Will the Nets be torn apart?

Updated: July 6, 2004, 10:45 AM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider
It didn't take long for new Nets owner Bruce Ratner to get a rep in the league and the New York media. The GMs around the league refer to him as a business owner -- a guy who cares more about the bottom line than the win column. The media? Well, the New York Daily News dubbed him the "rat" after word began spreading like wildfire that Ratner was ready to gut the Nets to save a buck or two.

Over the past week, Ratner has been making his case, individually, to anyone who will listen that he plans to keep the Nets intact. He's not trading Jason Kidd despite numerous reports from league GMs that Kidd is on the block. He's not letting Kenyon Martin slip away in free agency amidst assertions from his own team president, Rod Thorn, that Martin is asking for more money than the team believes he's worth.

While many in the league and a few inside the Nets believe that Ratner is more interested in his development project -- the one that will relocate the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn -- than the team itself, Ratner firmly denies that the team is in any jeopardy of breaking up.

"I'm not somebody that's in a cost-cutting nature," Ratner told the Daily News under a headline that said 'Bruce: I'm no rat.' "I believe you have to spend money. In the case of real estate, people look and say, 'Look how beautiful this place is.' That's the same thing in the case of basketball."

"The cost-cutting is totally exaggerated," he told the New York Times. "Look, every team makes decisions as to what are the best players for this particular group to work together, play together, and how do you do that in a cost-effective way? Sometimes that means trading someone much more needed by another team, you know, and saving some money so we can keep other players."

After two Finals appearances in three years, are the Nets as we know them through? Or will the new ownership bring them back for one more encore? Here's a look at what to expect as Insider continues its summer blueprint series.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer