Still Not Contenders, Nets on the Rise With New Head Coach Avery Johnson

For the New Jersey Nets, the high point of last season was March 29. That was the day they beat the Spurs, 90-84, quietly improving their NBA-worst record to 10-64. That 10th win guaranteed that the Nets would steer clear of the worst season in NBA history, achieved by a Sixers team that won just nine games in the 1972-73 season. So the Nets aren't the worst ever, and that's something. But now, can they take a couple steps forward? Can they progress from terrible to merely … subpar? That will be the challenge this season.

2009-10 Record: 12-70 (fifth in Atlantic Division, 15th in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs)

Celtics' record vs. Nets: 106-55 all time, 3-1 last season

Familiar faces: Josh Boone (played at UConn)

Key additions: Troy Murphy (acquired from Pacers in four-way trade), Anthony Morrow (traded from Warriors), Quinton Ross (traded from Wizards), Travis Outlaw (free agent), Johan Petro (free agent), Sean May (free agent), Jordan Farmar (free agent), Derrick Favors (draft), Damion Jones (draft), Brian Zoubek (undrafted free agent), Ben Uzoh (undrafted free agent)

Key losses: Yi Jianlian (sent to Wizards in Ross deal), Courtney Lee (traded to Rockets), Chris Douglas-Roberts (traded to Bucks), Keyon Dooling (signed with Bucks), Jarvis Hayes (remains a free agent)

Burning question: Can the Nets rebuild their offensive game?

Let's not beat around the bush here: The Nets last season were one of the worst offensive teams that pro basketball has ever seen.

They had no rhythm, no chemistry, no game plan, and aside from the interior presence of the youngster Brook Lopez, almost no talent. They sputtered their way to 92.4 points per game last season, easily the worst mark in the NBA.

But in addition to a new coach (Avery Johnson), they've got a boatload of new acquisitions this year who should help them produce down low. Joining Lopez will be Troy Murphy, Johan Petro and lottery pick Derrick Favors, who should together form a veritable army of post scorers in point guard Devin Harris' arsenal.

It's a solid stockpile of talent. A lot more than they had last year, when they slapped together a ragtag bunch of cast-offs and D-Leaguers and called it a rotation.

The Nets have a lot of solid pieces, and they've got a chance of putting them together and building something decent. Let's see if they can put some points on the board this time around.

2010-11 outlook: When you lose 70 games in one season, the most you can hope for the year after is modest improvement. With a new coach, a new lottery pick and a handful of talented new rotation players, the Nets are well positioned for just that. Don't expect a playoff berth anytime soon, but do expect the Nets to do a number on last year's win total of 12. They might even double it.

Did you know? Troy Murphy leads all active NBA players in career games played without ever making a playoff appearance: 621. Murphy is 30 years old and has played nine seasons in the Association, split between Golden State and Indiana. His arrival in New Jersey probably won't help him shed that dubious distinction.

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