0-17: Nets match NBA’s worst start to a season
LOS ANGELES (AP)—When the New Jersey Nets finally reached an inauspicious NBA record, the Staples Center’s public address announcer let the crowd know all about it.
At least he had the tact to wait until the Nets were out of earshot after their 17th straight loss.
A few hours after New Jersey fired coach Lawrence Frank, the Nets had little prayer of keeping up with the defending league champions, who won their sixth straight game. Despite apparently playing hard for temporary head coach Tom Barrise, New Jersey fell behind by 27 points in the first half and went into history with yet another whimper.
“I wish I could explain it,” said New Jersey guard Chris Douglas-Roberts(notes), who only lost 10 games in his three collegiate seasons at Memphis. “There’s not really anything good out of this. I try to stay positive, but it’s extremely hard to stay positive. All the things going on, it’s depressing.”
The Nets were in the locker room, shaking their heads and packing for an uncertain trip home, before the crowd was told New Jersey’s 0-17 start matched the 1988-89 Miami Heat and the 1999 Los Angeles Clippers in hoops futility.
“You have four-game losing streaks, three-game losing streaks, and you can deal with that,” said Barrise, whose tenure might last just one game. “When you go a whole month, you wake up and you feel it. You honestly do feel it.”
New Jersey must beat the Dallas Mavericks back home in the East Rutherford swamp on Wednesday night—perhaps while playing for the club’s third coach in three games—to avoid sole possession of an embarrassing NBA record.
The NBA’s lowest-scoring and worst-shooting team lived up to its dire statistics, managing just 60 points on 38.7-percent shooting in the first three periods before a strong fourth quarter against Los Angeles’ reserves. Although New Jersey consistently tried to match up on defense, the Nets don’t have a fraction of the Lakers’ talent.
Gasol had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who cruised to their 12th win in 14 games. Jordan Farmar(notes) added 15 points as the Lakers made 13 of their 25 3-point attempts, including five by Bryant and three for Farmar.
Bryant’s fourth 3-pointer of the first half put Los Angeles up 57-30 shortly before halftime. The Lakers led by 34 midway through the third quarter, and Bryant left the game with 4:14 left in the third.
“You don’t wish that on anybody,” Bryant said of the Nets’ skid. “That’s tough.”
The Nets didn’t wait until returning from their four-game West Coast trip before dumping Frank, the winningest coach in franchise history and the Eastern Conference’s longest-tenured coach.
Although eight Nets already have missed multiple games this season with injuries after New Jersey traded star Vince Carter(notes) in the offseason, Frank was held responsible for the woeful start, which included three straight double-digit losses earlier on this trip.
“The day started off with negative energy,” said Douglas-Roberts, who had just five points on 2-of-11 shooting. “A lot of the staff was sad. It was hard to prepare for today’s game. … We’re letting this really affect us, but we’re not using it as motivation. We’re not using it in a good way, and it’s showing.”
Barrise, Frank’s assistant since the start of his tenure in early 2004, could be just a one-game replacement. Nets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe—who attended the game—and assistant John Loyer are considered the top candidates to replace Frank for the rest of the season.
“We’re struggling, and it was a tough day,” Barrise said. “You lose your coach at 10 o’clock in the morning—you know, the guys are human. You lose a little bit of that focus. … It’s mentally a tough thing to deal with right now, but they’re professionals, and they’ve been professionals all month long.”
Barrise made the most of perhaps his only chance to be an NBA head coach. The former bench boss at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J., stood for nearly every minute of the game, clapping for his players’ successes and stomping his feet in disgust at their many foibles.
“It’s a difficult thing,” Barrise said. “But we have a great group of guys, and they’re working hard at it.”
NOTES: Shannon Brown(notes) scored six points on his 24th birthday. Farmar turns 23 on Monday. … Lakers coach Phil Jackson was a New Jersey assistant in the early 1980s when the club lost 15 games in a row. He said New Jersey made him a lucrative offer to be its head coach in 1999.