Just after the Golden State Warriors finished off the Denver Nuggets last night on TNT, on came one of my favorite shows these days: Inside the NBA with Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, and the always-interesting Charles Barkley. As Ernie ran through the highlights of game 6 between the Brooklyn Nets and the Chicago Bulls, he turned it over to Barkley for some analysis. In his dissection of the game came a statement about the Nets in which he called the team “lackadaisical,” adding that they “lack passion” and that they “play with talent alone.”
Do the Nets lack passion? No. The Nets are not lackadaisical, nor do they lack passion: they simply lack the histrionics that we see from the Chicago Bulls on a nightly basis. Whether it’s Nate Robinson pumping up the crowd after a made three-pointer, or Joakim Noah yelling at the top of his lungs after a tough rebound, or Carlos Boozer yelling and waving his towel from the sidelines, it’s very easy to assume that just because the Nets don’t partake in such activities, they lack passion.
The Nets simply don’t have those type of players. They have quiet leaders and guys who lead by example. Joe Johnson for instance, is one of these “quiet leaders”: someone who makes big plays and big shots, but rarely shows any emotion. That’s just his personality: country, cool, Joe from Little Rock. The same can be said about Deron Williams and Brook Lopez — two stars whose mental makeup does not consist of jumping, screaming, and fist-pumping after they make a big play.
Now the question becomes, is this a problem? “Problem” likely isn’t the right word. It’s more like a disappointment. Fans love to see players interact with the crowd after a big play and unfortunately for Brooklyn, they simply don’t have many players who are known to do that. At times we’ll see guys such as Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche give fist-pumps or arm raises after made shots, but they are seldom and inconsistent.
When you look around the playoffs, you’ll see players such as Tyson Chandler, Jason Terry, Draymond Green, Carl Landry, the previously mentioned Nate Robinson — to name a few — simply go wild after an alley-oop, a three, a dunk, an and-one, etc. Nets fans will also remember the barbarity and brutality with which Kenyon Martin used to throw down his dunks back when he was with New Jersey.
Maybe the Nets are just not that excitable. Perhaps this off-season — in addition to a power forward and some shooters — GM Billy King needs to bring in a player such as Robinson or Martin to give the Nets some flare and excitability. Or maybe the Nets will continue to try to resemble the San Antonio Spurs: a team that shows little animation or commotion, but simply wins basketball games. Either way, the Nets will play in front of what is likely to be the most energized crowd of the season on Saturday, for a Game 7 vs. the Chicago Bulls. It will be interesting to see whether the typically mundane Nets will feed off of that Brooklyn spirit.