The boos that filled an otherwise empty Izod Center as the Nets set a record in futility against the Dallas Mavericks last night should be meant for one person, and one person only.
Lawrence Frank may have been fired, Kiki Vandeweghe may be the GM and now Frank’s interim replacement, and Rod Thorn may be the team’s president, but the mess that is the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets is unequivocally on current owner Bruce Ratner.
As we’ve seen in Ratner’s dealings with the Atlantic Yards Development – the supposed "future home" of the Nets if Ratner could ever find a way to get financing in place – Bruce likes to blame the architects when things get too controversial and/or expensive. That’s why he dumped Frank Gehry earlier this year to go with a more dumbed-down variation of the development. Similar logic was used when at 0-16, the organization decided to dump Lawrence Frank.
But Ratner can’t just keep blaming architects and coaches forever. At some point, he needs to own up to the fact that as the owner of this franchise, he's been the ultimate failure where it matters most - on the basketball court, not in the courtroom pushing people out of their homes. The hypothetical day Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov takes the reins of this organization can’t come soon enough. One can only hope that afterwards, Ratner crawls back in a hole somewhere, never to torture a sports team, a fanbase and a community, like Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, ever again.
As Nets fans, Ratner has given us no other choice but to believe that Brooklyn is the end game and a return to some level of normalcy for this franchise. We have to believe this, because the possible alternatives are even more nightmarish.
If you follow the Nets closely, you likely already know the many transgressions of Bruce Ratner. The penny pinching. The out-of-whack priorities. The desire for real estate and geography over winning and cultivating who’s left of your fanbase.
I sincerely hope last night’s boos were for Bruce Ratner, because there’s no other rational explanation for them. Why boo the players? It’s the equivalent of shooting the messenger. Have the Nets had agonizing lapses on offense and defense during their losing streak? Of course. When you look at the faces of Brook Lopez or Chris Douglas-Roberts, do you think it’s for lack of trying? I hope not. The players weren’t the ones directed to trade away their three franchise players for expiring contracts and underdeveloped “youth.” All while Ratner kept his eye on the ultimate prize - HIS ultimate prize.
To use an old cliché, the fish stinks from the head down. At last night’s game, a fan who brought in a sign, “End Ratner’s Reign of Error,” was asked to put his sign away for being against arena regulations – whatever that means. An owner of Ratner’s greed and incompetence should be against NBA regulations. Someday, I hope David Stern realizes this.