How Low Will the Winless Nets Go?
Hastings, you see, was on the expansion 1988-89 Miami Heat that set the record for most losses to start an NBA season at 17. So Hastings is hoping the Nets will knock the Heat out of the record book, right?
"Absolutely not,'' Hastings said. "We were a bad team. We deserved our record, and I'm disappointed any time anybody gets close. Go Nets.''
Hastings, a big man who somehow lasted in the NBA from 1982-93 while averaging 2.8 points, sees it as a badge of honor to at least be known for something. Then again, he did appear on the Late Show with David Letterman in the early 1990s due to, by his own admission, being one of the worst players in the NBA.
But there's a chance Hastings' Heat could get knocked completely of the record book. Miami was tied by the Los Angeles Clippers' 0-17 start in 1998-99. And the Nets are 0-12 after Tuesday's 99-85 loss at Milwaukee.
Let's just say the Nets would be quite eager to accommodate Hastings and not reach the futility mark.
"You never want to be in the record books on that side,'' said guard Rafer Alston. "But hopefully we don't get to 0-17. We don't want to let that happen.''
Not long ago, it looked as if there was no way was it going to happen. The Nets lost two close games to Philadelphia and fell at Miami last Saturday on a last-second three-pointer by Dwyane Wade. Surely, they would break through this week.
But the Nets are now reeling. They lost 91-83 at home Tuesday to Indiana in a game that wasn't nearly that close and were outscored in the second half 58-37 by the Bucks after somehow taking a 48-41 lead into halftime.
The Nets have been often down to eight players recently due to a wave of injuries. It's really catching up.
"You're going to have doubters,'' said forward Bobby Simmons, perhaps wondering why anybody would doubt this gang that can't shoot straight (40.1 percent for the season). "I hope it doesn't get to 0-17. You just take it one game at a time. We only have eight [players]. We're trying to do the best we can with what we have.''
On Saturday, the Nets have their best chance for a while to break through when they play host to 2-9 New York in the shadow of the Big Apple. Actually, the game should be known as the battle of the Apple Core.
If the Nets don't win that one, it could get quite hideous. They head out on a four-game Western trip.
By then, Hastings really will be sweating.
In losing its first 17 in 1988-89, the Heat usually never came close to winning. Miami lost nine times by 15 or more points, including a 47-point drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It got absolutely ugly,'' said Hastings, whose Heat did somehow manage to finish 15-67 and avoid Philadelphia's 1972-73 mark of 9-73 for worst in NBA history. "We were so bad. We didn't have anybody who could play.''
Nevertheless, on Dec. 14, 1988, the Heat finally broke through. With Rory Sparrow, Grant Long and Pat Cummings each scoring 15 points, Miami beat the 89-88 on the road for the first win in team history.
"It was like the seventh game of the playoffs,'' Hastings (pictured right, in 1988-89), who scored four points in six minutes, said of the postgame celebration. "We didn't have champagne. None of us made very much money. So we used Diet Cokes on each other [for dousing].''
Miami was in the record books by itself until the Clippers showed up for the 1998-99 lockout season. They lost their first 17 en route to a 9-41 season, which would translate to about 15-67 for a normal campaign.
The Clippers were similar in the dreadful category, also losing nine of the 17 by 15 or more points. But, behind 18 points from Darrick Martin and 16 from Eric Piatkowski, they broke through on March 11, 1999, by beating Sacramento 106-92 at home.
"I'll never forgive them,'' Hastings said of the Clippers having knocked Miami out of its solo hold in the record.
By that time, Hastings had begun to really like being part of NBA lore for being lousy. In fact, he dubs the Heat the opposite of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 17-0 for the greatest single-season mark in NFL history.
"I'm like the Miami Dolphins in reverse,'' Hastings said. "I'm part of NBA history, and I want to remain part of NBA history. I watch those losing streaks like [Nick] Buoniconti and [Bob] Griese and those [Dolphins] watch the winning streaks in the NFL. There's has to do with success, mine with duress.''
Hastings is now a television analyst for Denver, so he can't cheer for the Nets if they're 0-13 and trying to stop the streak next Tuesday at the Pepsi Center. But he'll be pulling for them the rest of the time.
No doubt Lawrence Frank would appreciate that. This is, if Frank remains New Jersey's coach.
"I don't even focus on the 0-17,'' Frank said. "I think for us, we've just got to take it one game at a time.''
If it ends up being one loss at a time for the Nets, they would tie the NBA record Nov. 29 on the road against the Lakers and break it Dec. 2 against Dallas at the Izod Center.
By then, it might be renamed the I-God-awful Center.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson.