EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Harry Weltman, general manager of this season's worst NBA team, resigned today after failing to right the floundering New Jersey Nets franchise during three-plus years at the helm.
"I feel I made a contribution," Weltman said during a telephone conference call with reporters. "It was demanding rebuilding with young people. And I knew I would take the blows as anyone would when the team is performing poorly."
New Jersey finished 17-65 this season, worse than expansion franchises Minnesota (22-60) and Orlando, and second-year teams Miami (18-64) and Charlotte (19-63).
"After three years, I am anxious to pursue other interests," Weltman said, adding that he notified the team's owners Sunday night of his intention to step down.
No replacement was named immediately.
The Nets' record this season was also the franchise's worst, surpassing the ineptitude of the 1968-69 ABA team that went 17-61 playing as the New York Nets at the Commack Arena in Long Island.
Injury could be blamed for some of the problem. Starting power forward Roy Hinson played just 25 games because of a knee injury and rookie point guard Mookie Blaylock, the team's top draft pick, missed 32 games with a broken finger.
Even with them, the Nets were not that good a team and Weltman has to share in that blame because his top draft picks have not panned out.
Shooting guard Dennis Hopson, the No. 3 pick overall in the draft three years ago, has struggled. He led the team in scoring with a 15.8 points per game average this season, but shot a miserable 43% from the field--just a touch above average on the Nets.
Forward Chris Morris, who two years ago was the No. 4 pick overall, averaged 14.8 points and was inconsistent through the season.
Weltman came to the Nets in March, 1987 with a history of rebuilding franchises, first with the Spirits of St. Louis of the ABA in the mid 1970s and then with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA, starting in 1982.
New Jersey was in need of rebuilding in 1987. The team had started a rapid decline in the 1985-86 season when guard Micheal Ray Richardson was banned by the league for repeated drug problems and it seemed to hit rock bottom in 1986-87 with a 24-58 mark.