The New Jersey Nets have started the new National Basketball Association season with a win - the team's first success as it aims to rebound from the worst record in the league. The revamped Nets are a completely different team than the one that saw victory only 12 times in 82 games last season.
The Nets accomplished a feat in their NBA season opener that took them a whopping 19 games to do last season - win. Their 0-18 start in 2009 set a league record for futility to open an NBA campaign. But on Wednesday night in Newark, the Nets rallied from a seven-point deficit in the final one minute, 40 seconds for an exciting finish to their home-crowd pleasing, 101-98, defeat of the Detroit Pistons.
New Jersey guard Anthony Morrow scored what would be the game-winning three-point shot with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter. He said a victory was the right way to start this season. "You know, just to get off on the right foot, you know, get the fans more excited. It was a great turnout, and it was great for everybody to come out and see us get that win for the coaching staff. It was just fun, man. It was a fun game. We need 81 more just like that."
Morrow scored 13 points for the night. He is one of the 11 players that new Nets team owner Mikhail Prokhorov of Russia signed in the off-season. In fact, the billionaire businessman cleaned house when he took over the team, hiring new head coach Avery Johnson, installing a new general manager, and getting rid of all but four players from the 2009-2010 season.
One of the four remaining New Jersey players is guard Devin Harris, who led all scorers against the Pistons with 22 points, nine of which came in the final period. He also dished out nine assists. Teammate Jordan Farmar came off the bench to score 10 points, including a quick three-point shot with one minute, 32 seconds remaining that pulled the Nets to within four points of the Pistons. He also canned two free throws in the final 14 seconds to seal the victory.
Coach Johnson said his Nets won because they were persistent. "We looked like we were finished, and our guys kept playing. You know, we came out of a time-out and drew up a play for Jordan for a three-point shot, and he made it. And then, you know, Devin kept going. But he just really showed the personality of our team. I'm hoping all year that we're just never going to quit."
Last December, Prokhorov agreed to buy 80 percent of the New Jersey Nets. The Russian is the first non-North American to own an NBA team. It's a team that ended up finishing dead-last in the NBA 2009-2010 season standings with only 12 wins against 70 losses - the worst record in franchise history.
Prokhorov also agreed to pay 45 percent of the cost of a new arena for the Nets, which is being built in nearby Brooklyn, New York. It is expected to be ready for the start of the 2012-2013 season.
In addition to the new venue in a neighboring state, Prokhorov plans to give the team a new name within the next two years. There has been no decision on what the official new name will be, but at least for now, the Nets will settle for being called "winners."