Nets kick off 'bridge year' with a dud

NEW YORK -- So this is what it’s like to watch a team in transition, a team beginning a season that many Brooklyn Nets ownership and front office types have already been referring to as a “bridge year.”

It certainly wasn’t pretty. But at least the Nets knew what they were getting into.

On Wednesday night, to no one’s surprise, Brooklyn kicked off its 2015-16 campaign with a 115-100 loss to the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center.

To be fair, there were some positives: Brook Lopez played like Brook Lopez, scoring 26 points and displaying his terrific shooting range from the perimeter. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson supplied much-needed energy and effort, showing off his quickness and athleticism after a shaky start in his NBA debut. Andrea Bargnani provided buckets off the bench, and the Nets, galvanized by the play of their reserves, somehow exploded for 36 points in the second quarter.

But that was basically it.

Defense was a humongous question mark coming in, and the Nets did nothing to quell that, surrendering 14 3-pointers and allowing the Bulls to shoot 53.8 percent overall.

“We have to defend better,” said Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who did plenty of tinkering and experimenting as he tries to figure out what style and rotation best suits his team. “We didn’t handle schemes very well and we gave up some easy stuff that they didn’t have to earn.”

Chicago’s max backcourt dominated Brooklyn’s mini mid-level backcourt, with All-Stars Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler outscoring career journeymen Shane Larkin and Wayne Ellington 39-6. Starting point guard Jarrett Jack, who could only coach from the bench due to a hamstring injury, was certainly missed. Joe Johnson, who unfortunately isn’t what he used to be due to Father Time, clanged several shots his usually cans, going 4-for-15 from the field, and was a minus-29.

The Nets didn’t drain a 3-pointer for the first time since the opener of their 12-70 season in 2009-10, and they went 6-for-31 from the field in the third quarter, including 6-for-23 in the paint.

“We want to use this one as a building block,” Thaddeus Young said.

It was very much a performance befitting of a team projected to win just 25 games by FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO system -- and perhaps a sign of what’s to come.

Over the summer, the Nets cut costs in hopes of becoming profitable. But on the court, they’re still, as GM Billy King admitted Tuesday, an unfinished product.

And so it goes.

The Nets took their shot and they missed. Now they’re trying to dig themselves out of a massive hole, rebuilding while trying to regain relevancy, hoping to sneak into the playoffs so they don’t have to sweat the NBA draft lottery in May. As you probably know by now, the Boston Celtics own their unprotected 2016 first-round pick.

Maybe free agency in the summer of 2016 will save them. Maybe not.

Unfortunately, they’ll first have to get through this season, the bridge year.

More times than not, it probably won’t be pretty. It certainly wasn’t on Wednesday night.