Nets embarrassed in their home opener

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
10:13
AM ET

A sellout crowd of 18,711 showed up to watch the New Jersey Nets in what was their final home opener ever in New Jersey.

If only the Nets had joined them.

In what was without question one of their most atrocious performances in recent memory -- hard to say for a team that had won just 37 of its previous 165 games coming in -- the Nets were blown out of their own building by the Atlanta Hawks, 106-70, on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center. And their fans let them hear it throughout.

“I think if our players were in the stands they would’ve booed us,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “It’s a normal reaction.”

Said point guard Deron Williams, who had one assist and six turnovers: “We deserved it, we got beat by [36] in our building on opening night, so there’s not much you can say. They pay money for their seats, so they expect to see better basketball than this.”

Here’s just how bad it was for the Nets:

• They had as many fouls (22) as they made shots (22).

• They had twice as many turnovers (18) as they had assists (nine).

• They shot 22.5 percent in the first quarter and scored 11 points.

• They never led, and trailed by as many as 39 points.

The Nets' PR staff was generous to the media in giving out these two tidbits:

• The Nets lost by 36. Their largest margin of defeat last season was 32 points on Jan. 28 at Indiana.

• The Nets scored 30 points in the first half. Their season-low for points in the first half of any game all of last season was 31 at Atlanta on March 26.

And get this:

• Two seasons ago, the Nets started 0-18 and became just the fifth team in NBA history to lose 70 or more games. None of them were this bad.

And it’s going to take a while before it gets better.

Consider: The Nets have seven new players and many of them have barely even practiced.

During training camp, a reporter asked Johnson if he thought his team needed anything else before the season started.

“About a week more of practice time,” he replied.

He wasn’t kidding. The Nets even looked discombobulated in their season opener. The only difference was they were playing the Wizards, and as D-Will said postgame, they aren’t the Hawks.

Power forward Kris Humphries -- ironically, the only Net who didn’t deserve to be booed aside from rookie MarShon Brooks on Tuesday night -- was very realistic about the team's woes postgame.

“We were on a back-to-back. We know we gotta get it going,” Humphries said. “We gotta get after it early. This year, not having Brook [Lopez] right now too, offensively there’s gonna be more of a load on other guys. We gotta figure out a way to score points, and score points early. ... People wanna talk about defense. If we’re not able to score, it creates something we can’t come back from.”

“We’re learning on the fly," Williams said. "We still don’t have a concept of how to run the offense, we’re still making mistakes on defense. Our flaws are gonna show up against teams that have been together."

Johnson didn’t want to make excuses for his team, but he didn’t have to. They’re listed above. The Nets are a one-star team, and their opponents know it. They’re trapping Williams well beyond the 3-point line, and taking him away. And without Lopez, that's going to continue unless his teammates start to make shots. The Nets can't afford to shoot 31 percent and go 5-for-24 from downtown. It's not going to work.

After the Hawks scored the first five points of the third quarter to go ahead by 27, the crowd began to chant, “We want Howard! We want Howard!”

They could certainly use D-12. But as currently constituted, not even Superman himself could save this team.

Same Old Nets. Same Old Results.

You can follow Mike Mazzeo on Twitter.

Mike Mazzeo

ESPN New York Writer

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Joe Johnson
PTS AST STL MIN
16.4 3.7 1.0 34.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 7.9
AssistsD. Williams 6.7
StealsJ. Jack 1.1
BlocksB. Lopez 1.5