EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Just call them Club Chaos.
The Nets are like a fire raging out of control and drawing gawking looks from passersby. With Jason Kidd surprisingly "reassigning" top assistant Lawrence Frank, paired with his ill-fated cup caper last week that led to a $50,000 fine on top of his team's overall brutal start, the Nets (5-13) are officially a hot mess.
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They limp into Thursday night's game with the Knicks (3-13) a beaten- down, injury-ravaged bunch. Case in point: Two of the Nets who've openly barked most about their disdain for the Knicks -- Jason Terry and Paul Pierce -- are banged up and won't be playing when the teams meet at the Barclays Center.
"Guys are logging heavier minutes, so it's tough," Terry said Wednesday. "But nobody said it was going to be easy and we understand that. And that's why I remain optimistic. I mean, but if it gets any worse than this, who the ---- knows? I don't know. We got four guys at practice today. I've never seen anything like it, so it can only get better."
No doubt the Nets don't have the numbers with a combined 38 games already missed because of injuries, but they've been getting repeatedly blown out and the cascade of boos they've been showered with at home signal a frustrated fan base that's fed up with paying higher ticket prices than a season ago for worse results. If the Nets don't pull out of their tailspin and team brass starts believing it's a failed chemistry experiment that'll blow up in their faces down the line, more changes may be on the horizon.
Just flash back to last season, when the Nets floundered with a 2-10 mark in December after their hot start. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov fired Avery Johnson mere days after his November coach of the month award. The Russian billionaire isn't fielding the league's highest payroll at $102 million and subsequent luxury taxes for these kinds of results, and he could get impatient.
"That's part of the job," Kidd said. "You have to accept it. There are no excuses. You've got to try to win and that's the bottom line. And so whatever any owner decides to do, that's his decision. Injuries, no injuries, you have to have guys ready to play."
Kidd, obviously, knows all about putting his foot down. It was stunning that he banished Frank from the bench and turned him into a glorified video assistant. Frank coached Kidd with the Nets from 2004-08 and was on Byron Scott's staff when Kidd arrived in 2001,
Frank reportedly has retained an attorney, possibly eyeing some sort of settlement on his compensation. Kidd showed little remorse whenever his name was broached some 18 hours after his bombshell.
"I think L's still working, so there's no disappointment," Kidd said. "He's working, he's giving his reports. Do I miss him? No, he's doing his job and what I've asked him to do."
Terry left little doubt where the players' allegiance lies. "This is Kidd's team," Terry said. "He's the coach. We love coach Frank and what he brought to the table. But obviously J, they had their differences, so we're riding with coach Kidd."
Lately, they've been trying to drive 100 miles per hour on four blown out tires. But ever the optimist, Terry is still is confident things will work out in the end. "We're going to be a great team. Not a good team -- a great team," Terry said. "And we just got to get healthy, number one, but we just got to continue to fight. Too many times, even when we did have our guys, when a team made a run on us or something, we've dropped our head and felt sorry for ourselves. Even at home, the fans start to boo, we feel sorry for ourselves.
"No, it's just basketball. Go out here like the kid you were when you were 15, have fun, enjoy it and enjoy whooping somebody's ----. That's what it's going to take. On Thursday, what better game to do it in than that one."
Notes & quotes:
Terry has missed the past seven games as tries to get his left knee back near 100 percent. He said he might've come back too early after sitting out most of the preseason following arthroscopic surgery in the offseason. "I've definitely been getting stronger," said Terry, who hasn't played since Nov. 20. "Very optimistic that the process is coming along. I'll be re-evaluated Monday. Hopefully I can get back out there with my teammates. Don't know exactly what date, but hopefully sooner than later."