As someone who has followed the Nets closely and loyally for nearly 20 years, I've experienced a lot of pain and suffering. I've had to endure the unrealized potential of Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson, the death of Drazen Petrovic, Dwayne Schintzius and Yinka Dare, draft busts like Ed O'Bannon and Marcus Williams, Coach "Cal" John Calipari, the penny-pinching trade of Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd's "migraine." So, you have to believe me when I say the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets are not the worst Nets team I've ever seen.
Yet, at 0-18, the record books may beg to differ. The Nets are now sole owners of the worst start in NBA history, and if they continue to play basketball the way they did in last night's second quarter against the Mavericks, I think it's going to be a real long while before the Nets register their first win of the season.
That second quarter was an out and out embarrassment. The Nets allowed 49 points to the Mavs on 17-19 shooting. And it wasn't like Dallas was just getting lucky either. The Nets were leaving shooters wide open like Tim Thomas at the 7:59 mark of the quarter, and then Dirk Nowitzki (24 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) of all people was left all alone at the top of the key behind the three point line at the 3:55 mark. Erick Dampier (18 points, 11 rebounds) was dominating in the post, grabbing offensive boards, and continuing the trend of big, burly centers giving Brook Lopez (16 points, 2-6 shooting) fits.
I could quibble about the fact that interim coach Tom Barrise stuck with Trenton Hassell and Josh Boone for too long in the second quarter. The Nets second unit actually had done a nice job keeping the game tied at 28 after one, and keeping the game close about 4 minutes into the second quarter when Barrise went with his "first string" again. That's when the floodgates opened. Guys are getting healthy now. It's time for Trenton Hassell and Josh Boone to go back to the bench where they belong.
But what was most alarming about the game, was even with historic futility staring these players straight in the face, the continued to play without any real urgency. As the the Mavericks went nuts in the second quarter, you could just see the Nets body language: "Here we go again." Brook Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts had their typical looks of anguish and despondence. Devin Harris had his usual (and puzzling) look of indifference. Josh Boone looked like there were 500 other places he'd rather be than guarding Dirk Nowitzki.
Case in point, at the around the 6:54 mark in the third, Chris Douglas-Roberts made an errant pass and was staring down a fast break with Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion coming straight at him. Marion and Kidd were passing the ball back and forth, and were taking so much time, they were practically begging the Nets to get back on defense and stop them. Yet, besides CDR, not a single white shirt appeared in the frame for the entire play. By the time Kidd laid the ball in, CDR threw his hands up in disgust, and you could more or less see him mouth something to his teammates. The bottom line? One would think that a group of professional athletes wouldn't want to be known as a bunch of "losers," but that's what they looked like last night. And yes, that's what they've become.
As the final second of the game ticked off, whoever was remaining at the Izod Center booed the team heartily. I was kind of shocked by this reaction, because a lot of this losing streak has been a matter of circumstance. The team was especially unlucky with injuries and just some heartbreaking inexplicable losses. How can you boo guys for that?
But then I think about a quote the great Bill Parcells, "you are who your record says you are." The booing may be an odd response, but I can understand people's patience wearing thin. This team is no longer as decimated by injury as they were three weeks ago. The time for this team to start coming together is upon us. I wish Kiki Vandeweghe all the luck in the world, because the Nets currently resemble a dysfunctional bunch that's incapable of putting four quarters of competent offensive and defensive basketball together. If they keep this up, the Nets will surely be challenging more records for futility this season.
Final Thoughts after the jump.
- Just how significant was that second quarter meltdown? The Nets actually outscored the Mavs by 11 in the other three quarters. But you're not going to win games getting outscored 49-22 over any stretch of time. It's absurd how the Nets continually pick a random quarter each game and fall apart. You could call it youth, or mental lapses, or whatever you want. Either way, it stinks.
- How apropo that Jason Kidd scored the Mavs first three points last night. Kidd just fell two rebounds shy of a triple-double, (16 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds) which would have really been the icing on the cake for him.
- In the early going, Kidd was lobbing so many alley-oops to Rodrigue Beaubois, I thought the refs were going to ban the move out of mercy for the Nets.
- Courtney Lee seemed to get his stroke going for a bit in the third quarter, even hitting two threes. But he went cold in the 4th, and ended up 5-14 field.
- I might be hopping off the Sean Williams bandwagon as quickly as I jumped on last week. He had little positive impact in his 14 minutes tonight, and even made one really boneheaded play in the third when he fouled Dirk, and then hung on the rim after the play, disrupting the shot, and giving Dirk the basket. As stupid as it was, I had to laugh since I was thinking back to a preseason game against the Knicks were Williams did that and Sebastian turned to me and said, "he knows he's not supposed to do that, right?" I guess not.
- Rafer Alston didn't play tonight because of a sore left knee. Did anyone really care?
- Here's what a difference a year makes. In the first quarter at around the 8:44 mark, Devin Harris went behind the back, breaking Beaubois' ankles in the process, giving Devo a wide open three, and he totally bricks it. That shot goes in last year. Guaranteed.