EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For most of the 2009 free-agent class, New Jersey ranked at the bottom of preferred destinations.
Why sign there? To play for a lame duck?
To play in this arena? The Nets rank 26th in attendance, averaging 13,712 per game at cavernous Izod Center.
To play with these players? The Nets have won three of their first 38 games. On Wednesday, New Jersey fell behind by 36 in a 111-87 loss to a Celtics team that played without
Next summer, however, the class of 2010 will yield one of the deepest free-agent crops in history. And those players would be wise to put New Jersey at the top of their list.
While New Jersey is on pace to challenge the 1972-73 Sixers' record low of nine victories, its plight isn't nearly as bad as the numbers indicate. Because sometime in the next two months ownership of the team is expected to transfer from
Money. Oodles of it.
The Russian billionaire is widely considered the wealthiest man in his country, and since news of the pending sale became public, word quickly spread throughout the league that Prokhorov is in it to win it. That means the Nets can take full advantage of their salary-cap space (an estimated $26 million) as early as this summer, or wait until 2011 when the likes of
Prokhorov's wallet also means the Nets won't have to look for a coach on the sale rack.
Prokhorov already has an excellent asset running things upstairs. Despite this season's struggles, Nets president
Even though glittering Barclay Center in Brooklyn is still two seasons away from being a reality, free agents won't have to worry about calling the Izod Center home. Newark's Prudential Center is expected to house the Nets next season, an easily accessible arena that packed in more than 27,000 people for two exhibition games this season. In the second quarter of both games, fans were still waiting in lines to buy tickets; by halftime on some nights in East Rutherford, fans are already headed out the door.
And while the roster is bad -- OK,
Even as the Nets sink deeper into basketball oblivion, with a swoop of a pen (which Prokhorov will use to buy 80 percent of the team) and the flip of a draft-lottery envelope (which ideally for the Nets yields the right to select Wall), New Jersey could be back in business.
"Free agents look at, in no particular order, the team, the contract and the prospects," Thorn said. "We feel we can be a good fit."
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