:
1. Bruce Ratner: Nice man, but his interests were in real estate opportunities and buildings, not building a championship team. He bought a contender and kept cutting payroll instead of letting Rod Thorn add quality pieces that could Nets over the top.
2. 2001 Draft-day Deal: This might be nitpicking because the Nets got Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins for Eddie Griffin, but the other player they chose from that trade was Brandon Armstrong when Gilbert Arenas was available.
3. Kidd’s input: The Nets always tried to make Jason Kidd happy, which isn’t a bad thing, but let management and coaches make the decisions. They traded Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch for Dikembe Mutombo, went and got Rodney Rogers, who did hit a huge shot in 2003 against the Bucks, and signed Alonzo Mourning to keep Kidd happy.
4. Kenyon Martin trade: It’s been more than five years, but that started the demise of the Nets because Kidd was never really happy after that. Had they received Nene or at least something other than picks from Denver maybe things would have been different.
5. Failed physicals: The Nets put so much time into trying to sign Shareef Abdur-Rahim and later Robert “Tractor” Traylor and both failed physicals. They wound up with Marc Jackson -- they had a trade exception they had to use and he was the only person they could get -- Scott Padgett and Lamond Murray.
6. Not Mr. Wright: The Nets could have had Danny Granger in 2005. They kick themselves every day for not taking him and instead going with the man former GM Ed Stefanski said this about: “He could be a good shooter similar to Allan Houston. And he can defend. We wanted Wright all the way.”
7. Carter’s deal: When Ratner said over lunch with beat writers in 2007 the Nets will be a luxury-tax team if they have to be in order to re-sign Vince Carter he gave Carter all the bargaining power. We agreed the Nets should have kept Carter, but his four-year, $62 million deal with a fifth-year team option would have been easier to move if smaller, or maybe they could have gotten more for him or he would still be here. The deal he received also led to Kidd being upset he couldn’t get an extension near Carter’s base. All of the above -- and the losing -- pushed Kidd over the edge.
8. The Big Three’s replacements: It would be hard to replace Kidd, Carter and Jefferson -- even harder when their replacements can’t stay on the floor. Not including playoffs, Kidd played 92.8 percent of his games as a Net (506-of-545), Carter 96.4 percent (374-of-378) and Jefferson 82.7 (407-of-492). Their respective replacements: Devin Harris 78.2 (97-of-124), Courtney Lee 46.2 (6-of-13) and Yi Jianlian 68.4 (65-of-95).
9. More drafts: Every team overlooks someone, but 2005 was memorable because after Wright they took Mile Ilic when Marcin Gortat, Andray Blatche and Ryan Gomes were available. They passed on Paul Millsap -- like 29 other teams -- in 2006 and in 2007 they grabbed Sean Williams over Carl Landry and Glen “Big Baby” Davis. They felt Davis’ health and weight were bigger risks than Williams checkered past. Fortunately the Nets have been much better the past two years.
10. The sale: Ratner was looking for investors over the summer and didn’t want to add payroll. After draft day, when the Nets took Terrence Williams and acquired Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie for Carter they did nothing. They added no one else, didn't make a single move. It’s not like they won 55 games. They lost 48.
11. Injuries: Maybe the Nets would have made the playoffs last season if Harris wasn’t so banged up and maybe they would have won a game this season if they hadn’t had just six guys available for all 13 games this season. Yes, other teams can win with guys hurt -- we believe the Nets should have won a game or two or four -- but when the Lakers missed Pau Gasol, they still had Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest or when the Magic were without Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson they still had Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson and with Cleveland minus Shaq, they still have LeBron James. Then again, the Rockets are winning without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Rick Adelman is doing a great job in Houston.
12. Small ball: You can win a game or two by playing small, but you won’t win regularly unless you have the perfect mix. The Nets don’t and the past two years have gone small too much. This season, coach Lawrence Frank has been forced to play that way at times because of the injuries, but the Nets aren’t a good rebounding team. They need their best rebounders on the floor late in games because they give up too many late offensive boards. That’s all about heart and will and the Nets just have to keep guys off the boards.
13. Not playing to win: They’re playing not to lose instead of playing to win. They don’t know how to win yet. The Knicks were picking-and-rolling them to death yesterday and then after a timeout late, the Nets knew it was coming and yet David Lee made the pick, rolled and scored to put the Knicks up four with 1:44 left. The Nets also gave up two big offensive boards late. They come out slow every third quarter and it seems to set them back mentally. When Dwyane Wade fumbled the ball on Nov. 14, Trenton Hassell should have grabbed it but was afraid he would be called for a reach against a superstar. All of that and not getting a shot off in both games against the Sixers when the Nets lost both by three are marks of a team that can’t get out of its own way.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).