Making Nets Again: A Recent History of the Team From the 1990s – Today
By Wyatt Erchak
1997 marked the beginning of a new era for the Nets, and in 1998 the Nets returned to the playoffs after several disappointing years and Jayson Williams made the All-Star game. That year also saw the beginning of YES, the television network shared with the Yankees which still serves as the Nets’ primary broadcaster.
Stumbling again in 1999 and 2000 due largely to injuries, the Nets entered the new millennium with a mixture of hope and mediocrity.
In 2001, the Nets acquired Jason Kidd, who turned out to be the second coming of Julius Erving (especially when the size of the ABA is compared to that of the Eastern Conference). Kidd’s impact was apparent when the Nets won their first Atlantic Division title, followed by their first Eastern Conference Championship, before losing to the Lakers in the 2002 NBA Finals. Never before had the Nets made this kind of run in the NBA.
As expected, Jason Kidd and the Nets generated a lot of excitement. Their success continued as the team secured the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference Championship for a second consecutive season, but lost to the Spurs in the 2003 NBA Finals. The 2003-2004 season witnessed the Nets winning their third straight Atlantic Division title and making the playoffs. After sweeping the Knicks, the Nets’ Eastern Conference streak ended when they lost to the Pistons. While they lost steam on the court, a change in ownership following developer Bruce Ratner’s purchase of the team secured the Nets’ eventual move to Brooklyn.
Starting off slow in 2004-2005, the Nets acquired Vince Carter who teamed up with Kidd to rally the team to the playoffs. The trade injected needed energy; while they again started slowly in 2005-2006, they came back to win their fourth Atlantic Division title. They nearly clinched a third Eastern Conference title but fell short in the playoffs against the Heat. After that, energy began to run out. A favorite to win at least the Atlantic Division, the Nets would lose the title to a surprising Raptors team. In 2007-2008 the Nets failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time in seven years.
The rest of 2008 saw big changes for the Nets. Sensing trouble, Jason Kidd departed for Dallas. The Nets acquired rookie Brook Lopez, now known as an All-Star player and powerhouse in Brooklyn, and finished the season with a fair record. Following on Kidd’s heels, Vince Carter left the team in 2009 for Orlando.
Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov became the majority owner of the team, providing the capital necessary to make their return to New York a reality. On the court, the 2009-2010 season began with the worst start in NBA history at 0-18. They finished horribly, barely staying out of the record books and becoming only the fifth team to lose 70 games in a season. Things looked very bad for the Nets going into 2010.
In an attempt to reverse course, the Nets moved to Prudential Center in Newark, acquired Deron Williams and hired Avery Johnson as head coach; he came into the job with the best winning percentage in NBA history. The Nets finished the 2010-2011 season with a depressing 24-58 record. The next year saw them acquire Gerald Wallace, but again failing to make the playoffs. The time for a new beginning was upon them.
Fortunately, the Nets had a backup plan in the form of the move to Brooklyn, which took place in the spring of 2012 when they officially became the Brooklyn Nets. They used the summer to assemble a team of powerful players to join Nets veterans, with Joe Johnson in particular standing out. Winning their first game on November 3, 2012, the Nets had a very strong opening month, which included an exciting first win against the Knicks and Avery Johnson’s receipt of the Coach of the Month award. In a reversal of fortune, December saw the Nets play 3-10 and Avery Johnson’s firing.
For one reason or another, the firing of Avery has done the trick. In 2013 the Nets have been tremendous under interim head coach P. J. Carlesimo. For the majority of January, the Nets were the only unbeaten team in the new year. The month has also produced important wins, including a 110-93 victory against the near-unstoppable Thunder and an 88-85 triumph over the Knicks, tying the Clash of Boroughs at 2-2. As it has been for nearly 50 years, the rivalry continues to be strong.
Now standing at 28-19, the Nets seem all but destined for the playoffs and possibly the Atlantic Division title. In Brooklyn, the team is once again the New York Nets and it appears that history has come full circle. The only thing fans can hope for is that they stay strong now and forever. Let’s go, Nets!
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