With the New Jersey Nets playing the final game in their 35-year history tonight, Rory and my friend Ben, two of the biggest Nets fans there are, took to email to discuss the team’s legacy, upcoming offseason, and future in Brooklyn.
Rory: So I took in the final game in New Jersey last night, and while the night was marketed as a time to remember past glories, I can’t help but walk away feeling frustration. To sum up:
– The final game in New Jersey should have been played in the Izod Center. And, yes, I’ll admit that I was pro-Newark for years, but the move was a complete bust. It felt like the Nets were crashing on somebody’s couch the last two years. The Izod Center may be an ancient craphole in the middle of nowhere, but it was OUR ancient craphole in the middle of nowhere.
– Seeing all the old players was nice again, but there were several key members I would’ve liked to see participate, either in person or via video message: Keith Van Horn, Lucious Harris, Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins, Alonzo Mourning, etc. And, call me crazy, wouldn’t it have been interesting if the Nets reached out to Jayson Williams? The guy is a broken man who needs a friend, and I think the Nets could’ve helped him out.
– As one of my friends said, could someone please point Todd MacCulloch towards a treadmill?
– “Homecourt advantage” is such a big myth, especially when it comes to the crowds. Yes, teams play better at home, but it is mostly due to having an easier travel schedule. The best crowds in the league are Golden State and the Knicks, and look how many rings they’ve won the last 30 years. In the 3rd quarter, when the Nets were making their run, the crowd was electric – very noisy, and chanting the whole time (without instructions from the Jumbotron). And the result? Thaddeus Young goes off and silences everyone, en route to an 18 point loss. So much for that.
– After the game, they had a post-game autograph session for season ticket holders. They divided us into two lines, not telling us which players were at each line. I ended up with signatures from Farmar, Green, Lopez, Shelden Williams, Stevenson, and Damion James. Not bad, but the other line had D-Will, Hump, and MarShon. Oh well.
– What do you think of the teaser on NJNets.com? It looks like the team colors will be black and white. I don’t think that is bad, it seems very classic and tough to screw up, but I’ll miss the patriotic colors.
Ben: Newark was just a disaster. And I can’t say I blame the fans in Newark. Why support the team? The Nets were out the door unless court cases stopped them. It was a short-sighted marriage; they get to try to show Newark could handle a team and the Nets get a nicer arena than the Izod Center. And it was loveless, cold, and didn’t end well. The Mad Men fan in me says we just dumped Jane and are moving towards Joan. If only Avery were half as funny as Roger Sterling.
-So basically you wanted members of the only Nets teams that had real success in the NBA? Understood. I can’t say I blame you; the first NBA jersey I ever owned was Keith Van Horn’s. Oh, the 1998 Nets. Such hope and optimism. Coach Cal in the only time he could legitimately pay his players, Jayson Williams turning his life around, Sam I Am at point, Kerry Kittles as an emerging 2, and KVH. The Knicks were old. Then the lockout. Kerry Kittles’ knees. Penny Hardaway rumors. Jim MacIlvane. And Starbury. I thought things were really looking up when they made that trade. Turns out I was right; it just took three years for them to turn Starbury into a real point guard.
And you can keep Zo. I disliked him so much I didn’t have hate Kenyon Martin for going below the belt with him. No wait, kidney punches are legal in boxing.Also, I see your Todd Mac and raise you the man who ate Derrick Coleman.
-Talent trumps home court every time. I was at the Kings/Bobcats game Sunday and watched as Travis Outlaw eviscerated the Cats in the first quarter because, well, the Bobcats are the worst professional basketball team I’ve ever seen. Even worse than the Nets from a few years back, who I had the pleasure of watching get destroyed by the Bobcats and Gerald Wallace take Yi’s knee out. About ten minutes later, I had seen enough and walked out.Back to Sunday. All I kept saying throughout the first quarter was how Travis Outlaw sucked. How he stole money and how it was unfathomable that he could be playing well. That’s the thing when you have a bad player on your team; your mind just dismisses any notion the guy can be good. It was as if I was watching water and oil mix. It did not compute. Of course, Outlaw didn’t score after the first quarter and finished with just eight points in a 30 point Kings win. As my fiancee so aptly put it, “And then he remembered he was Travis Outlaw.” Thank god for that; it saved my sanity.
Terrance Williams also popped up for the Kings as well. Apparently, the Kings take 3 types of players. Talented kids with character questions, Nets’ disappointments, and guys who went to the University of Washington. I can’t wait to see Damion James in a Kings uni next year!
-By the way, I saw a SportsCenter thing this morning where their NBA analysts tried to think of their “favorite” moment of the Nets history in Jersey. Of course, it was them not thinking of anything till Bruce Bowen said, “They lost the 2003 Finals to the Spurs!”
Maybe I’m just bitter here (okay I am) but the Nets went to back-to-back NBA Finals. It was a decade ago, but there are a lot of NBA teams that wish they could claim that! It’s tiring to hear people talk about them like they’re the Clippers. The Clippers haven’t had near the success the Nets have. Shoot, the Knicks have had equal lows but didn’t get as high in the last 15 years (Congrats, Keith, you got to an NBA Finals in ’99 and lost to a two-man Spurs team! MECCA OF BASKETBALL!!!).
It’s been fashionable to rag on the Nets since they came into the league. But the fact of the matter is, they’re really not that bad. And if Byron Scott didn’t stubbornly keep Kerry Kittles on the bench during the 19-0 run in Game 6, who knows?
How do you feel about this offseason? I feel strangely optimistic, about the logo and the future, despite the fact that I’d be less than surprised if D-Will bolted for Dallas. And that they probably gave away their lottery pick. And Wallace will probably opt-out to get more security so they’ll be left with nothing… wait what was I talking about?
All joking aside, I’m okay with whatever happens. Because they’re out of purgatory. Even if they’re terrible for the next three years, they’re still in New York and no matter what anyone says, New York beats places like Charlotte and Sacramento (sorry to my fiancee, who loves her Cali hometown a great deal). Brooklyn is a place to be. Do you think Dwight Howard even considers the Nets without the Brooklyn move even if Deron is there?
That’s what Brooklyn means. It’s New York and a different New York than Manhattan. The Knicks are not the Lakers. There’s a chance to be The Team. No matter how successful the Kidd Nets were, they could never be the IT team in New York and New Jersey. Just like the Devils could never hope to be the Rangers. And if you’re good in New York, the city will get behind you. In the 80’s, the Mets were NY’s baseball team after all.
So the Nets, just by virtue of moving to Brooklyn, have a bright future in my opinion, even when they sign Jeremy Lin to a four-year contract he doesn’t deserve. And if Deron stays and the team gets Dwight Howard in a year, even better. Your thoughts?
Rory: Man, just reading your mail reminded me of all the Nets’ busts throughout the years. Travis Outlaw is just the latest to join the growing list. I still look fondly back on the Ed O’Bannons, the Yinka Dares, the Jeff McInnii, etc. It would’ve been fun to see a “tribute” to the Nets’ worst players last night. I mean, there’s no point in pretending that we’re the Yankees all of a sudden. If Nets fans didn’t have a sense of humor, there would have been multiple murder/suicides throughout these last 35 years. (And the Zo thing was a joke, you should check out my Bottom 10 Nets of the 00’s on my old site).
As for the offseason, I’m not optimistic at all. In last week’s Mad Men, Peggy said she couldn’t have one more bad omen. I think the Nets’ bad omen was Houston’s 6-game slide to take away their only potential lottery pick. My point? I think Billy King is going to have to give a lot of random hand jobs to get this dog to fly.
I disagree about the big market factor. I believe it can sell tickets, but for every big market success story (Lakers, Bulls), there are teams whose big market has done very little into making them a winning team (Knicks, Clippers). A big market can only go so far; you need the right management to get things done. I’d take R.C. Buford running a team in North Dakota over Isiah Thomas in the Big Apple.
I think the Nets fans need to temper their expectations. I can’t even hazard a guess as to what will happen, as there are so many variables at play. Although Dwight & Deron seems like a dream on paper, as a fan, I’d rather see the Nets work hard on retaining Gerald Green and Kris Humphries. Those two have consistently said they want to remain on the Nets, as opposed to the aforementioned “superstars” who have been wishy-washy on where they desire to play. Loyalty is a two-way street, and it’ll be hard for me to root for a team that casts aside its hard-working players in chasing a pipe dream.
Oh, and I forgot to mention this earlier, but fuck Chris Christie. The man has never attended Nets games, so why does he feel the need to chime in? I know being a loud-mouthed asshole is his shtick, but your state is losing an NBA team, and losing the revenue and jobs that comes along with it. Is New Jersey in that good economically that losing 40+ Nets games a year won’t matter? Good luck with that, you fat prick.
Ben: The list of bad Nets might have taken all night. From the last five years… Bobby Simmons, Tamar Slay, Ron Mercer, Zoran Planinic. Going back further, David Benoit and Benoit Benjamin. Apparently the Nets are the only team in the league to have employed both players in NBA history with “Benoit” in their name. So we’ve got that going for us.
I wasn’t really referring to tickets when I was talking about Brooklyn. It’s New York itself. If you were a professional athlete and had the choice of playing in Newark or Brooklyn, what would you take? Even if in reality, you might live in the exact same suburban gated community in either locale, I think Brooklyn is the choice 100%. Because it’s New York, not New Jersey.
It goes without saying that a bad team in New York is still a bad team. But part of the advantage to being in New York is that no matter how bad you are, that name on the front of the jersey remains the same. The Knicks were a joke for ten years and still pulled in Amar’e, Melo, and were in the hunt for CP3 because they played in New York. Dwight Howard wanted to (and still might want to) come to the Nets because of Brooklyn. And if DWill stays, a large assist will go to the fact they’ll be in Brooklyn next year. They won’t be the only players who voice those desires. Being big market alone doesn’t make you a champion, but it gives you an enormous leg up. The Nets will have an edge that at least a third of the league doesn’t have next year, maybe even closer to half the league.
I know we as fans like success stories. I do want Gerald Green back (though I was admittedly less high on Hump, just because after watching him in person, I don’t know I’ve seen a less coordinated/more clumsy NBA player under 6’11). But you know what fans like more hard-working players? Winning!
The most charitable description of Jason Kidd is to say he is a complex person. And his loyalties were to getting his biggest payday. In the end, he quit on the team and started them on this tailspin they’ve yet to escape from. Still, if I had to do it over again, I’d take J-Kidd every time. He may have been about the money and furthering his wife’s career, but the Nets went to two Finals because of him. Dwight Howard might hate his coach and want him fired (I think he’s still two behind Kidd in that regard) but he’s still the best center in the league. A championship with hired guns is still better than no championships at all. I know we’ve been burned by the Summer of ’10, Melodrama, and Dwightmare, but you don’t win championships with Green and the former Mr. Kardashian.
That isn’t to say I approve of rash moves like the Wallace trade. That was their one mistake. They panicked when the Dwight trade fell through and made a bad gamble to try to get DWill to stay. I see some of their logic; the pick is either going to be top 3 or likely 6-7-8, so they might feel like the 7th pick isn’t going to be a franchise changer. I just don’t think Wallace is enough to entice DWill to stay. He’s a hard working player and was a fan favorite down here in Charlotte. But he’s at best, the third best player on a championship team. That might even be generous.
But overall, I’ve been impressed with the work King has done. It certainly tops Rod’s final few years at the helm, as sad as that is to write about a guy who I was convinced could do no wrong in 2002. But the blood of Travis Outlaw is on his hands. So is Favors over Cousins.
As for Chris Christie, who probably would be out of Jersey in a second if Willard offered him a spot on the ticket, think Don Draper and his ad against Lucky Strike. Of course it stings to lose a team, especially since it lessens the value they’ll get out of the Prudential Center. But hey, never show weakness. You don’t get anywhere in politics or selling beans by admitting defeat.
I’m wondering how many references to Mad Men it will take before even Keith gets tired of it. I’m setting the over/under at 10.5.
Rory: I think we’ve pretty much covered all there is to talk about right now. The new logo will be announced Monday, but honestly, I’m starting to dig the silhouette itself. I feel revealing the final logo may be a let down. But I’m just negative – it’s like Peggy’s boyfriend wishing her a shitty day before she went off to SCDP last week. Who knows? I wish I could have the Roger Sterling “It’s a wonderful day!” attitude, but the Melodrama and Dwightmare has just beaten me down. Here’s hoping May 30th brings some luck.
Ben: I had a conversation with my fiancee last Sunday where I said, “I had this idea of hanging out with your sister’s crazy friends and act like Don Draper did around those beatniks. Cool, calculated, fitting in, yet being above them all. Then I realized I’d just end up being Pete Campbell.”
As Nets fans, I feel like that’s kind of our situation. We want to be the big shots; we want the respect that we feel our history, while checkered, deserves. But in the end, we’re not Don Draper. Maybe we will be one day but we’re not yet. Hopefully, we don’t lead ourselves to ruin trying to reach that point, especially since Don’s appearance of success is very much a facade.
See my point? In true Pete Campbell fashion, I just called the Knicks Dick Whitman.
Anyway, the Nets have never excelled in the logo department. Yet for some reason their current one has been my AIM icon for the last 12 years. I guess I’ll have to make that change when it’s revealed. End of an era, end of an era.
Hopefully the ping-pong balls bounce the Nets’ way and they can land Anthony Davis, who will be promptly shipped out for Dwight Howard.
Then again I feel like I said this before: “If they get John Wall, LeBron will want to come here!”
So I understand the lack of optimism. They say insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
But to be a Nets fan you have to be a little crazy.
Rory: Late breaking news! The logo just leaked! What do you think? It took a bit to warm up to, but I’d give it a 7/10. Very simple and classic, and definitely an improvement over the previous George Jetson-esque design.
Ben: Minimalist… In theory, it isn’t worse than the old logo but eh, I’ll go 6/10 for now. But I’m like you, I’ll probably warm to it. I do wonder if it would look better if it said “Brooklyn” instead of “Nets” and just had the ball without the “B” on it.
Good chatting with you, Rory. Maybe we’ll do it again when Deron makes his decision or Dwightmare II opens the summer blockbuster season.