It's getting late early for Brooklyn

NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets, a team built for the sole purpose of winning a championship, are off to a disappointing 3-7 start.

Since opening the season at 2-2, the Nets have dropped five of their last six games and are sinking. They look fragile and old. There's little confidence and even less locker-room chemistry. At the moment, the Nets look poorly constructed, like an incomplete jigsaw puzzle that just has a bunch of scattered expensive pieces that don't fit.

And if the Nets aren't careful, a season that began with so much promise could quickly spiral out of control.

In the 10th game of the season, Jason Kidd, the man charged with piecing it all together, is already taking the blame for the Nets' latest loss, a 108-98 defeat Monday night at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Nearly 30 minutes after the defeat, the Nets' locker room remained closed to the media. Jason Terry described it as "just guys reflecting."

It may be early, but a bright-red warning sign is flashing for the Nets. Things could implode quickly. And Kidd has to be the glue to keep it all from falling apart.

After watching his team score 40 in the first quarter only to fail to reach 100 points, Kidd said he was at fault for the Nets' latest setback.

"Just bad coaching. I take the blame for this," Kidd said. "Guys played hard. We got a little stagnant on the offensive end. This falls on my shoulders. We got off to a good start, and then in the third quarter we came out a little flat and that falls on me."

The rookie coach hasn't even coached a dozen games yet and he's already dipping into the Coaching 101 handbook and trying to do what a good coach does when adversity hits: deflect from the real problems swirling all around.

The future Hall of Famer certainly is a part of the slow start thus far, and he takes responsibility for failing to get the players to play better and more cohesively. The stoic Kidd has tried to be more active and demonstrative on the sideline of late -- even if it is out of character -- in an attempt to get his team going.

"Whatever they need, if they need me to get in the stands, then that's what I'll do," said Kidd, who was out of his seat plenty of times during a win over Phoenix last week and on Monday night as well. "It was something I just thought maybe they needed. It was something out of the comfort zone of mine, of standing up and being vocal.

"But if that's what the guys need, then that's what I have to do. ... But I got to get in shape. Because that's a lot of standing, and those aren't basketball shoes I'm in."

If Kidd could trade his designer shoes for some Nikes and suit up, that certainly would help. The Nets "got 99 problems," as one of the team's famous former co-owners used to rap. And even Jay Z can recognize that Kidd isn't all of them.

Kidd is not going to win many games without his All-Star 7-footer Brook Lopez, who is dealing with an ankle injury that could keep him out longer, and Deron Williams (ankle). Andrei Kirilenko (back) was also out against the Blazers.

Meanwhile, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have not been able to get their All-Star games going. While the two former Celtics weren't brought in to carry the Nets offensively with both being past their primes, Garnett and Pierce have not been able to lead or lift the Nets above this slow start.

Garnett, 37, drilled his first six shots before missing 11 of his final 13. Pierce, 36, missed 10 of 12. Joe Johnson? He went 4-for-12. Many of the shots were wide-open from the perimeter, shots this collection of All-Stars should be able to bury. And when the Nets aren't hitting, they stop defending on the other end. That's a lethal combination.

The Nets also have strong personalities in the locker room, and losing can often make strong personalities more abrasive and difficult to deal with. Garnett and Pierce didn't sign on with Brooklyn for a 3-7 start. They will lose patience if the losing continues. So will billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who can spend a fortune on all the talent he wants but can't buy championship chemistry.

The Nets' chemistry won't start improving until Williams and Lopez are healthy. And even when they do return, it's going to take time. The starting five barely has been together since Williams missed much of camp with an ankle injury. Add Garnett's minutes restriction and the Nets' cohesiveness is about as sticky as a wet Band-Aid.

"We're in it ... we're in a struggle right now," said Shaun Livingston, one of the few bright spots with 23 points Monday. "We all have to remain together. Can't be one foot in, one foot out. Can't be front-runners.

"There's still a majority of the season left," Livingston continued. "We look forward to being there at the end."

The Nets hit the road for five of their next seven games. Kidd might be the only guy who can right the ship.

If he can't keep things together, the end could come much sooner for Brooklyn than anyone ever expected.