- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN New York Writer
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For 86 years, the Red Sox had “The Curse of the Bambino.”
Since 1945, the Cubs have been -- as the legend goes -- cursed by a Billy Goat.
On July 1, 2010, the Nets put up a billboard that said “The Blueprint for Greatness,” featuring owners Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z.
It’s only been two years -- so it’s far from curse-worthy -- but nothing has gone their way ever since.
In the summer of 2010, the Nets were favored to win the lottery and get the No. 1 pick. They lost and got the No. 3 pick.
That same summer, the Nets tried to sign coveted free-agents LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer. They ended up with Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow and Johan Petro.
During the season, the Nets tried and tried again to execute a blockbuster trade for Carmelo Anthony. But Melo wanted no part of New Jersey. So he was dealt to the Knicks, and GM Billy King countered by landing Deron Williams out of nowhere.
The Nets finally had their superstar -- with one huge caveat. Williams could opt out of his contract after the 2011-12 season and become a free agent. King knew this, so, following a 24-58 finish to the 2010-11 campaign, he decided to try and reel in a big man to pair with D-Will.
It didn’t work out. Top target Tyson Chandler went to the Knicks, and Nene elected to re-sign with the Nuggets, leaving New Jersey with a team short on talent once again.
Williams announced his intentions to opt out before the 2011-12 season started, and it only got worse from there.
The Nets failed to jell in training camp. And since then, they’ve been decimated by injuries. Brook Lopez, Damion James, Keith Bogans (waived), Jordan Farmar, Mehmet Okur (since traded) and Shawne Williams (since traded) were all lost to season-ending injuries, leaving D-Will without much help.
Coming into Monday night’s home-finale, the Nets had lost 238 manpower games due to injury, illness or personal reasons, an average of 3.7 players per game, and started 24 different lineups. They went just 9-24 at home this season, and struggled on defense and in first quarters. Several D-Leaguers have been called up. Only Gerald Green has been a pleasant surprise.
They thought they were going to land Dwight Howard, but it became one big “Dwightmare,” and D-12 opted to stay in Orlando because of “loyalty.”
King got Gerald Wallace from Portland -- a great all-around hustle player -- but had to sacrifice the team’s top-3 protected 2012 first-round draft pick to do so. The move was highly criticized, viewed as a risk for a franchise that has taken many and gotten burned just as many times. Now, the Nets (22-43) are tied for the sixth-worst record, meaning they only have a 6.3 percent chance of winning the lottery and getting the No. 1 overall pick.
After 35 years in New Jersey, the Nets are moving to Brooklyn and the $1 billion Barclays Center in 2012-13. Their slogan has been “Jersey Strong. Brooklyn Ready.”
Right now, the only guarantees for the franchise are a new building and that MarShon Brooks, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro and Jordan Williams are under contract.
Otherwise, the only certainty is a lot of uncertainty. Eleven of the 15 players on the Nets’ roster are eligible to be free agents in some capacity. Coach Avery Johnson mentioned several -- D-Will, Wallace, Kris Humphries, Lopez and Green -- by name when asked why New Jersey fans should follow the team to Brooklyn, but who knows if they will.
“After the season, guys are going to sit down with their families and decide what’s best for them realistically,” Brooks said after the Nets wrapped up their 35-year tenure in the Garden State with a 105-87 loss to the Sixers. “It’s a business. Whatever team we go to Brooklyn with, we’re going to have to be ready to play.”
The borough of Brooklyn hasn’t had a professional sports franchise since 1957, so there’s going to be a buzz around the Nets. But for how long?
A new building and new uniforms are all well and good, but the Nets must be competitive. And to be competitive, they have to re-sign Williams. He has said he intends to stay -- assuming the Nets put the right pieces around him. They haven’t yet. And even if they do, everything else has to fall into place.
If recent history is any indication, it won’t happen. In 3 1/2 decades, the New Jersey Nets went 1,186-1,635 (.420). And aside from the Jason Kidd era, they didn’t win anything.
Now, they’ll turn the page. Maybe, to avoid a future curse, they should’ve changed their name, too.
For 86 years, the Red Sox had “The Curse of the Bambino.” Since 1945, the Cubs have been -- as the legend goes -- cursed by a Billy Goat.