(Sports Network) - A pair of Eastern Conference also-rans from last season hope to kick off the 2010-11 campaign on the right foot Wednesday when New Jersey plays host to the Detroit Pistons at its new temporary home, the Prudential Center.
To call the 2009-10 season a disappointment for the Nets would be an understatement. A rebuilding year was expected but no one could have foreseen the growing pains would come in concert with the worst record in the NBA (12-70).
The Nets spent most of last season trying to avoid history and finally achieved it on March, 29 when they beat the San Antonio Spurs for their 10th win of the year, avoiding the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers' mark (9-73) for the moniker of worst season ever.
Despite the subpar season the Nets have a few things to look forward to coming into this campaign. The long changeover of ownership to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov from Bruce Ratner was finally approved by the NBA and the team left its longtime home of the IZOD Center for its new temporary facility until the new Barclays Arena is erected in Brooklyn.
On the floor, center Brook Lopez has emerged as one of the league's best while rookie power forward Derrick Favors has a huge upside. New coach Avery Johnson will need a bounce back year from talented point guard Devin Harris and find a consistent scorer on the wing.
Favors should get every opportunity to play early since veteran Troy Murphy, who was acquired in the offseason from Indiana, is out indefinitely with a strained lower back.
The team was also able to bring in a host of solid role players in free agency, signing forward Travis Outlaw, center Johan Petro and guards Jordan Farmar and Anthony Morrow.
The Pistons and their coach, John Kuester, are also hoping to rebound after a tough year. Kuester's first season as the mentor in the Motor City was a bit of a disaster, resulting in just 27 wins and a berth in the NBA Draft Lottery, an unfamiliar position for a franchise that had gone to the postseason eight consecutive times.
Since basketball chief Joe Dumars gave shooting guard Ben Gordon and power forward Charlie Villanueva big deals during last year's offseason, and forward Jonas Jerebko showed significant upside in his first NBA campaign, most thought the Pistons president would move long-time stalwarts Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince in the hopes of creating some salary cap relief and playing time for his young, promising parts.
Instead, Dumars was unable to do anything, and his big move during this offseason, other than drafting Georgetown big man Greg Monroe, was signing another wing player on the downside, Tracy McGrady. Now, Kuester finds himself overloaded with wings and power forwards.
An optimist by nature, Kuester put a nice spin on an untenable situation.
"One of the things we have to recognize is [Hamilton and Gordon] have to be on the floor at the same time," Kuester said at the team's media day. "Whether it's in a 2-3 situation (small forward, shooting guard) or a 1-2 (shooting guard, point guard) situation, we'll have a number of times when you'll see Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton on the floor at one time. We've got to be efficient and effective with it but I'll tell you this: We should be able to score a lot of points."
Some playing time was opened up when Jerebko went down for five or six months with a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered during a preseason game in Miami. The rest will sort itself out, according to Kuester.
"I think it will sort out on that court over there," Kuester said, pointing to the practice floor. "I think we're going to have a number of guys that are going to compete for playing time."
The Pistons are also hoping the injury bug stays away this year. Hamilton was limited to a career-low 46 games last season with hamstring and ankle issues and Prince toiled in just 49 games as he battled back and knee problems.
The Nets snapped a three-game skid to the Pistons with a 118-110 win in New Jersey last March.