There hasn't been much good news for Nets fans during the past few seasons.

Still trying to absorb the exodus of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter, Nets followers have watched the team's vision of relocating to Brooklyn grow murkier and murkier as it deals with community lawsuits and the changing economic landscape. To make matters even worse, the team's value dropped by $25 million in the first six months of the year, according to a report in Sports Business Journal.

Just as things were bottoming out, a white knight - or maybe we should say white Cossack - appeared on the horizon in the form of Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian tycoon who has agreed to buy 80 percent of the franchise and 45 percent of the proposed Barclays Center in Brooklyn from owner Bruce Ratner.

Remember how awful the Mavericks were before Mark Cuban stepped into the picture? Well, Nets fans hope someone will ask the same question someday about their team and its new billionaire owner. A stockpile of cash certainly wouldn't hurt the Nets because the team is well under the salary cap and poised to become a major player in the 2010 free-agent market.

"It affects everything,'' point guard Keyon Dooling said of the ownership situation. "The type of owner you have reflects what kind of team you have.''


The type of team that the Nets have isn't much to get excited about. This team wasn't very good when it had Carter, so the Nets could be painful to watch without him. They have had consecutive 34-48 finishes in the Atlantic Division, missing the playoffs in both seasons.

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The only bright spots in the starting lineup are point guard Devin Harris and second-year center Brook Lopez. Though they won't carry a team, they are a foundation for the future and will provide some moments worth watching. Yi Jianlian is another player worth watching, just to see if he can shake his reputation for being clumsy and be more of a presence at power forward.

Perhaps the person who finds himself in the strangest position on the Nets is Lawrence Frank. This is his sixth season as coach, but it also is the last year of his contract. This is not the group of players you want to have on your team in a contract year, especially with a new owner itching to bring in his own people looking over your shoulder.

Yet Frank says the only thing he is focusing on is the present, which means getting the Nets to put forth the maximum effort. He talks about a recommitment to defense; with the departure of the defensively challenged Carter, that might be the only area in which the team is expected to improve.

Said Frank: "When you look at our group, you have to be willing to do what others won't for a longer period of time. We have to become a mentally tough team and be a unified group.''

"A unified group'' isn't the sort of slogan that you plaster on billboards.But this season, it is the best fans can hope for.