By Chris Sheridan
I want to hurry and get this post up before tipoff, because there's no telling if Lawrence Frank will even make it to halftime before getting fired by the New Jersey Nets.
Sorry, poor attempt at humor -- and it especially pales in comparison to what the beleaguered Nets coach had to offer when he arrived at his office for his usual pregame interview and saw at least three national writers awaiting him.
"This is like seeing the guillotine squad," Frank said as his team tried to avoid an 0-13 start in their afternoon game against the New York Knicks.
Frank's spirits were fine, but his fortune certainly was not bolstered by comments made Friday by Nets president Rod Thorn strongly implying that Frank's job is on the line, despite the team's litany of injuries, if the team doesn't make it into the victory column soon.
Saturday's game against the 2-9 Knicks will be the Nets' final home game before they embark on a four-game West Coast swing to play the Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Kings and Lakers. Losses in all five of those games would give New Jersey an 0-17 record, which would tie the worst start in NBA history (by the expansion Miami Heat in 1988 and the L.A. Clippers in 1999.)
Asked if he agreed with the axiom that you are what your record says you are, Frank delivered the following:
"Yeah, especially since I have the utmost respect for coach [Bill] Parcells, and it’s basically his line. I feel more sorry for our guys that 0-12, the blemish that comes with that, why it’s a story because you’re 0-12, when it’s eight guys who truly have worked their tails off. And if they were coming in half-assed at practice or not focused at shootaround, then I’d say 'Hey, there’s not much hope.' But they’re not. They work every single day. These guys care. So it’s more I feel bad for them because of the blemish, and I‘ll take 100 percent responsibility for where we’re at because these guys have worked their tails off, and I do believe in habits, and if we continue to have thesse habits, we don't allow frustration to lead to a lack of confidence and a lack of faith, I think we will break through. But again, we’re 0-12. We are. And that’s on me."
Frank did have Devin Harris available Saturday for the first time since the second game of the season after he missed 10 games with a strained right groin. Courtney Lee (strained left groin) is expected to return sometime during the road trip.
Frank is in the final year of his contract (as are Thorn and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe), and the Nets franchise is in limbo while it awaits approval of the sale of the franchise to Russian billionaire Mikhael Prokhorov -- a sale that is contingent on the Nets breaking ground on their new Brooklyn arena by Dec. 31.
The roster is loaded with players on expiring contracts, and the Nets will be in the company of the Knicks and the Heat in having the most salary cap space to spend in next summer's free agent market.
But the present? It's bleak.
So bleak that Saturday's matinee had a strange sort of Game 7 feel to it -- especially as it concerned Frank.
"I think, as a Net fan and as someone who has been part of the organization for 10 years, I can see how you can be very, very excited about where this team is headed. There’s no doubt about it, and there’s a plan in place, and I think the Nets have a chance -- we have a chance -- to be very, very good for a long time. Now, at 0-12? You’re just focusing on what you need to do. I’m here to serve our guys: Give ‘em a plan, lead them, hold them accountable.I only worry about, we only worry about, this group. The future? I don’t spend really any time over it other than giving you that poetic waxing."
UPDATE: Understandably, Frank was not in quite the same jovial mood afterward as the Nets dropped to 0-13 with a 98-91 loss to the Knicks in which New Jersey came back from a 15-point third quarter deficit but was outscored 9-4 in the final 1:43. "It would take a toll on anybody, obviously no one wants to start oh-and-whatever it is," Harris said. "What hurts more is the so many close games that we're losing. I think if we were getting blown out every game, I think everybody would be like 'OK, we need a change.' But we're right there each and every game. We've just got to find a way to overcome a lot of these things."