On Star Wars Night, Nets success looks light-years away


It at least inspired a solid Chewbacca impersonation: uuuuuugggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh.

It’s hardly Shakespeare, but this season is anything but storybook. The Brooklyn Nets are now 7-17 after a 105-82 loss to the Orlando Magic, embarrassed owners of the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference and fourth-worst in the NBA.

“Embarrassed” isn’t my editorializing. It’s from the team. “We should be embarrassed,” Jarrett Jack said following Monday night’s Star Wars-themed debacle, a night that drew fewer than 13,000 fans for the fourth time this season. Listed attendance never dipped that low in the team’s first three years in Brooklyn.

“This was us,” Jack added. “This was us looking at each other in the eyes and us making sure each one of us is ready to bring forth the necessary effort to win the game, starting with your individual matchup and then collectively us trying to help each other if we have breakdowns on certain scenarios and being able to cover one another.”

The night’s optics may have been all about Brook Lopez and his bobbling head, but the matchup did not favor him. Lopez missed 11 of 15 shots against Nikola Vucevic, struggling to get comfortable in the team’s offense despite leading the game in shot attempts. Vucevic finished with a game-high 18 points (8-13 FG), adding six rebounds and four assists.

“I didn’t enjoy tonight,” Brook Lopez added. “We could be here a while if I try and name (the issues).”

The Nets shot just 38.8 percent against the Magic, a season low. Their offense, which was supposed to be the bright spot given their litany of weapons, now sits at 97.1 points per 100 possessions, third-worst among NBA teams and the worst by a wide margin in the Brooklyn era.

“As a team, we were trying to run some wild sets and was kind of cruising through our stuff and trying to get a feel for the game,” Thaddeus Young said. “But they already had their feel and were already into us and were already bringing the energy.”

Their veteran leader Joe Johnson, whose streak of eight consecutive playoff trips seems doomed, has nothing left to say, no more words to explain the team’s failure other than the three that say it all: “I didn’t know.”

“I don’t really know what the expectations were,” Johnson said Tuesday night, met by reporters in the hallway after an exit from the locker room. “I honestly didn’t know. It’s the unknown. I didn’t know. I didn’t know how good we would be, I didn’t know how we would be as a team. I didn’t know. So I just came and done what I was asked to do, just trying to help out.”

On a night where they played an exciting, young team, replete with burgeoning prospects and a coach they trust, it’s hard to see what’s next for the Nets. Between the dismal on-court product and the lack of future assets, there’s a dismal present and a long future. There’s no readily apparent drastic change to move that needle.

The next step for the Nets seems light-years in the distance, in a galaxy far, far away. Their brightest spot is a rookie in a walking boot that won’t play until February. They don’t control the right to any of their own draft picks until 2019. Their best player is a goofy, lovable seven-footer who can score 20 points via routine and has never led an above-average NBA defense. Their biggest asset is $40 million in cap space this upcoming offseason, in a light free agent year when nearly every NBA team will have the same luxury.

With nothing to look forward to, the Nets are stuck looking at today and tomorrow, hoping to find quick plugs just to keep the ship afloat.

“It’s the nature of this beast, the game, period,” Lionel Hollins said. “It’s like golf. You think you have it figured out and you don’t play with the same purpose that got you to a certain point, then you will get knocked on your butt.”