All the New Jersey Nets need in their final 12 games is two wins. Do that, and the Nets will avoid the stigma of being the worst team in NBA history. The Nets have won seven times in 70 games, or one victory in every 10. And now they have to win twice in the final 12 to avoid ending the 1972/73 Philadelphia 76ers' 37-year stranglehold on the league's worst mark at 9-73.
The situation has become so tense that Brett Yormark, the Nets chief executive, got into a brief shouting match with a fan who wore a bag over his head at times during Monday's 99-89 loss to the Miami Heat. During the exchange, Yormark pointed a finger at the fan before eventually walking away. "Our fans have been great and they've stuck with us through a tough season," Yormark said in a statement on Tuesday.
"I did not agree with the way this person expressed his opinion of our team last night and I let him know. It's been a frustrating season for all of us, but I will continue to stand up for our players, our fans, and our organisation. We have an exciting future ahead and we appreciate all of our fans' support." What the Nets need, though, is wins, badly. "Our sense of urgency is high now," said Courtney Lee, the Nets guard, who last year played in the NBA finals with the Orlando Magic.
"We have to get three wins because no one wants to go down in history in the way we are heading. We have to." The way things are going, it will be a tall order. The Nets have lost eight consecutive games overall and a team-record 14 in a row at home. Terrence Williams, the forward, failed to finish the game against the Heat after spraining his left ankle and did not practice with the rest of the squad on Tuesday, making him a serious doubt for the game against the Sacramento Kings.
Of the 12 games left, the Nets have five against teams that are in the top eight in their conference - San Antonio, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Miami. They also have two games with Chicago (33-37), who are ninth in the Eastern Conference and fighting to make the play-offs. The others are against Sacramento, Detroit, New Orleans, Washington and Indiana. Winning was a topic the Nets discussed last week at a team meeting. No one wants to finish as a member of the league's worst club, even though this is a team that was stripped by management so they could have plenty of cap space for free agency this summer, a time when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all might be on the market.
"We want this team to improve and win as many games as possible," said Devin Harris, the Nets point guard. "I still love the game. You have to take the highs with the lows. This is a low for everybody. It all depends on how you respond from it. "It will make me mentally stronger to know this is possible. "You don't want to be a part of what we're heading towards as of right now. But if we continue to work hard we can live with it."