NEWARK, N.J. – This has become a common sight this preseason: the Nets playing at far less than 100 percent and losing to the Knicks.
Half of the winless Nets’ six preseason games have been against the Knicks, and half of their six losses have come to their Atlantic Division counterparts. Last night, the Nets came back from 18 down in the third period to lead in the fourth, but still fell 94-92 at the Prudential Center.
The Nets have just one more tune up and hope to have Devin Harris and Jarvis Hayes healthy for Friday’s game against the Sixers. They both missed the prior two games; Harris with a strained groin and Hayes with a stress reaction in his right shin and neither have practiced in eight days.
In all, Harris, the Nets’ best player and main ball distributor, has missed three preseason games, parts of two others and about eight practices total with different injuries. Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Eduardo Najera have all missed time and Keyon Dooling hasn’t practiced once following off-season hip surgery.
This isn’t good for a young team that’s still getting to know one another, learning new offensive sets, trying to develop a defensive mindset and chemistry. Now if the Nets stumble when the season starts it won’t be just because they’re young and superstar-less and starting four guys with less than three years of NBA experience.
Little was expected of the Nets last season, but they were healthy at the beginning and were out to prove they were better than most predicted. They surprised by winning their opener on the road and 11 of their first 19 games.
Overall the Nets were in much better shape last year – not to mention they had Vince Carter. It could mean trouble when the regular season opens Wednesday at Minnesota.
“We’ll have a little bit of a stagger,” Harris said.
That’s stagger not swagger. And if the Nets stagger at the beginning they could be down for the count. But Harris tried to put a positive spin on this boxing analogy
“Staggering, you’re still moving forward,” Harris said. “Although you’re not getting there as fast you would like to be, you’re still moving forward. Stagger into a run.”
Realistically, that’s expecting a lot, but this will be a big week and weekend for the Nets.
They practice Thursday, play Friday and then likely will have three more practices and a shootaround before the opener. They hope their players return, there are no more setbacks, and it’s enough to build something because Hayes said the Nets are behind.
“From a chemistry standpoint, yeah,” Hayes said. “We haven’t had a full team one game this preseason. We’re trying to implement the younger guys and not having Devin for a big part of the preseason and he’s our point guard. From a chemistry standpoint we still have a little ways to go.
“I think it’s something we can somewhat gain some traction on in practice. You can’t gauge anything until everybody gets out there in practice.”
So include Hayes among the people unsure of exactly what this team will look like
“We have no idea,” he said.
“It’s strange,” Hayes added. “We have guys that can put the ball in the hole. But what roles are going to be on this team, how prominent will that depth chart be – that’s something that we got to all get healthy and get out there for a good week or so and try and come up with.”
At least the Nets won’t have to see the Knicks again until Nov. 21. Maybe by then they’ll be 100 percent, have developed chemistry and defined roles and have a win.
The Nets had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds after Lee rebounded his own free-throw miss and was fouled. But he misfired on the first foul shot with 1.1 seconds left. He missed the second on purpose. Brook Lopez tried to tip in the miss with his left hand but missed
The Nets drew 15,721 fans in the final preseason game at Newark, but it’s possible they could play more games here in the future. Among the faces in the crowd were several of prospective owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s representatives, former Yankee and Met Dwight Gooden and Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson’s father.