Nets end disappointing season without clear way to improve
NEW YORK (AP) Mikhail Prokhorov arrived from Russia as Nets owner in 2010, vowing a championship in five years or he would get married.
Basketball season in Brooklyn is over.
Time for wedding season?
The Nets ended a largely disappointing 2014-15 on Friday with a 111-87 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series. Brooklyn fell 4-2 to the top seed in the Eastern Conference, those two victories pushing the Nets' total for the season to 40.
That's 40 wins with a league-high payroll of nearly $90 million, with no obvious way to see next season being any better.
Their best player could be a free agent, their next two's best years seem behind them, and their first-round pick that would've been in the middle of the first round will instead be used by the team that just knocked them out of the playoffs.
They salvaged something with a good enough finish to lock up the NBA's final playoff spot despite their 38-44 record in coach Lionel Hollins' first season, giving them some hope for the future if they could play with the same intensity - and perhaps interest - for a few months instead of a few weeks.
''We're disappointed that it took us so long for us to figure things out. At the same time, we haven't totally figured things out, but we've showed some glimpses of playing really good basketball together,'' point guard Deron Williams said. ''If we can just become more consistent - I know myself, individually - as a team, be more consistent, we can be a really good team.''
There's also the potential to be a pretty bad one.
Center Brook Lopez bounced back from a couple of injury-filled seasons to play in 72 games and average 17.2 points, with a strong finish that earned him consecutive Eastern Conference player of the week awards. He can opt out of the final year of his contract that would pay him $16.7 million and become a free agent.
Williams might be back simply because no team would want to pay him the remaining $43 million left on his contract for a player who appears on the decline, injuries robbing him of his game and confidence over the past couple of years. Joe Johnson will make $24.9 million in the final year of his contract, but he appears to have slowed down after 14 seasons in the NBA.
The Nets gave Atlanta the right to swap picks this season when they acquired Johnson in 2012, so the Hawks will pick in the middle of the first round and bump Brooklyn to the bottom. So rather than look ahead, Hollins preferred to think only in the present Friday.
''I just want to say I'm proud of our team and where we started back in September, the uncertainty, new coach, trying to blend it all together, the injuries and ups and downs,'' he said. ''I'm thankful for what they gave. I'm proud of how they stuck with it and stayed with it and we were able to secure a playoff spot.''
He took over after Jason Kidd stayed only one year. Paul Pierce wasn't re-signed and Kevin Garnett was later traded, leaving the Nets without some of the marquee names that seemed to make Prokhorov's goal seem possible just two summers ago.
Now it's not even clear how much of a presence Prokhorov - who turns 50 Sunday - will maintain, saying he is open to offers for a minority share of the team though insisting he will remain the majority owner.