How the New Jersey Nets wasted a prime championship opportunity, then fell apart and left the state

How the New Jersey Nets wasted a prime championship opportunity, then fell apart and left the state



in the mid-2000s the long reigning Titans of the NBA's Western Conference showed some vulnerability the Eastern Conference team best positioned to dethrone them was without question the New Jersey Nets the Nets had been swept by the Lakers in the 2002 NBA Finals but they'd retooled fought their way back into another Finals and come pretty damn close to taking down the San Antonio Spurs if Dikembe Mutombo hadn't been dealing with injuries and if they hadn't blown a lead in Game six of the series this 2003 trophy might have belonged to the Nets but after falling short all the back-to-back Eastern Conference champs had to do was hold the cord together try again to improve the roster around the margins and take another crack at winning it all in oh four and beyond that would mean keeping all-star Jason Kidd happy and supplementing this core of Kenyon Martin Richard Jefferson Kerry Kittles and six-man lucious Harris that would ideally mean adding a big man to supplant matumbo the major acquisition whose struggles forced the less experienced Jason Collins in two big minutes against Tim Duncan and David Robinson in Rod Thorn and Byron Scott the Nets had an award-winning executive and battle-tested head coach up for the task there was a juicy opportunity for the Eastern Conference to reassert itself and the Nets had a head start on leading that charge but over the next five years New Jersey would make major leadership changes in major roster changes failed to reach even the Eastern Conference Finals then blow the whole thing to pieces and eventually leave the damn state the Nets had a great thing going they just needed one last little push so what the hell happened the first thing you need to know about the nets in 2003 is that even though that just made back-to-back finals they were feeling very stingy the team was for sale with several rich folks bidding rich guy Bruce Ratner wanted to buy the team and move them to Brooklyn rich guys John Corzine and Charles Kushner father of a kid named Jared would keep them in Jersey if they had the winning bid but in the meantime the nets were so tight with money that in the second round of the 2003 draft they picked future all-star Kyle Korver then immediately sold him to the Sixers for cash they used that cash to cover summer league costs and buy a copy machine what copy machines are expensive there was at least one realm in which the Nets absolutely could not be thrifty super star point guard Jason Kidd was a free agent and it would take a max contract to reel him back for another finals run even that might not have been enough kids strongly considered signing with the San Antonio Spurs the team that just beat New Jersey in the finals and there was some chatter that he was disgruntled in New Jersey Kidd denied rumors that he wanted coach Byron Scott fired but it was notable that assistant coach Eddie Jordan who was a key voice on those finals teams and very close to Kidd left to become head coach of the Washington Wizards Kidd met with the Spurs in July and when he left San Antonio all parties were convinced that kid would become Tim Duncan's co-star for the foreseeable future but Kidd got cold feet on the plane home and in a decision he'd later admit to regretting changed his mind and accepted a six-year 103 million dollar deal to stay in net a key motivator for Kidd the Nets seemed to have filled their hole in the middle it had been a problem for a few years Todd McCulloch couldn't hang with Shaq in the o2 finals so New Jersey traded him with Keith van Horn for veteran all-star Dikembe Mutombo but matumbo had a nagging wrist injury chafed against Scotts coaching and ultimately didn't spin much in the playoffs that left the center position to the younger and completely overmatched Jason Collins if the Nets were gonna win it all on the third try they'd have to in the middle and their solution was another veteran star when tombos old college teammate Alonzo Mourning morning had missed much of the prior couple seasons because of kidney disease but his four-year deal with the Nets helped convince Kidd to stick around and morning looked healthy and training camps so the ever thrifty Nets ditched the man he was meant to replace Dikembe Mutombo was waived just a year after New Jersey traded for the new net wasn't pleased with the cost-cutting and things would only get worse for morning New Jersey opened the season with a losing record warning wasn't playing great and his teammates struck him as too carefree about the whole situation mourning criticized power forward Kenyon Martin for missing time with an ankle injury which wasn't particularly cool and Martin fired back by mocking morning's kidney disease which was definitely deeply uncool the two had to be separated before things got physical and one was left to wonder how New Jersey's frontcourt was gonna hold up but that wondering went out the window pretty quickly days after the altercation mourning retired from the NBA because complications with his illness necessitated a kidney transplant this might be a relevant time to mention that the Nets had their Center of the future locked up they drafted young Serbian big dude in AD Krista chin 2002 and Krista CH wanted to cross the ocean and start his NBA career but his pro team in Serbia absolutely would not let him out of his contract so Jason Collins time again back to their old lineup the nets didn't exactly right the ship they hung around 500 through the new year and by the end of January oh four it was time for some changes the team finally agreed to sell to Ratner who intended to move them to Brooklyn once he you know raised a neighborhood and built an arena there as part of a bazillion dollar boondoggle and in a sudden if not totally surprising move Byron Scott found out he wouldn't be joining the team at their eventual relocation the Nets 22 and 20 record was good enough to lead the garbage ass Atlantic Division and despite the rumors kid was on the record saying he wanted Scott to get an extension but on January 26th Scott was fired assistant coach Lawrence Frank was promoted to interim head coach firing your coach midseason usually doesn't bode well but something weird happened Frank's Nets reeled off 13 straight wins a record for a rookie head coach that still hasn't been touched unless you count Luke Walton stint as warriors substitute teacher and the nets weren't squeaking by opponents almost all the wins in that streak were by 10 or more points that incredible February helped propel the Nets to a respectable 4735 record enough to hold off rookie Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat for the Atlantic Division title that made the Nets the 2 seed in the playoffs once again and drew them a first-round matchup against the Knicks who they destroy in a serious sweep that's only notable because Collins sent New York's Tim Thomas to the hospital which for some reason started a prolonged beef between Thomas and Kenny Martin that set the Nets up for an Eastern Conference semifinal against the Detroit Pistons the same team they swept to reach the finals in no three it was a little dicey Renault for the Nets scored just 56 points in Game one then got blown out again in Game two only to rally and enter Game five tied to all with Detroit and in the middle of a truly series Game five was one of the wildest games in NBA playoff history the Nets had the win in hand but missed free throws down the stretch then watched the Troy's Chauncey Billups Bank in a 40-footer to send it to overtime the game lasted three overtimes and eight total players fouled out leaving benchwarmer Brian Scalabrine to play the role of hero with a career-high 17 points including this huge three down the stretch of the third OT the Nets headed home up 3-2 looking to seal the series but no Rip Hamilton lost kid to Barry a huge last-minute shot helping the Pistons snatch Game six and then back in Detroit the pistons rolled kid was dealing with a sore knee and tossed up a bagel in a blowout game 7 loss the West would finally fall with the dysfunctional Lakers in the 2004 finals but it would be the breakthrough Pistons sending the Shaq and Kobe tandem to their doom the would be vengeful nets were left to just send it home and watch at the beginning of July Ratner's purchase of the team was officially approved GM Rod Thorn kind of waffled when asked if Ratner had commanded him to cut payroll but his actions told the tale the Nets traded their o for first-round pick to the Blazers for Eddie Gill who they cut and three million dollars in cash it's a lot of copy machines kid got surgery on that messed up knee and while recovering he washed his supporting cast dissolve Martin was a free agent and the Nets didn't even make him a real offer they let him go to the Nuggets and a sign-and-trade for a bunch of draft picks thorn readily admitted he was hurting the chances of a once Finals caliber roster and a couple weeks later he sent Kerry Kittles to the Clippers for basically nothing so there went the starting power forward and shooting guard and six-man lucious Harris just got straight-up cut their replacements were absolute ass New Jersey gave out little contracts to the likes of Ron Mercer Eric Williams Rodney Buford and Jacque Vaughn who would play some point guard until Kidd recovered there was some good news for Nets fans in the summer about for Chris touch was finally ready to come over from Serbia Alonzo Mourning had recovered enough to unretire and play out the rest of his contract and with all that money they saved the Nets signed Jefferson to his six year 78 million-dollar deals so at least one of kid sidekicks would still be around but about that kid was grouchy enough about his depleted supporting cast that the nets were considering payroll friendly trades to unload him but a trade didn't materialize it's tough to trade a dude recovering from knee surgery Frank's severely weakened roster started the season losing and kept losing once Kidd returned in December the trade rumors kicked back into gear as the nets stood at the precipice of a full-on tank but later that month there came a twist the Toronto Raptors and superstar Vince Carter were very done with one another and the raps desperate to move on even the stingy Ratner couldn't resist the opportunity and encouraged thorn and company to change course a bit and make a deal to help the team immediately a couple draft picks and a few players morning chief among them for Vince Carter suddenly the Nets had a competitive Corrigan kid couldn't really complain anymore forget tanking time for another playoff run so what if the big man's situation is back to Jason Collins and the rookie Chris stich so what if Jefferson messed up his wrist in late January after colliding with Chauncey Billups damnit Chauncey let's scrap to get back above 500 and add veteran cliff Robinson before the trade deadline to make a playoff push and rally and win the final game of the year to just sneak into the playoffs and holy when the Dwyane Wade gets so good and when did he make friends with Shaq and Alonzo the heat swept the Nets with ease now what the nets were rebuilding but since they had kept Kidd and added Carter the Nets had to keep pushing for wins that summer new jersey swung a sign-and-trade deal for a new starting power forward Shareef abdur-rahim their headline acquisition of the 2005 offseason but it turned out his knees weren't so hot and Sharif failed his physical the Nets failed to renegotiate terms of that bear regime and rescinded the deal they quickly pivoted to acquire the taller but underwhelming mark that's marked with a C Jackson because they were running out of time to use their trade exception even though their big move fell through the Nets improved though they remained oddly thrifty ditching Jackson at the trade deadline to get back under the luxury tax bummer because he maybe could have been useful come playoff time in another matchup with Shaq this time in the Eastern Conference semifinals and especially after cliff Robinson failed a drug test and got suspended in the middle of a damn playoff series the Nets actually dominated Game one in Miami but took a dump for the rest of the series while the heat rolled all the way to Wade's first championship but hey they had a playoff squad widely projected to challenge for the East crown in Oh 607 they just needed to stick together find yet another new big man and stay healthy Oh No Christus tore his ACL in December oh six and needed surgery Jefferson's ankle got messed up and also needed surgery the net slipped into the playoffs and even upset Carter's old team in the first round but this kid's team was getting pretty good too LeBron James dominated the Eastern Conference semifinals and the Cavs rolled from there enroute to the bronze first of many NBA Finals Game six of that series would be the last NBA playoff game ever played in New Jersey because the Nets soon realized their ship had sailed and it was time to get younger you know 708 the Nets started iffy bottomed out for real on a West Coast trip in January then commenced the pulling of the plug they dealt Collins to the Grizzlies then kid to the Mavericks where he would finally go on to win a ring then they finished emptying out by trading jefferson 1008 and Carter and oh nine while declining to match an offer sheet for Chris dish Ratner sold the team to Russian bazillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov who sat through some unbelievably hard seasons and watched thorn resign before the team finally completed the move to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn where Billy King would be their next GM and things would get funky all over again so what happened to these Nets well after falling short and back-to-back finals they squandered the best opportunity to go all the way new ownership pulled that team apart then kind of pivoted back toward competing only to run into bad luck injuries and some new blood in the Eastern Conference when the Nets were great they were truly great but they hit their peak too early the Eastern Conference finally snatched back some championship trophies in the mid-2000s but by the time that window opened the once elite Nets had already begun their collapse thanks for watching episode 2 of collapse if you want to check out episode 1 it's right here it's about football if you'd rather learn more about how those Lakers unraveled check out this episode of our winder

49 thoughts on “How the New Jersey Nets wasted a prime championship opportunity, then fell apart and left the state

  1. So many comments about people wanting collapse on these mediocre teams. Usually these are reserved for great teams. But eventually they will indeed have to start doing teams like these

  2. I remember these teams so much. I used to love the team before they moved to Brooklyn and then I lost total interest in NBA tbh. I really miss them but I'm glad RJ got a ring eventually with the Cavs, he was my favorite player. Also could you imagine Carter if he was on those 03/04 teams? With Kenyon and Kittles

  3. Jason basically delayed the idea of of these star players in their prime teaming up by a number of years when he did not go to San Antonio. Had he gone to San Antonio he would’ve collected multiple championship rings. But I give him credit for wanting to stick it out and try to build a team around himself. You don’t see that much these days.

  4. How about a 'Collapse' on either the 2007 Ottawa Senators or the 2017 Ottawa Senators. They might be the best pro sports franchise at building up a great roster, coming just shy of a championship, and then collapsing. They have done it on two separate occasions in 15 years. Unreal.

  5. The nets played in the horrible eastern conference. They were no match for any western team. The east is still horrible. That’s how lebron went to the finals 9 times in a row. Lebron is the greatest, but he shouldn’t of had that many trips in a row.

  6. This is a bit of revisionist history…the Nets were lucky in the early 2000s because the East was so damn weak. Kidd had some help in the mid-2000s with a prime RJ and Carter but couldn't make it past the 2nd round. Also when you say "future all-star Kyle Korver" that's misleading since Korver was mostly a nice role player for his entire career. You should instead make a video on how Steve Nash got unlucky with Amare missing the 2006 season…Amare/Diaw getting suspended in the 2007 Spurs series and the 2010 Lakers-Suns conference finals.

  7. Would love to see the Edmonton Oilers after game 7 in 2006 to several first round picks and generally the worst team in the nhl for the last 13 year and wasting time with the best player in the league

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