Is there was ever a better analogy for the New Jersey Nets 2009-10 season than last night's 119-89 drubbing to the Atlanta Hawks? Poor shooting and defense puts the Nets in an insurmountable hole early on, yet they found themselves down only 14 with about 4 minutes left in the third quarter. The Hawks then put the jets on again, and ended up winning by 30.
Four days ago, I was recapping a loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers and I thought the Nets were maybe turning a corner. Sure, they still lost the game, but they were at least competitive in their loss, and they were still relatively fresh off of beating the Knicks and earning their third victory of the season. I wasn't predicting a run at the 8th seed after an 0-18 and 3-30 start, but was it wrong of me to think that maybe the Nets would soon find themselves past the dreaded 9 win total so the talk of "worst team ever" would die down?
Simply put, yes. If Tuesday night's waxing by the Bucks was an embarrassment, than last night's loss to the Hawks kicked it up yet another notch. The Nets don't even look competitive out there folks, and I think if the league started tracking "demoralizing losses" it would be the one thing the Nets would head their class in.
How do you even break this game down? The Nets went nearly 6 minutes without a field goal to start the game and found themselves down 17-3 against the league's best offense. And just when you thought they maybe were going to show some pride, cutting the lead to 14 in the third and possibly making the Hawks work for the victory, Atlanta went on a 20-6 run to start the fourth quarter, essentially building a palatial estate on top of a Nets team that was already buried six-feet underground.
I don't know how those of us still trying to play armchair psychiatrist with this team can keep coming up with more theories. First it was the injuries. Then it was the coach. Then it was the lack of veteran leadership because Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes hadn't played much this season. Then there was talk that Rafer Alston's attitude was starting to irk the team's younger players. There was even talk that Yi Jianlian, a guy who couldn't hit water from a boat with his jumper last season, was the missing link. Yi actually put together another decent night (19 points, 11 rebounds). So the squad is (relatively) healthy, Lawrence Frank is gone, Jarvis and Keyon are playing, Rafer was bought out and Yi has been pretty good since his return. Is any of this making a difference? Sure, the Nets, even when they're at their best, are not expected to beat a team like the Hawks on the road, but to consistently come out, night after night and lay up eggs … I think the optimist in me was trying to avoid this kind of talk at all costs, but after the last two night's - I think it's fair game: watch out 72-73 76ers. You may have company soon.
A few more quick thoughts.
- When you're best offensive option is a Trenton Hassell isolation play, as we successfully saw in the second quarter, you know there are problems.
- Am I the only Net fan out there that's starting to grow tired of Brook Lopez's whining? I mean, i know it's hard for him, since he's one of the only guys who's experienced every single game of losing, and I know he's been getting less touches offensively as of late, but to watch him pout, stomp his feet, throw his hands in the air et al, after every play that goes against him, is starting to become really irritating. It also speaks to the problem with the Nets as a whole. Rather than man-up and try and get more competitive, they seem much more comfortable burying their heads in their laps or pitching a fit. While we're on the subject, I know it makes for good television, but I could do without any more Chris Douglas-Roberts post-game interviews. I know that it's great that he has spunk and fire, but if you couldn't tell, his ranting and raving ain't exactly Patton firing up the troops here.
- Devin Harris: 15 points, 8 assists, and still looking to go to the foul line, rather than to the hoop way too often.
- The Hawks at one point were 10-15 from three. You would think that would earn Jamal Crawford (4-7) and Joe Johnson (4-6) at least a hand in their faces, but apparently not.
- At least we didn't see Eduardo Najera last night. I guess the trade talk has died down.
- Good to see Chris Quinn rocking the #1 jersey and brushing over Alston's Nets legacy.