Some writers wondered how the team would score even 80 points a game with no third option after Vince Carter and the unproven Devin Harris.
Then a strange thing happened. They won. And won on the ROAD, a hallmark of a contending team. At one point the Nets were 10-4 out of their building and 5-12 at the Izod Center, the first time in NBA history a team was six games over .500 away while six games over .500 at home.
Eventually they started playing more consistently and at the end of January the Nets were a solid .500 team, at 19-19. A playoff team? In the East anything would be possible.
Now fast forward into April. The defense, shaky at best, has failed, highlighted by a 29 point loss at home to fellow lottery team Milwaukee. And it wasn't even that close.
Frank's playing with his lineup and trying to see how some role players look as starters, so we don't think he has designs on being beaten up by the LeBrons in Round One.
But at one time, the Nets looked like they could have done it, against the odds and while wagging a finger at the rest of the league. And not playing to expectations may be L-Frank's downfall.
We know that the development of Devin Harris and Brook Lopez means the Nets might be able to turn things around quickly, given the right supporting cast. Vince Carter will likely not see the opening tipoff next fall in a Nets uniform, and others that can follow him out the door include the inconsistent Sean Williams and Bobby Simmons.
They've got a few serviceable rotation players, including Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes, but there's been a lot invested in Yi Jianlian, who has not played to the level everyone had talked him up to have. Ryan Anderson is a promising rookie that pretty much plays Yi's game.
The outlook for 2009-'10 is not clear. If I were GM Kiki Vandeweghe, I'd be looking to trade Vince Carter over the summer for a couple of draft picks and a guard that can spell Devin Harris. Bobby Simmons is overpaid for the role he's playing on the Nets, but maybe there's a team in the West that can use him as a three-point specialist.
I like Jarvis Hayes off the bench for his energy, as well as Keyon Dooling, but Dooling would presumably step into the shooting guard position if Carter were to leave.
If Lawrence Frank remains to coach the Nets to start next season, he will likely have even more questions than he did at the beginning of this season. But if he plays to expectations and develops his players as well as he has been able to do so up to this point, the Nets will hopefully be in a good position for 2010.
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