The Roar
The Roar

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The growing pains of the Brooklyn Nets

Is Jason Kidd to blame for the Nets' mediocre performances?
Expert
8th December, 2014
2

It’s just so eerily silent. On Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, the Nets played San Antonio in a game that should have been important.

The Nets were finishing off the biggest two-day stretch of their season so far, having beaten crosstown rivals New York in The Garden on Tuesday before playing the defending champion Spurs at Barclays.

With a mediocre 7-9 record without a single victory against a winning team, Wednesday night was a litmus test for Brooklyn, a real chance to make a statement. The Nets did just that, playing their best game of the season, absorbing some haymakers and overcoming the champions in a gutsy overtime win.

A statement was made – the problem was that no-one was listening.

I would describe the Barclays Center as ‘aggressively modern’. It is pristine; an overpriced picture of cleanliness.

The colour scheme of blacks and greys is sleek; it feels like something out of a Christopher Nolan film. The court design, uniforms and logo are undeniably cool; they ooze Jay-Z.

As an aesthetic, Brooklyn got everything right with the Nets – that is, aside from the name, which leaves a lot to be desired. You’re in New York, you wear dark colours and the Batman films just made a kajillon dollars – call your team the Brooklyn Knights and let’s be done with it.

Unfortunately though, you can’t colour design people who care about a team.

The stands at Barclays were half-empty Wednesday night, and they didn’t even get to that stage until halfway through the second quarter. Fans were subdued at best, disinterested at worst.

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Atmospherically, the game felt like a rec-league Monday night social match-up, not a clash between an NBA team from New York City and the Defending Champions.

The main problem with the atmosphere was that the crowd felt like it was 70 per cent San Antonio fans. San Antonio is not one of the 35 biggest media markets in America; chants of ‘Let’s Go Spurs!’ should not be ringing out in the crowd in a game in New York (the biggest media market in the world).

The overwhelming feeling at the end of the game, the biggest Brooklyn win of the season, was not elation, or even happiness. It was apathetic, muted disappointment.

Brooklyn has had a real opportunity to win over a large chunk of New York basketball fans in its debut seasons. The Knicks are a debacle, on and off the court.

James Dolan is the worst non-racist NBA owner of the past decade and things don’t look like changing any time soon.

Knicks supporters are disillusioned and for the fairer weather fans, Brooklyn could have posed a legitimate alternative. The problem is that things on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge aren’t much better than they are in The Garden.

The Nets operated under the idea that to be relevant in New York City they had to be competitive right away.

This approach is understandable, but it’s also incredibly myopic. On the eve of their first season in Brooklyn, the Nets signed Deron Williams to a five-year $100 million deal, traded for Joe Johnson and the remaining four years $90 million on his contract and signed Brook Lopez to a four-year $60 million deal.

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With those contracts the Nets effectively locked into their core for the next half-decade. They also seemingly locked into a ceiling of ‘competitive mediocrity’, because that core never had a chance of winning a title.

The Nets chose the reliability of being ‘decent’ on a nightly basis and being a good bet for the first round of the playoffs every year over some short-term pain for the long-term prospect of being meaningfully good.

To their credit, last year the Nets actually took a credible swing at title contention. The trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce was a deal that they had to make and it gave them what should have been a championship calibre starting five.

It’s not their fault that Lopez got injured (although it was semi-foreseeable given his history), Williams was a shell of himself and Garnett became washed up overnight. They took a shot and they missed. Such is sports.

In the 2014-15 season the Nets are dealing with the repercussions of that miss. Pierce is gone, Garnett is still washed up (although he’s playing better) and Brooklyn is out three future first round draft picks that they gave up to get those guys.

Johnson and Lopez don’t come off the books until after next season and D-Will’s contract ends the year after that. The future is bleak in Brooklyn.

The Nets won on Wednesday night but it wasn’t an especially convincing win. It was gritty, but not impressive. Teletovic and Bogdanovic were unconscionably hot and the Spurs were flat and missed a comical amount of open shots.

Such is the NBA, where an aberration night for a mediocre team and a laconic night for an elite team can produce a funky result. In spite of San Antonio’s lethargy, they still should have won.

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Brooklyn was up 15 with five minutes to go and then the Spurs switched on, ending regulation on a tear. Williams got tentative and shots stopped falling.

The Nets needed a fluke banked jumper from Lopez to get to OT and then in the extra period they got a couple calls from the refs and Williams hit a big three. Game over. Even the Nets seemed surprised that they’d won.

Per NBA.com, the Nets are ranked 23rd in offensive rating and 13th in defensive rating – they are the definition of mediocrity. They have no identity.

Offensively they have no discernible system, they get by with slightly above average talents occasionally doing slightly above average individual things.

They are old, slow and plodding. Garnett was rested Wednesday in what could have been a blessing – the Nets should be starting Teletovic.

This manifests itself on defence where they lack athleticism and speed on the perimeter and don’t have a true rim protector.

Regardless, the Nets have talent. They have a reputable coach and they play in the East where everyone is a Derrick Rose fall away from being a contender for the Conference Finals, and then who knows.

Maybe the Nets will figure it out, maybe they won’t. The question is, will anyone care?

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