Brooklyn Nets' 'bridge year' comes to a merciful end

NEW YORK -- Three-thousand, nine-hundred and fifty-one minutes.

That’s how long it took to complete the “bridge year” -- one of the worst seasons in Brooklyn Nets history.

The Nets wrapped up the 2015-16 campaign by losing their final 10 games, including Wednesday night’s finale, 103-96 to the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center.

The Nets finished 21-61. They were outscored by 603 points. Only the Los Angeles Lakers, who were playing Kobe Bryant a ton of minutes during his retirement tour, and the Philadelphia 76ers, who weren’t really trying to win, proved to be worse.

Brooklyn has to surrender its unprotected 2016 first-round pick to Boston as a result of its ill-fated blockbuster trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. There is a 15.6 percent chance the Celtics land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft.

Over the summer, the Nets elected to get younger and cheaper, buying out Deron Williams and wiping away their annual massive luxury tax bill. They saved money, sure, but their season proved to be an unmitigated disaster.

It started with owner Mikhail Prokhorov making his players do odd calisthenics in training camp, and ended with a loss to a team that could have been mistaken for Toronto’s D-League team, Raptors 905.

In between, Billy King’s miserable reign ended and, thankfully, the Sean Marks era began. Lionel Hollins was fired and replaced by Tony Brown. Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young had strong seasons after signing multiyear deals to stay. Lopez even remained healthy. It was one of few positive takeaways. The addition of a $50 million practice facility in Brooklyn was another.

The Nets finished with the fourth-worst offense and the second-worst defense in terms of efficiency. Jarrett Jack and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson both suffered significant injuries. The team waived Joe Johnson and Andrea Bargnani. Their point-guard play was mostly terrible. It needs an upgrade. At least RHJ and fellow first-rounder Chris McCullough, once finally healthy, showed potential.

Simply put: Marks has his work cut out for him. The Nets have $40 million in cap space, but this summer everyone has cap space. Plus, they don’t have total control over their first-round pick until 2019. May 17, the draft lottery, will be a rough day for the franchise. But Brooklyn has no choice but to look forward.

Patience will be required. Ownership may not want to hear that, but so be it. Rebuilding will be a challenge. The Nets dug themselves into this mess, and now they have to dig themselves out of it.

Hiring a coach will be the first order of business. There are plenty of interesting names, including Ettore Messina and Jeff Van Gundy. Marks needs to get this hire right. Continuity at that position is desperately needed. No more coaching carousels, please.

Maybe a free-agent surprise takes their money. This is New York, after all. And, hopefully, that still means something. Then Marks will need to get creative -- perhaps by attracting a high-upside international player or two or finding a diamond in the rough in the draft.

If only the Nets had their pick. At least they had hopes of landing John Wall after their 12-70 campaign in 2009-10.

If only.