Originally published in SLAM 60

The 6th Man: If I remember correctly, the argument for the cover line at left went something like this: “‘Champs by 2001: Count On It’? Are you crazy?”

“Yeah, it’s a little crazy. But it’s 2001 we’re talking about. This issue will be off the stands in two months. Who’s gonna remember our coverline, anyway?”

“Oh. OK.”

Well, 2001 has come and gone. And anyone who has been paying attention knows that the Los Angeles Lakers—not the 26-56 Nets—were the 2001 NBA Champs. The Nets not only missed the playoffs entirely last year, but they were five games off the previous year’s mark. Sam Cassell was in Milwaukee, Jayson Williams was in a suit, and the Nets were back in the Lottery. As usual. Boy, did we look dumb.

During the offseason, we figured there would be changes. Keith Van Horn would be handed a ticket out of town, and the Nets would begin to rebuild around All-Star point guard Stephon Marbury. Anyone not willing to take a little flak from Coney Island’s Most Competitive would be shipped out, and it would all start again. Boy, did we look dumb.

Well, there were changes. Jim McIlvaine went home to his Camaros, Kendall Gill became Miami’s non-shooting guard, and Stephon was sent to rejoin Tom Gugliotta. New Jersey was restocked with Todd MacCulloch (who we figured would be a bust), a rejuvenated Kerry Kittles (who we thought would never be the same again) and Jason Kidd (who was almost sickeningly positive in his predictions). We laughed. Boy, did we look dumb.

So here we are in February, and the Nets are ballin’. Jason Kidd is racking up triple doubles, Kerry Kittles is back and faster than ever, and T-Mac Canada has been quietly effective. Then there are Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin, who have been jumping through the roof and playing ferocious D, and Lucious Harris—the second longest-tenured Net—who’s just happy that his contributions actually matter for once. Even better, they’re all getting along, which of course is easier when you’re 21 games above .500.

So basically, we only have one thing to say for ourselves now—how does 2002 sound?


Russ Bengtson

P.S. Uh, don’t count on it, though. We’re not that dumb. Also, we just heard that Mike might be out for the year. Heal quick, Money.

Issue 60 Nets