Brooklyn’s Final Goodbye

Brook Lopez, as always, is the first Brooklyn Nets player to address the media. Unlike always, roughly 30-40 media members, complete with television cameras, microphones, cell phone recorders blanket him, in a seemingly endless swarm to hear his thoughts on the game, on Brooklyn’s first season, and what could have gone differently. Unlike always, Lopez hasn’t had any time to get changed, so all cameras focus on his chest and upwards: below the shirt, Lopez is wearing only a towel.

Lopez sighs before taking the first question. Despite the sea of media, Lopez is as consistent off the court as he is on it. He’s been a good soldier all season; he provides media members with the quotes they need and proper angles about playing hard, trusting teammates, providing “the boost,” and taking blame even when the blame isn’t necessary. He deflects praise. He says he should have done more when his teammates and coach did more than enough. He stares down at his feet, and straight ahead above the crowd of audio gobblers, but rarely directly at someone. He kindly and respectfully answers the same questions, with slightly different wording, from multiple media members. He is Brooklyn’s goofy public relations official, and in proper PR fashion, you’ll never get him to criticize anyone but himself.

Soon after Lopez finishes talking, the media amoeba huddles around Jerry Stackhouse, primarily because one camera swung in that direction. The hivemind goes where it smells a story, and Stackhouse can provide one; He is Brooklyn’s veteran leadership, 38 years old and a principle member of the National Basketball Player’s Association, Stackhouse may have something to say that other guys haven’t learned yet.

Stackhouse doesn’t provide star power, though. As he speaks, the media amoeba slowly dissipates. Two international media members break off to speak privately with Mirza Teletovic in a language I don’t recognize. Three or four beat writers wander to Keith Bogans, nearly dressed, presumably to ask him about not playing against his former team in six of seven games. More wander to Reggie Evans. Evans often holds R.J., his young son, in his arms while doing interviews as R.J. mindlessly plays with people’s recorders or a balloon or anything else within his grasp, but R.J. is nowhere to be found tonight.

C.J. Watson and Tornike Shengelia appear to have snuck out, though Tyshawn Taylor gets caught by one straggler. MarShon Brooks jokes towards Andray Blatche — “don’t act like you ever call me, Dray” — and I do not see him again.

Soon, Nets guard Joe Johnson, fresh off his worst game of the season, slinks through the remainder of the Stackhouse crowd to his own locker, which sits stage left of Stackhouse’s. The amoeba reassembles. Stackhouse fields two more questions, including mine about P.J. Carlesimo’s interim status (“I couldn’t give a damn about P.J.’s status right now,” Stackhouse says, kindly but firmly ending the interview) before the attention turns fully to Johnson.

By nature, Johnson — the highest-paid player on Brooklyn’s roster — is soft-spoken. He carries himself with an aura of cool kindness; never braggadocios, Johnson is always glad to speak with the media, even if he appears immediately uncomfortable by the beeping recorders. He’s not a slick talker or media magnet. Perhaps that’s because of his southern roots, perhaps it’s just a personal trait, but I often find myself straining to hear anything he says, even if it’s just “okay, guys, I’m ready for you.”

Free from the strains of being on the record, Stackhouse gathers his final personal effects, singing a hymn quietly to himself as Johnson prepares to speak. “I guess I should’ve sung the anthem,” Stackhouse says, cracking a smile. He walks over to Deron Williams’s locker to share a few private words. Williams, the team’s de facto leader and franchise player, will speak at the podium this evening for one of the few times this season, and the only time in a loss.

Despite my struggles to hear Johnson, he often says nothing of serious consequence. Johnson, like Lopez, knows to say all the right things about his teammates and none of the right things about himself. He is content with accepting blame, but also straightforward about the reality of the sport. He’s had nights worse than this, he promises us. Yes, it was difficult, Johnson says. Yes, it was tough not to come through. Sometimes it just happens.

As Johnson speaks, Gerald Wallace sits at the next locker over, staring silently into space. Losses consume Wallace, and his confidence was a victim of that consumption this season. No player on the roster ebbs and flows on the team’s success as much as their starting small forward. Lopez, Williams, and Johnson enunciate with the ferocity of a sea snail after near every game, but Wallace refuses to let monotony dictate his discourse.

Wallace curses the loss under his breath, before calling for “Timmy,” or trainer Tim Walsh. Wallace’s body has taken significant trauma this season, from his frequent trips of reckless abandon into the stands and the floor. He was a fan of recklessness since Day One, as Wallace injured his ankle in the first game in Brooklyn Nets history on a chasedown block, and it is the style that defines his game as much as his personality: brutal, straightforward, with nothing left unspoken. As he waits for Walsh, Wallace receives consoling from Matt Riccardi, the team’s Basketball Operations Coordinator, before Walsh comes to speak with him briefly and privately.

Like Wallace, Williams has spent most of his time silent at his locker, despondent. He speaks briefly to Keith Bogans, the player whose locker sits closest to Williams, and looks at Stackhouse with rapt attention as Stackhouse speaks. Whatever he’s hearing, he’s paying close attention to, or at least conveying focus. Veteran leadership matters in certain circumstances, and this is one of them, I think to myself. After a minute or two of quiet conversation, Williams nods and gives Stackhouse a slight smile, and Stackhouse exits. Williams dons the rest of his post-game outfit, complete with wide-framed glasses, and exits to the podium to speak once more with the media.

Williams handles his media duties with the same lukewarm vigor as usual. He’s fatigued from a seven-game series, from 41 minutes of playing time, from the weight of knowing what’s coming. Imagine speaking to 50 people in a crowded room about how you didn’t do your job well enough, then put it on national television. For all of Williams’s linguistic enthusiasm, he speaks quietly, robotically, almost broken. The season was fun, he says, and he wishes they weren’t so inconsistent. He loves his teammates, and wishes he wasn’t so inconsistent. He supports interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo (though the final decision isn’t his to make), and man, he wishes they weren’t so inconsistent. In a season that’s reached its final chapter, what’s left to say?

Williams finishes up his press conference and walks through the doors into the back hallway that leads back to Brooklyn’s locker room, heading to the exit for the final time this season. Taking his place on the podium is Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls star center, who’d sat in the back of the room for the entirety of Williams’s press conference. He smiles, gives a high-five to a female Chicago Bulls official, and walks to the podium, the victor.


  1. I am a season ticket holder. I have played and coached basketball most of my life and, for the life of me, this team is an under achieving embarrassment. We need to stop with the semantics, stop with looking at the points scored or assists made etc, and break it on down. THIS TEAM LACKS BALLS!

    1. to sweatboxbk

      YOU ARE RIGHT ON!! in contrast to the author of the above article who is somehow mesmerized and in love with statistics-you have given a realistic and accurate portrayal of this flawed team!!

      i prefer answering your candid remarks because the autors of this wbsite are in fairy-tale land–
      first and foremost-DWILL is a problem-people that i know connected to the Nets let me know that no coach has been able to control him as of yet–a major shortcoming for P.J.–APPARENTLY,dwill is a person of many mood swings as evidenced easily by his court behavior which can best be summed as erratic!!in my mind-the Nets cant win with this type of player-a team leader needs to be a steady influence upon his teammates-this clearly is not DWILLS forte!!
      SECOND,there is no big,athletic big down in the pivot–reality shows Lopez to be a very good-but not great FINESSE player!!
      THIRD, my sources told me that it was anticipated that Humphries would play at a high level so that he could be packaged with draft picks and possibly Marshon Brooks for a top player–unfortunately,no one wanted Humphries as his play was generally poor given his huge salary-not marketable!!
      FOURTH,reality shows Joe Johnson starting his decline-the Hawks were no worse without him-this year
      FIFTH,the current state of this team shows a slow backcourt and a frontcourt without an athletic big man
      I KNOW THEY WOULD LIKE KEVIN LOVE–IF YOU KNOW BASKETBALL–you will acknowledge that championship teams have won without a top point guard–given the difficulties with DWILL-I WOULD GET RID OF HIM IF POSSIBLE TO GET A STAR GIG-MEANING KEVIN LOVE OR A SIGN AND TRADE FOR DWIGHT HOWARD
      decent point guards are available!!
      OR trade DWILL FOR A QUICK point guard such as Kyrie Irving OR John Wall
      unfortunately,the current team can make the playoffs repeatedly but is Clearly too flawed to go far in the playoffs-DWILL IS tradeable for parts that fit better!!

      LASTLY,the author of this article gave DWILL AN A rating in last nights loss-IS HE SMOKIN SOMETHING?
      it is and was a game of matchups-DWILL SHOULD HAVE POSTED UP SHORTER NATE ROBINSON REPEATEDLY-20 points was nothing-he should have scored 40 points–this was the mismatch that DWILL should have dominated for vthe WHOLE game and didnt-therefore there is no way he deserved an a rating!!

      1. I to was shocked that he gave DWill an A. C.J. Watson, a lessor talent, making peanuts,granted a bit player, played with fire a determination.It wont show up in a stat sheet but, he left his balls all over the floor.

      2. Kenji, you make some great points. I’ve come to love the people on the team, so I wouldn’t want anyone to go, but there are a lot of changes/adjustments that need to be made for this team to get better.

        Brook’s been the foundation of this team this year and the main reason we’ve been able to compete in the playoffs. Still more aggression in traffic will help leaps and bounds. Even so, this may come with a cost: His arms are already filled with scratches and more aggression could lead to more serious injuries.

  2. its not just offensive talent. defense is talent and then some. high level defense is heart, determination and intelligence. some just don’t have it. a trained eye can see it.

  3. This team lacks on court leadership. When a true team leader is on the court it is blatantly easy to see, the Nets lack that.You cant just show up and win.Players need to look at their weakness and work on it. For example Blatche is a horrible defender. He is wooden at best. He has been in the league a while so this probably wont change.Brooke Lopez is a nice finesse player but is not aggressive in traffic and, sometimes looks like he would rather be surfing. He needs to get in the gym and work on upper body strength so he dose not look so embarrassingly weak in traffic.D-Will and Blatche were out of shape and had hurry to get themselves in shape during the season. I guess Joe Johnson was hurt plus, his Mom is stricken with cancer. He brought her to his home in New York from Ark. This has to be tough.
    The Nets need something more. The right type of players. Not just numbers on a stat sheet. That falls at the feet of the GM.

  4. There is definitely lack of cohesion and leadership out there. DWill’s confidence was really shook by the first half of the season and I don’t think he really got it back. He played great in that final game, but he actually could have done more. The team was figuring things out on the fly all season as it was pretty much brand new with only DWill and Hump having any significant experience playing together. PJ never really figured out a consistent rotation. The Mirza experiment was a disaster (though it may workout well next year). Marshon was not developed though I’m sure he would have been worlds better than Joe Johnson last night, enough so that Nets would have won if you had flipped their minutes.

    But I’m optimistic for next year. Lopez did great for his first playoff series. No problem there and if he stays healthy he will get better year over year for the next few years. If DWill starts next season as healthy as he finished this season, I think his confidence grows. Last night was a game where he could have easily dropped 35 considering how poor Nate is as a defender. But there is still a tentativeness out there in DWill’s game. I think it is because of those several months in the first half of the season when his scoring was terrible. And I’m real glad that Wallace finished the season on a monster game with great shooting. At least that will help his confidence, which has also justifiably be hurt by several months of slumping shooting.

    Nice wrap up Devin.

    1. Most Net fans are always optimistic for next year.

      However, since I moved to Missouri 13 years ago, I don’t have optimism.

      Nets have to show me.

    2. You are 100% right Jon C. In crunch time, end of the third and into the fourth, DWill had plenty of wide open looks from 12 to 18 feet or so, he passed them up, in favor of passing to shell shocked team mates. This is not what an “elite” player does.98 mill, those are your shots dammit! He is elite no more. He can make it back there though.If your 6’3″ or 6’4″ an some 5’8″ is covering you,for an elite player, this should spell destruction.

      1. to sweatboxbk

        please see my above comments–i think you continue to be right on target!!

        DWILL IS way overrated-he is a bad team leader,he is very moody as told to me by team sources,he came to camp overweight and out of shape despite getting his max contract,and he has been uncontrollable

        the good news is that he is MARKETABLE-he should be traded either for a quick point guard such as Wall or Irving or even better a top big man–the Nets desperately wanted Kevin Love before the trade deadline-he would like to play here-his girlfriend lives here-i would include DWILL in a trade for him
        i would even consider a sign and trade of DWILL for Dwight Howard-either big would fit well with Lopez
        other than Lopez no one other than DWILL is really wanted at the current salary!!