The franchise now known as the Brooklyn Nets found its greatest success in its 3rd NBA decade from 1996-2006. Here are the 10 best players from that period.
The Brooklyn Nets franchise was still known as the New Jersey Nets as it entered its third decade in the NBA for the 1996-97 season.
The 10 years ahead would be the most successful in the franchise’s time since joining the NBA as part of its merger with the American Basketball Association in 1976.
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Among the firsts the Nets would achieve in the 1996-2006 period included the team’s first 50-win season in the NBA, its first division title in the NBA (both in 2001-02) and its first appearance in the NBA Finals (2002).
Despite all that success, New Jersey would still end the 10-year span with a losing overall record at 381-407, even though the Nets reached the playoffs six times in the period.
There would be four more head coaches added to the historical roster. John Calipari was hired from the University of Massachusetts for the 1996-97 season and after a 26-56 debut campaign led the club to the playoffs in 1997-98.
Calipari was fired after the Nets started 3-17 in 1999 after the lockout and was replaced by assistant coach Don Casey, who got a full season in 1999-2000 before he was let go.
Byron Scott had been a member of the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers for three NBA titles in the 1980s and had spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings when he was hired for the 2000-01 season.
Lawrence Frank replaced Scott during the 2003-04 season and opened his head coaching career with 13 straight wins on the way to taking the Nets to a 25-15 record to close the season.
The seizmic shift happened in July 2001, when the Nets pulled off a blockbuster trade, sending All-Star point guard Stephon Marbury with Johnny Newman and Soumaila Samake to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for All-Star point guard Jason Kidd and big man Chris Dudley.
New Jersey set a franchise record in 2001-02 with a 26-victory improvement, doubling its win total from the previous season to finish 52-30 and earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time.
The Nets won their first playoff series since 1984 and doubled and then tripled down, beating the Charlotte Hornets to advance to their first conference finals and then topping the Boston Celtics to reach the Finals.
They were swept by the two-time defending champion Lakers in the Finals, but returned the following season, taking the San Antonio Spurs to six games before losing in the first-ever (and still only) matchup of former ABA franchises in the NBA Finals.
New Jersey closed the 10-year period with five straight winning seasons (the first time in franchise history they did so, even going back to the ABA days), five straight playoff appearances and eight playoff series wins from 2002-06.
With two All-Stars in Kidd and Vince Carter in tow at the end of 2005-06, few were prepared for the rapid fall that would follow.
But that is another story. Here are the 10 best Nets from the 1996-2006 period, with a caveat that playoff performance was factored in, which led to some bigger names falling in this countdown.
As with the lists above, players needed to appear in at least 150 games to be considered.