Preseason games are hilarious. They’re a group of grown men operating under the agreement that everything they do is inherently meaningless in front of around 5,000 spectators also who understand that. They play the important players just enough to justify their airfare and let the bench players try to impress people for the rest of the night. The score couldn’t matter less and individual stats matter even less than that. It’s fun if your team wins, but we’re talking about preseason here. Nobody really cares.
But if preseason basketball has any meaning at all, it’s in the little moments. For one, it’s a return to professional basketball, to the camaraderie, to the flow of the game, the smoothness of the announcers, the back-and-forth on the floor. But it’s also an introduction: we get to see the new-look Brooklyn Nets, replete with stardom and coaching changes and luxury tax payments, take the floor against another professional basketball team, a real opponent with their own jerseys and arena and
luxury tax payments salary cap concerns.
And like any preseason game, we got our share of silliness. It went to overtime, because of course it did. Paul Pierce recorded three fouls in the first quarter. Reggie Evans took three field goal attempts while being triple-teamed. Alan Anderson played heroball. Mirza Teletovic was the last man off the bench and it took him all of one possession before hoisting his first shot. Andray Blatche, irrational confidence savant, calmly rose for an open three-pointer without hesitation and clanged it so perfectly you’d thought Wizards fans drew it up themselves. He also airballed a stepback and took something like 30 shots against his former team that’s still paying him around $8 million to stay away.
But there were also glimpses of what this year’s Brooklyn Nets could look like at their best. On the first possession of the game, Kevin Garnett — who had the ball above the three-point line at the time — handed it off to former & current teammate Paul Pierce, who curled around Garnett’s handoff and buried an 18-foot jumper. On the next possession, a flurry of ball movement around the floor ended in a Brook Lopez dunk. The Nets starters recorded nine assists on 10 field goals in the first half, and Deron Williams replacement Shaun Livingston looked like a starting NBA point guard with his combination of size, quickness, and passing ability. The team has taken Jason Kidd’s vision of court vision to heart,
With the bench in, Andrei Kirilenko was a spidery menace all over the floor, knocking passes away, swarming defenders, hitting off-balance shots, seeing passing angles that few players could, and somehow stuffing the stat sheet in a game that had more in common with Whose Line is it Anyway than an NBA playoff game. Tyshawn Taylor hasn’t lost a lick of athleticism and already looks like a more willing passer. Teletovic threw down a tomahawk putback slam unlike anything I’ve ever seen Mirza do buried a bunch of threes, resulting in Deron Williams doing three pushups on the bench each time. Also with the bench in, Kevin Garnett huddled the team together — while the game was still playing, mind you — and barked orders and instructions at them, even with the guarantee that he wouldn’t play again in the game.
And near the end of regulation, training camp invitee Chris Johnson came up with the biggest defensive stop of the night, blocking a layup that would’ve given the Wizards a one-point lead with under a minute left. Mason Plumlee was on the free throw line in crunch time, because this is preseason. Jorge Gutierrez played with poise and the Tyshawn Taylor-Mason Plumlee connection came up big twice in overtime, because the ultimate result of this game has nothing to do with who wins or loses.
So while The Points Don’t Matter™, the moments do. Win or lose, we got a brief look at what the Brooklyn Nets might look like. And win or lose, I liked what I saw. For a little while, anyway.