The C's went 24-58 in the 2006-07 season; they gave the hapless Memphis Grizzlies a run for their money in the race for the NBA's worst record, and they put themselves in prime position to conquer the NBA draft lottery and call first dibs on Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Doc Rivers was being booed at every turn, Paul Pierce was a franchise player without a franchise and the Celtics were nowhere near contention, even in the weak Eastern Conference.
How quickly things changed.
Boston went from worst to first in a heartbeat. By adding Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, James Posey, Eddie House and Glen Davis all in one offseason, the Celtics went from Eastern Conference doormat to the top of the basketball world. The C's are living proof that even the worst of the worst can turn things around in a heartbeat. All they need are the right personnel changes.
So tell that to the New Jersey Nets, the NBA's worst team at 4-45, who stumbled into the TD Garden on Friday night and got their heads handed to them in the fourth quarter by those revamped Celtics.
Right now, things look bad for the Nets — very bad. No sugar-coating that. But there's hope that the Nets can turn things around over the next couple of years.
All along, Plan A has been the free-agent frenzy of 2010. With LeBron James up for grabs and Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire lingering out there as some very nice consolation prizes, the Nets have always had the potential to alter the future of their franchise simply by writing one big check.
The Nets, with the expiring contracts of Bobby Simmons and Tony Battie set to come off the books this summer, will have the room under the salary cap to make a big splash. And LeBron, with his perceived affinity for New York and his ambitions to become a global icon, seemed like the best fit. But that's no longer looking like a sure thing — there are deep-pocketed suitors in Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami building up the financial flexibility to land King James as well, and there's a good chance that the Ohio native will stick around Cleveland after 2010, anyway.
Wade is looking more and more likely to stay put with the Heat. Bosh is liable to get traded before the deadline, possibly to a team that can sign him to a long-term extension. Stoudemire, with his early opt-out clause in Phoenix, may well decide to stay with the Suns.
Plan B is the draft.
The Nets are looking like overwhelming favorites at the moment to win the draft lottery this May, putting them in prime position to land John Wall, the standout freshman point guard at the University of Kentucky. Wall, with his incredible court vision and unbelievable athleticism, has "franchise player" written all over him. He's the kind of talent that could turn the Nets around instantly.
If they don't get Wall, there are plenty more premium talents out there. There's Evan Turner, the explosive swingman at Ohio State; there North Carolina big man Ed Davis; and there's Derrick Favors, the rookie center making waves at Georgia Tech. This year's class could be loaded.
One way or another, the Nets will find a way to turn their team around. They've got too much money to spend and too much sway in the draft not to.