Tough season and more tough times ahead for the Nets

NEW YORK (AP) Those 61 losses hurt and the pain isn't over just yet for the Brooklyn Nets.

The potential top-five pick that would have been coming to them was traded away long ago to the Boston Celtics, giving the Nets no quick route to escape their current miserable situation.

Brooklyn finished with the NBA's third-worst record at 21-61, so would have gone into the lottery with the third-best chance of landing the No. 1 pick and guaranteed to end up selecting no worse than sixth. But the pick was sent to Boston in the trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce on draft night in 2013, so free agency and trades are the only way for new general manager Sean Marks to upgrade the team's talent.

He will likely start with the coaching position. Tony Brown finished the season as the interim coach after Lionel Hollins was fired in January and former GM Billy King was re-assigned. Marks was hired from the Spurs' organization in February and is aware he doesn't face an easy rebuilding job.

Asked what the Nets need in what will be their sixth coach since arriving in Brooklyn in 2012, rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said, ''Someone who knows what it takes. Someone who is going to push us. Someone who has a winning mentality. Someone who cares, understanding heat of the moment.''

The front office asked Brown to use younger players and a quicker tempo than they did under Hollins, which was done with limited success. Brown said management hasn't asked him for his recommendation on which players were keepers.

''I think they have enough eyes to see what's going on out there on the floor and what's going on in practice and seeing improvements in certain players, so I'll let them be the judge of that,'' Brown said. ''That's why they were hired, and I'm sure they'll do that.''

Whoever is hired will find plenty of young players who quickly became used to losing, the way it used to be for the Nets during most of their time in New Jersey. They cut costs this season after years of splashy moves, and it left them with a depleted and often overmatched roster.

''It's tough,'' Hollis-Jefferson said. ''With a lot of different personalities it's tough. Coming in here we take a loss and we come in the locker room and the energy isn't the same, the vibes aren't the same.''

Biggest Need: A marquee attraction. With no superstars on the court or bench, there was no buzz in Brooklyn after the Nets made the playoffs in their first three seasons after moving from New Jersey. Whether it's a coach or players, the Nets need somebody to draw fans back.

The Good News: Brook Lopez made it through another season healthy and became a better passer to go with his scoring. Forms a good frontcourt tandem with Thaddeus Young. ... Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough, both selected in the first round last season, made it back from injuries to finish the season and get valuable playing time. ... Opened a new practice center in Brooklyn after their basketball operations had remained in New Jersey following the 2012 move, forcing players to continue practicing there.

The Bad News: The no-pick problem doesn't end this year. The Nets also sent their 2018 first-rounder to the Celtics, as well as the ability to swap places in 2017, so Marks doesn't have total control of his own pick until 2019. ... Still need a point guard to replace Deron Williams, as original starter Jarrett Jack was lost to a torn knee before the Nets split the time between Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan the rest of the way.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.