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ESPN's Ultimate Standings show Nets, in pre-Prokhorov season, declining to 118 (among 122 franchises), with Ratner still the second-worst owner

With no way to factor in a brighter future in Newark (and Brooklyn) and a deep-pocketed new owner, the New Jersey Nets actually declined from 111 to 118 in EPSN the Magazine's Ultimate Standings 2010, a ranking of how much the 122 franchises in four pro sports give back to the fans.

(The unimpressive New York Knicks nudged up to 119 from 121.)

The Nets ownership, led by Bruce Ratner, held steady at 121, the second-worst in all of sports, thanks to Donald Sterling of the Los Angeles Clippers, who paid $2.73 million last November to settle a housing discrimination lawsuit.

The best scores for the Nets were in the categories of Title Track (championships won or expected in the lifetime of current fans) and affordability. Look for the latter to decline, though perhaps not until the expected Brooklyn move, and the former to increase, at least if major free agents are signed.

Title Track: 99
Ownership: 121
Coaching: 121
Players: 114
Fan Relations: 113
Affordability: 82
Stadium Experience: 119
Bang for the Buck: 116

The explanation, from ESPN's Insider (subscription only), comes with some digs at marketing man Brett Yormark:
Mikhail Prokhorov is a genius when it comes to buying low. And that's what he got with the Nets. "It was the single worst fan experience in ANY professional sport," says Net Income of Netsdaily.com. We feel you guys, we really do, because New Jersey hasn't been embarrassed this badly since Jersey Shore debuted. We're not even talking about the Vince Carter trade and the NBA-record 18-game losing streak to start the season. There were the reversible jersey promotions (one side: a New Jersey Nets player, flip it inside-out: Kobe Bryant!). And CEO Brett Yormark scolding a fan who donned a paper bag. Amazingly none of this even begins to address the IZOD Center, which housed this entire spectacle. Net Income, please do the honors: "It hadn't been updated in 30 years. It had virtually no amenities and was always crowded, perhaps even an unsafe concourse. Traffic and parking configurations were changed, sometimes game to game, to accommodate a massive and still-empty shopping mall, the construction of a new Giants/Jets stadium and then the destruction of the old one." Luckily for Nets supporters, the Ratner era ends with a temporary pit stop in Newark and an overhaul of the organization, Russian-billionaire style. "Nets fans on the whole are excited by the prospect of Prokhorov, if only because we know our owner is now committed to basketball rather than real estate," says NJ4Life of Netsdaily.com. Hey, that's not a bad place to start.
The 2009 ranking: 111

Last Year's Rank: 100
Title Track: 100
Ownership: 121
Coaching: 108
Players: 102
Fan Relations: 88
Affordability: 65
Stadium Experience: 119
Bang for the Buck: 99

Developer Bruce Ratner is starting to resemble that college friend who just wasn't ready to move on after graduation. Hey, Jersey, we're hitting snafus with that planned move to Brooklyn, so, ummm, ya mind if I crash here a while longer? "I'd like to say we have the most hated owner in sports, but of course that's not possible," says Mike from Joenetsfan.com, "because a) Al Davis is still around, and b) Nets fans can't work up enough contempt to get stoic, let alone angry." You have to figure that with tickets about $16 cheaper on average than what the Knicks peddle, fans can't feel like they're being totally hustled, right? Anyway, can you really put a price tag on the chance to feign excitement for a squad that has outperformed a big-city neighbor in each of the past eight seasons? Well, maybe. "I happen to have the cheapest season tickets in the NBA, at $199 for the season," says Netincome of Netsdaily.com. "But to get to my seats requires a StairMaster-like climb of nearly 100 steps." The single packed-to-the-gills concourse doesn't help win raves, nor do the envy-inducing smells and sounds of construction that emanate from the new Jets/Giants stadium being raised just yards away. In the end, though, the poor-relation expectations that have taken hold west of the Hudson may be a blessing in disguise. "Hey, it's Jersey, baby," says Netincome. "No fuss, no bother, no pretense." Who can blame Ratner for wanting to squat with guys like that?

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