Thoughts On Some Ratner Bashing

Reader CoolNet pointed me to a Steve Politi article titled “Ratner knows damage, not damage control ” it is basically Politi just bashing Ratner, and I have some thoughts on it I wanted to talk about.  Now before I get to the article I do want to say that I don’t really want to see the Nets leaving NJ, but I understand why it would happen.  That being said, if I was responsible for making this decision, I would like to see the Nets move to Brooklyn.  Now on to looking at Politi’s article (I am quoting passages from his article and then giving my opinion on it.  For the full article click here):

Bruce Ratner inherited a championship team and gutted it. He stumbled into a growing fan base and alienated it.

That is the first sentence of the article, so you already know where this is headed.

In the meantime, he is treating the Nets like a Basketball Gordon Gekko, slashing salaries and laying off employees. Ratner never cared about owning a Basketball team, and now it has become clear that he cares little about destroying one, either, so long as he finds a way to complete his real estate deal.

Funny, but looking back, it was Alonzo Mourning who recognized his intentions from the very beginning, and the former Nets center was vilified and run out of town for it.

Remember what Mourning said after meeting Ratner? “I asked him, ‘Other than your investment for financial purposes, what’s the reason you bought this team?’ And you can ask anybody in there: He said, ‘To move it to Brooklyn.’ I didn’t hear ‘to win a championship.’ I didn’t hear that come out of his mouth.”

In my opinion people seem to get the positions Owner and GM a little confused.  There aren’t too many owners (I can only think of Mark Cuban off the top of my head) who are really involved in the basketball side of things.  Sure they sign off on decisions and can make their opinion known, but owners own basketball teams to make money.  Most owners are businessmen, and as much as it hurts basketball fans to think of it like this, but to them basketball teams are just a way for them to make more money.  That’s why they hire basketball people. Now once they interfere with those decisions, then that is when you have a problem.  I will expand on this a bit later…

Oh and why is Zo asking the owner questions.  Before I continue I got to say I LOVE Zo.  I love his passion, how much he puts into the game, his heart, everything, but seriously?  One, what does it matter to you that the owner wants to win or not?  Two, why are you bringing this out to the media?  Three, as a Net, he kinda quit on the team.  Now I do give him the benefit of the doubt with this.  You don’t really know what was going on behind the scenes, and there were rumors of some pretty bad stuff  being said about Zo by teammates, but still.

To think, the Nets were a few victories away from that championship when Ratner bought them, and six years later, the idea is laughable now. Look at what they have become.

The star-free roster. The bottom-barrel payroll passed off as cap space when it is really just the remains of a fire sale. The team is even removing the “New Jersey” from the road uniforms, as if it could possibly insult fans more. But hey, plenty of season tickets are available.

A lot of Nets fans, including myself at one point, became disillusioned by the back-to-back NBA Finals runs.  Let’s look back at what was going on in the NBA.  The East was just plain awful so let’s take it easy on the whole “championship-contending team” thing.  Oh and why is what we become so laughable.  When I look at this roster, I see a team with ton of youth that is going through the rebuilding process quicker than most.  The future is bright!

Maybe I am drinking the Kool-Aid, but I stick by my guns when I say this, I really do not believe this is a salary dump.  I have said this a number of times, but when you rebuild, you are usually taking aging superstars with big contracts and replace them with younger unproven talent that is cheaper.  That is how it works.  Eventually this team will add some FAs (in 2010), and the Nets’ salary will be back at normal.  And what makes anyone think that Ratner has been involved with any of these decisions.  People will say “You know Ratner is pressuring Rod and Kiki into this.”  We have (in my opinion) two of the best and well-respected front office men in the league, and if they were being forced into making decisions, they would probably leave and get a job somewhere else. I think this “fire sale” is all them.

I must say I do think removing New Jersey from all jerseys is a bit much though.  With the Brooklyn deal still not 100% yet, why take unnecessary digs at Nets fans.

Look, everyone knows that sports fans haven’t always embraced the Nets during their four decades here, but they are still part of this community. No one wants to see them become a joke again. Now the news breaks that assistant coach Roy Rogers might take a job at Rutgers to avoid a pay cut? That is the definition of bush league

First let me say that the way Ratner is handling the coaches is a problem.  This is what happens when the owner gets to making basketball-related decisions.  As a businessman it makes sense to cut salaries, but as a basketball-related decision it does not.  Losing Brian Hill will hurt, and if Roy Rogers leaves that will hurt too.

The bottom line is that if Nets fans actually went to games, we would have never been in this situation.  I know that the Meadowlands is a pain to get to, but it gets done for the Giants and the Jets.  Whever I think I about this, I remember something that happened to me.  Back in 2002, me and my dad decided to go to Game 5 of the Eastern Confrence Semifinals.  We didn’t have tickets, but we thought we would be able to scalp purchase some from a third party on the way to the arena.  We didn’t have to.  We were surprised to see that there were still great seats still available.  We get inside the arena, and it was half empty.  It wasn’t just because we were early either, it remained about half empty for the entire game.

The Nets are in Basketball purgatory, and the most frustrating part for Basketball fans here? The way out is just a few miles away. It has never made more sense than now to move the Nets to the Prudential Center. If Ratner really needs relief from his mounting debt, he should look down Route 21.

Newark mayor Cory Booker heard the news about Ratner seeking investors and expressed his disappointment that keeping the team where it belongs still does not register on the Nets radar.

“I’ve done a lot of work to put the foundations down for a group of people who want to keep it in New Jersey,” Booker said yesterday. “It really has to do with the sellers now and where their heart is.”

It would be great to keep the Nets in NJ, and if it does happen Newark is the logical choice.  However, moving to Newark would lead to problems as well.  First, I don’t really think that David Stern would be happy seeing one of his NBA franchises playing in a stadium that was built for hockey mostly and for college basketball teams such as Seton Hall and NJIT, nevermind that it’s smaller capacity would still work with the amount of fans that have been showing up for Nets’ games.

Let’s say that Stern is ok with it, who says that the Devils (who own the Prudential Center) would be.  From what I heard, they are against the idea of leasing out the arena to the Nets (though I am sure this is just posturing from them to get more money).

All things being considered, this article just seems like a bash job to me.  Politi makes no real attempt to show the good that is going on with the Nets.  He is just interested in shoving his opinion down the readers throats.  Now, I hope people don’t get confused with my opinion with Ratner.  I don’t think he is the best owner (not even close) and he has done a ton of things that I think will hurt the Nets, however he isn’t the worst owner in the league and he does get bashed a lot (some warranted and some not).

Since I am in a defend the Nets kind of mood right now, I did want to mention an article I read over at ProBasketballNews.  The article evaluates the offseasons of teams in the Atlantic Division.  Despite complementing the Nets’ moves this offseason Chris Bernucca says this:

Biggest setback: The team’s financial woes and the ongoing saga of the Atlantic Yards project led owner Bruce Ratner to put the team – or at least a portion of it – up for sale. That can’t be good for luring free agents.

Biggest risk: With all the uncertainty swirling around the franchise, will any free agent really want to sign with the Nets?

I do think Free Agents will be willing to come here.  One, we have tons of money to throw around at them, and two, we have a great young core that when looking at them, free agents could consider themselves the “missing piece” and want to sign there.

Plus, we will know whether or not Brooklyn will happen by late December, so there won’t be any real confusion/uncertainty about where they will be playing in the future.