After the Pacers game Friday, the Nets’ defacto leader Devin Harris mentioned the one word you don’t want to hear about your team. Divided. “We are a little divided as a team right now,” Devin said, he then added, “and looking at the product on the court, I tend to agree. I mean, you had CDR’s tweets about the team being soft, Terrence Williams’ tweets, and then Rafer yelling at his teammates on the bench in Indiana (still don’t know what that is about). It only makes sense that the defense is starting to suffer now that this stuff is coming out, you need to be able to trust your teammates on that end of the court, and they nobody on the Nets seems to trust anybody else.
Why is this division there? When Devin was asked, this is what he said:
“There are bunches. You see younger guys, older guys…You see guys in their comfort zone right now. We need guys to step out of their comfort zone and pull together.”
Taking it a step further, I think that the two factions within the Nets. All you have to do is look at everyone’s contracts to see what the two factions are. You have guys who are a part of the future and guys who are just playing this year out. The way this team is built is unique, before the season started, everyone in the front office admitted that this was a throw-away year (not to this extent), and the way the roster was built reflected that. The Nets have 9 out of their 15 players in the final year of their contract (Sean Williams’ option wasn’t picked up, and Boone probably won’t be getting a qualifying offer). Usually, you have a few guys in the final year of their contract, but 6o% of the team? That’s almost unheard of. The six guys who are under contract for at least next year:
- Devin Harris
- Terrence Williams
- Brook Lopez
- Courtney Lee
This group is basically the “young guys” as Devin puts it. So why is this division such a big deal? You have two groups of players playing for different things. Guys who have a contract guaranteed next year are playing for the future, looking to get wins. The guys in the final year of their contract? They are playing for their next contract, that’s how the business works. These guys for the most part (Rafer, this is about you) are trying to put up numbers so they can get paid next year. This happens every year, but when it is one or two guys, it is something that is overlooked and can be overcome, not when 9 guys are playing like that (though guys like Hayes, Dooling, and Hassell seem to be professional about the situation).
Now there are some Lawrence Frank supporters out there who say that he was the one holding everyone together, and as soon as Kiki took over, it all went to hell. I tend to think that is giving him too much credit. When Frank was the coach, this division was probably still there, but it didn’t bubble to the surface because of the injuries. With all of the injuries, everybody on the roster (who was active) was getting minutes. Now that there are minutes being taken away from certain players (again, Rafer), to the extent that players aren’t going to put up their numbers, the stuff is now coming up (the losing doesn’t help much). If you couldn’t figure out from what I have said in the post here, I think Rafer is the root cause of this division (or dare I say…schism?). He was the one who called his team out publicly, and I still can’t figure out for the life of me why he was yelling at his teammates during the Indiana game.
So can this be overcome? When Devin was asked about that, he took a deep breath and said, “We got to find a way to coexist as a team.” It might be because I am an optimist (to a fault), but I think it is possible that these guys can get together and at least put up a respectable record (at this point 15-20 wins would be respectable for me). You just need one guy to step up (either Brook, Devin, or CDR would be a candidate) and get everyone on the same page. It can happen, I mean it happened to the Knicks. They are in a similar situation in terms of contracts, and they were facing similar issues early in the year when they were losing. They seem to have gotten it turned around because Al Harrington (of all people) got everyone to read Lou Holtz’s book, “Winning Everyday” after a three game losing streak. Now, the Knicks are playing like all-stars (they have won their last 4 and 5 of their last 6). Kiki and Rod Thorn should get on Amazon.com and order 15 copies of this book.