Before last season’s playoffs, I wrote a feature for No Regard Blog (run by The Brooklyn Game’s own Andrew Gnerre) that ultimately came out more as a personal diary entry than one truly examining the Brooklyn Nets’ postseason chances. In it, I wrote about how refreshing it was to care again about the playoffs, to once again have a rooting interest; win or lose, the fact that the Brooklyn Nets made the playoffs was enough for me.
I literally said the words: we could lose every game and I’d still be happy that we played at all. In the end, experiencing those moments triumphed over actually being successful in them. (Now, that’s not to say that I may or may not have cried in the shower after the triple overtime game loss, but that’s neither here nor there.)
This year, the Brooklyn Nets transition from experience to expectations. Certainly, nobody would be happy to see this team lose in the first round. Honestly, I don’t think anyone inside the organization or out would be satisfied to lose to the defending champion Miami Heat at this point.
There are championship expectations in Brooklyn. Anything less is a failure.
In their first year in Brooklyn, the Nets just wanted to be relevant. Nobody thought they could win, and they were right. At no point did the Brooklyn Nets have a chance at raising a championship banner. But the same can’t be said for this year. The day before the season began, all twenty-eight ESPN NBA expert analysts predicted that the Nets would win their first division title since 2005.
For once, the Nets play in a season that doesn’t look towards the future, towards draft night. For once, the Nets play for more than just making the playoffs. For once, it’s no longer acceptable to just be decent.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has aimed for the stars, and it’s nice to be along for the ride. Their inaugural year was all about creating a brand, trying to take over New York through catchy slogans and sharp merchandise. It was less about Hello Brooklyn than it was Goodbye New Jersey.
Akin to a year with training wheels, Brooklyn’s first year was fun, but it wasn’t always pretty. It wasn’t amazing because they were a contender —- it was amazing because it happened at all. To have escaped the pits of Newark was satisfying enough to Nets fans — free at last!
For the first time in a long, long time, they’re expected to win. After years of tanking and mediocrity, it feels right to support a team that wants to win as much as you.
The bottom line: playoff existence is no longer acceptable. The 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets excite me more than any other sports team ever has before. There’s something at stake, there’s something to prove. They’re a team of veterans with championship experience, looking for one last hurrah before their curtain finally closes for good. They’re a team created to rival Miami, primed to take down Goliath. They’re built to win, and win it now.