Wisdom around the league is that adding Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett makes this team a contender, but it also makes them even older and more joyless than their old, joyless team last year. As a Brooklyn resident, I’ve experienced the intense indifference to this franchise firsthand, and I look forward to Garnett echoing that indifference every time he half-heartedly rams his head into a basket stanchion.
I’m not a rah-rah Nets fan. We’ve written in this space about how the team still has strong ties to New Jersey despite their efforts to fully Brooklynize, and how the team hasn’t gripped the borough with undying fever. We’ve criticized them at length both on and off the court here. Similarly, I know watchability is inherently subjective. But to say the team has bred intense indifference from the borough is just silly, and to rank them as un-fun to watch is even sillier.
There’s fandom in the borough. It may not be 2.5 million strong, but it’s real. The only thing you see in Brooklyn more than Nets gear is white dudes with Macklemore haircuts. I know it’s branding and branding is inherently weird, but there’s a real connection here. There’s real season ticket holders and preseason sellouts. There’s louder cheers for the Nets than the Knicks in Barclays Center, which I know doesn’t sound like it means anything but anyone who lived through the team’s mistake-filled years in New Jersey knows it means the world.
Also, how can you say this team isn’t fun? It’s old, sure, but it’s fun. They sang a bilingual birthday celebration to their trainer at Tuesday’s practice. Brook Lopez is the goofiest All-Star in NBA history and he gets to share practices with Kevin Garnett now. Their motion offense is going to be basketball porn if it all comes together, and if it’s a train wreck, that’ll satiate people who delight in their fall. Their defense will be much improved after their additions. Garnett hasn’t half-heartedly done anything since the womb. Shaun Livingston continues his trail of redemption. Should you ever have faith, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, and Mirza Teletovic are there to make enough bad decisions to make New Jersey seem like a recent memory.
The argument you could make is that the team shouldn’t be on your A-list League Pass rankings because they’ll be on national television around 30 times. That’s a fair argument. But joyless and indifferent? Absolutely not.