Over at Yahoo! Sports, Adrian Wojnarowski provides an overview of New Jersey’s epic demise these past weeks. Let’s just say it’s a grim look at the Jersey hoops landscape.
A few excerpts:
They had come out of morbid curiosity, a perverse loyalty to the decades of embarrassment and humiliation here. They had come to see the fruition of how a despicable owner and a mismanaged Brooklyn arena bid transformed the New Jersey Nets back into a sinkhole of a franchise, a punch line for the sport. Families had come to wear paper bags, and a father and son had come to be threatened with expulsion by security for holding up a sign that said, "End Ratner’s Reign of Error."
They had come because, well, they practically give tickets away here now.
After explaining how terrible Nets looked last night—allowing 80% percent shooting from the Mavs at one point—Woj continues on to tackle their newest head coach:
"We are not a championship team this year," general manager Kiki Vandeweghe revealed before the game.
That kind of insight goes to the bench now, where the GM has been thrust downstairs to coach in the wake of Lawrence Frank’s firing. After sources say he was rejected upon asking for a bump on his $1.8 million a year salary or an extra year on his expiring contract, Vandeweghe will run the first practice of his life Thursday. The Nets are paying journeyman coach Del Harris $200,000, sources say, to be his assistant for the rest of the season. Within the organization, they’re already taking bets on how quickly Vandeweghe will lose the stomach for the job and cede the bench to Harris.
And it continues from there. Perhaps the most galling revelation from the piece is that the Nets will rotate assistants on the road, leaving a different coach at home for each road trip. All part of New Jersey’s cost-cutting methods, as the Nets try to offset hemhorraging of $30-40 million every year. And like that little detail, the entire piece serves as an indictment against Nets owner Bruce Ratner, “one of the most destructive owners in NBA history,” and a ballad for the lost teams of Jersey, “where NBA basketball seasons have long come to die.”
Pretty morbid stuff.
The Nets have had a star-crossed history. And Bruce Ratner has simultaneously alienated his fans in New Jersey, and failed to deliver on his promise to move the team to New York. This would be like if Browns owner Art Modell told the fans of Cleveland he was leaving in 1996, but never got the stadium done in Baltimore. And then the team wound up staying in Cleveland with a bunch of fans that they’d just publicly abandoned. And then lost an NFL-record amount of games. That’s what’s happening in Jersey right now.
But as morbid as it seems, it’s all pretty melodramatic. As if being a Nets fan is somehow miserable right now. Are you kidding me? Here’s the reality: among casual fans, this streak’s really not a big deal. There aren’t many diehard NBA fans, anywhere, and for people that just enjoy going to the games, it’s not THAT terrible. Compare a losing basketball team to a losing football team—the latter fanbase is impossibly despondent. People “care” about basketball, but by and large, they LIVE by football. When the Giants lose, the Meadowlands is oh… about a million times more depressing. So as bad as it seems… It’s not that bad.
And then, for the few NBA diehards the Nets do have, the ones that live by the team, this is HEAVEN. Because there are a few commodities in the NBA that you can’t control as a fan.
1. Cap space. The Nets have enough to sign at least one, and maybe two superstars this offseason.
2. Cap space’s distant cousin, roster flexibility. The Nets have that, too. Expiring contracts, young players as attractive trade chips, a lottery pick in the 2010 draft. Whatever you want, they’ve got it.
3. An owner that laughs at the luxury tax. Okay, so this is the exact opposite of Bruce Ratner, who a few years ago decided he’d never make money on the Nets and stopped spending anything. But have you heard? A Russian billionaire, notorious for lavish spending and alleged prostitution rings, is about to take over the team. DOES IT GET BETTER THAN THAT?
For anyone that really cares about the NBA and the Nets, the vision for the future is bordering on uptopian. Bemoan Jersey—where basketball seasons have lonnnnng come to die—if you want. But just remember: these fans are about to fall into the best situation in the NBA, even if that means some of ’em have to take a train into Brooklyn to see games.
It’ll be worth the trip. And if it seems like it’ll be an eternity before the Nets are winning again, don’t cry for Nets fans. It’ll be worth the wait.