Up until the moment the Nets fired Lawrence Frank, it was easy to make an argument that the Nets had the brighter future of the two local basketball teams. Sure, they were 0-16, but they had a core of young players who were developing nicely as a supporting cast for the potential stars they'd bring in with their copious cap space this offseason.
The Knicks, for all their big-city cache, have a bunch of has-beens, never-weres and probably won't-ever-bes stinking up the Garden on a regular basis. If you're a player who cares about winning, you'd rather take the court with Devin Harris and Chris Douglas-Roberts than Toney Douglas and Wilson Chandler any day of the week. That's something the Nets could have used in their favor when it came time to pitch themselves to players on the open market. And they also have a first-round pick, one that's looking like a good bet for the first overall pick come June.
Harris, Douglas-Roberts, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee and, for giggles, John Wall makes for a pretty good fivesome on its own. Throw in another elite player and a couple of savvy additions and you're looking at a team that would be poised to make a quick turnaround. They chose to throw out this season for the hope of a brighter tomorrow (lots of that going on in these parts) and no one thought they were stupid for doing so.
So why fire Frank now? It's just the latest sign that the current ownership has no interest or feeling for the actualities of professional basketball. The team was set up to be bad because of their cost-cutting, so there's no sense in punishing a coach because they turned out to be bad. It's like blaming the chef for making a crappy meal out of spoiled meat and moldy cheese.
You've known what you had in Frank for years now and firing him is a cynical play to try and show fans, fans you don't actually have, that you're working to make things better in a season that doesn't matter. People notice when you run your franchise like basketball is the farthest thing from your mind.
We know what the Nets are all about these days, and it isn't basketball. It's about saving money and getting to Brooklyn. They're saving dough, but we're a month away from 2010 and shovels still aren't in the ground. That means there's no rudder to the franchise, no one to point them in the right direction and they just got rid of the one guy who would actually waste his time trying to do that this season.
Good luck selling that to free agents. Say what you will about the Knicks decision-makers, but they actually seem to think about the consequences of their actions. You can't say that about the Nets. Mikhail Prokhorov can't come soon enough.