Nets president Rod Thorn expects to return
Speaking in a conference call Monday, Thorn said that potential new owner Mikhail Prokhorov has given no indication that he won't be back.
"As of right now, I am until someone tells me differently," said Thorn, who joined the Nets in 2000 and helped the team reach the NBA Finals in 2002 and '03. "But who knows?"
The Nets' chief executive said the work of rebuilding the NBA's worst team has started.
Among the tasks are finding a new coach, preparing for the draft in June and free agency that starts in July.
While he has not interviewed anyone, Thorn hopes to have a new coach in place for the draft. He also said the team is developing its strategy for free agency, a market that might include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire.
New Jersey finished 12-70 this season, the franchise's worst record and only the fifth 70-loss season in league history.
"This is not the season we anticipated," Thorn said. "Even with some of the things that transpired, we were hopeful of winning a lot more games than we did. Thankfully, we did not set the record, but 12 is not where you want to be."
A late run of five wins in nine games help the Nets avoid the NBA record for fewest wins in a season (9-73), set by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73.
"We have a lot of work to do and to believe otherwise would be naive," Thorn said.
Thorn expects the NBA board of governors to vote "sooner than later" on Prokhorov's application to become the Nets' owner. Until then, Thorn is getting ready, adding the decision on the new coach will be his.
"We're considering multiple people," Thorn said. "I couldn't put a number on it. I am trying to ascertain who might have interest, obviously we have some people we have interest in and, then, maybe some candidates that wouldn't be consider who might have an interest in it."
Thorn said the Nets might ask other NBA teams for permission to talk to a current coach. He would not say whether teams are in the playoffs.
The new coach will be someone who commands respect and can teach the team how to play defense, something New Jersey has not done well in recent years.
With the league's worst record, the Nets can draft no lower than fourth and have a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery next month. New Jersey also will have the 27th and 31st picks in the draft, where Kentucky guard John Wall is considered the top player available.
"If we get fortunate we should be able to get a very good player, and even if we don't get fortunate we should be able to get a good player," Thorn said.
The Nets not only need to add talent, but they need to add depth to a team that may only bring back four or five players from last season. Guards Devin Harris, Terrence Williams, Courtney Lee, center Brook Lopez and forward Yi Jianlian are expected back. Backup Forward Kris Humphries has the contract option to choose whether he wants to return.
With the NBA salary cap only expected to dip to about $56.1 million next season, the Nets should have $25.8 million available for free agency.
The Knicks might have up $34 million to spend, enough to sign to maximum salary players. Thorn said at least nine other teams will have $15 million available, so competition will be stiff.
"Everybody is not going to get one of the top guys, and chances are some of the really top guys may not move anyway," Thorn said. "I think what you have to do is determine a combination of a couple of guys who can really help you. It may not be one of the two biggest names out there, but you have to figure out if that's the way you want to go.
"That's what all of us who have a lot of money are trying to figure out between now and July 1," he added.
Interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe has resumed his job as general manager, but Thorn had no word on his status for next season.
Thorn said the Nets need to improve their defense, rebounding and passing. He said Williams, who was outstanding in the final month of his rookie season, needs to work on his shooting.
The longtime NBA executive noted that while Lopez had an outstanding sophomore season, he needs to cut down on turnovers and stop getting frustrated when he gets double- and triple-teamed.
"It's about growing in the league," Thorn said. "He's a very young player. You understand it's about winning the game. And Brook should affect the game every night defensively, rebounding the ball, and shot-blocking. Every night he should affect the game that way, whether he scores or not."