While it’s hard to find a silver lining to the near collapse of American financial markets, the Newark Star-Ledger’s Ian T. Shearn and George F. Jordan hint there’s one in Nets owner Bruce Ratner’s inability to borrow (link courtesy No Land Grab).

Tuesday, a spokesman for Goldman Sachs offered only a “no comment” when asked about the financing for the nearly $950 million arena, fueling persistent doubts about the viability of Ratner’s plan, which has been systematically downscaled and delayed since it was first rolled out more than four years ago.

The latest setback came Monday, when Ratner said that ongoing legal disputes had again pushed back ground breaking for the arena, Originally slated to open in 2006, and most recently in 2010, it will now not be ready before 2011.

For his part, Ratner remains resolute.

“Atlantic Yards will be built and it will create thousands of needed jobs and affordable homes,” Ratner said in a prepared statement. “This is all the more important as our city and country confront one of the most difficult economic downturns in history.”

Atlantic Yards — 16 skyscrapers, an 18,000-seat basketball arena for the Nets, and thousands of apartments at a site at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues — has been delayed by a string of legal challenges and questions about financing.

That leaves the Nets playing at the aging Izod Center in the Meadowlands for at least the next three years, which will perpetuate competition with the Prudential Center hockey arena in Newark.

The latest delay may complicate the $400 million naming-rights deal with Barclays Bank, which is expected to help offset the cost of the arena, according to published reports. The deal with Barclays was contingent on Ratner’s financing for the project to be in place by the end of November.