Considering their 20-62 record was the NBA’s worst last season, there’s no place to go but up for the Nets. The question is how far they might rise with an improved roster that has added D’Angelo Russell and veterans DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe, all of whom have scoring ability to make up for the loss of departed Brook Lopez.
Point guard Jeremy Lin said during the summer that the new Nets can make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. That seems a stretch even though several top players have moved to the Western Conference, but Lin reinforced the notion during Monday’s Media Day session.
“I’m extremely excited,” Lin said. “I don’t want to be disrespectful to last year, but I feel that, with a year under some of our belts and then the additions we brought, we should definitely be better than we were last year. We feel because we have a better team that’s even more achievable.
Carroll said the Nets’ situation is comparable to when he joined the Atlanta Hawks one year before they made a quantum leap from a 38-win team to a 60-win playoff team. “Realistic expectations are to try to be better than we were last year,” Carroll said. “If it’s 10 games or 15 games, if we slip in[to] the playoffs or if we don’t. It’s being better. Then, next year, you start trying to creep and do whatever you can to get into the playoffs.”
When the Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving last summer, they sent the Nets’ first-round pick they owned to the Cavaliers as part of the deal. Some took that as a sign they didn’t necessarily believe the Nets again would finish with the most Ping-Pong balls in the NBA draft lottery.
Still, most projections have the Nets in the bottom five in the league. Allen Crabbe, who came from Portland in a trade, doesn’t mind.
“The culture is putting the right guys together who are willing to do whatever it takes to turn this organization around,” Crabbe said. “The year they had last [season] is not the expectations we have for this year. We want to be better, and we’re going to be better. People have low expectations of us, but that’s good for us. We can play with a chip on our shoulder every night and prove people wrong.
“I’ve been in a situation like that in Portland. Going into my third year, they said we were going to be second to the worst team. We ended up getting the fifth seed in the West and going to the second round against the Warriors. I’ve been here before, so, I just feel we should prove people wrong.”