Thursday, December 3, 2009

Throw a Net Over Us

The New Jersey Nets set a new NBA record, most losses to start the season, 18. This breaks the record of 17 set by the 1988-89 Miami Heat (an expansion team, no surprise there) and tied by the 1999-2000 Los Angeles Clippers (the Clippers, so no surprise there, either).

Appropriately, it was the Dallas Mavericks who provided the defeat. The team that features Jason Kidd. When Kidd arrived at the Meadowlands in 2001, he turned the team from one of the biggest joke franchises in all of North American sports into a genuine title contender, winning the Eastern Conference in his first 2 seasons, the Atlantic Division in his first 3, and winning a 4th Division Title in his 5th. From 2002 to 2006, the Nets were one of the best and most entertaining teams in the NBA.

But when Bruce Ratner bought the team, he started breaking them up. First Kenyon Martin was traded. Then Richard Jefferson. Then Kidd himself. Finally, Vince Carter, not a part of the '02 and '03 seasons but a sensational player obtained thereafter, but by the trade his time had gone and thus his trading away was somewhat justified.

There is no longer any reason to watch the Nets. They are a horrible team. They have terrible injuries and who knows when the injured players will return. They play at the Brendan Byrne Arena... check that, the Continental Airlines Arena... check that, the Izod Center, one of the worst arenas in North America. They fired coach Lawrence Frank and replaced him with Kiki Vandeweghe, the general manager who helped put them in this situation; the only nice thing I can say about Kiki is that his father, Dr. Ernie Vandeweghe, was a pretty good player for the near-miss Knicks teams of the early 1950s (3 straight trips to the NBA Finals, 1951-53, but lost them all).

What do the Nets have going for them? A new arena in Brooklyn, which we now think will open in time for the 2012-13 season. It was supposed to open this season. The Nets have now been a lame-duck franchise longer than the Montreal Expos were. Whatever they're going to be called when they move to Brooklyn, if they do, they won't be my Nets any more than their 1977 move to New Jersey (first to Rutgers, then to the Meadowlands in 1981) meant that they were still the New York Nets that Long Islanders loved in their ABA days.

What else do the Nets have going for them? Space under the NBA's salary cap. Yeah, that helps. If, that is, they know what to do with it. If there's one thing the Nets have proven in their 32-year New Jersey existence, it's that they are one of the most incompetent personnel-movers in basketball.

What do the Nets have going for them right now? Uh, great seats available! In a lousy building in the middle of nowhere...

Anybody who pays to watch the Nets now is just putting money in Ratner's already deep pockets, and for what? A lousy product with no hope of ever getting better. Face it, the Knicks are dreaming if they think the enormous cap space they've cleared is going to get them LeBron James or Dwayne Wade -- and Chris Bosh isn't exactly an enticing Plan C. The Nets don't even have that hope.

So maybe the people who pay to watch the Nets should have a net thrown over them. I've paid to watch the Nets one time in the Ratner era. (It was against the then-defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs. No sign of Tony Parker's wife, Eva Longoria, although she was shown at the game on the 11:00 news. No sign of Nets part-owner Jay-Z and his squeeze -- now wife -- Beyonce, either.)

I will not be paying to watch the Nets again, unless the Russian trying to buy the team from Ratner tells him to take his Atlantic Yards and shove them up his ass, and moves the team to the Prudential Center in Newark where they should have been from the day that place opened in October 2007. At least then, they'd have one of the best arenas in the land, instead of one of the worst, and it wouldn't be in the middle of nowhere.

They'd still be a bad team, though. Throw a net over us.

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