How do we sports fans rationalize the miracles we witness on the court? You know what I am talking about: the half court buzzer beaters, Cinderella upsets during March Madness, etc. The only logical explanation is that there is a higher power known as the Basketball Gods who look over and bless our beloved teams.
Well then, who’s to blame when our team is not a beneficiary of good fortunes?
Perhaps there’s another supernatural entity that exists in the sports universe. If the Basketball Gods are responsible for all that’s good, then maybe there’s the Hoops Devil to balance the equation. Who else would cause all of the heartbreak, bad luck, horrible calls, freak injuries, unlucky bounces, curses, jinxes, hexes, and championship droughts?
Every organization at some point has been a victim of the Hoops Devil’s cruelty, but doesn’t it seem that he (or she) has more fun tormenting certain fan bases than others? If you are searching for a case study, look no further than the lovable Nets, both from their days in the Jersey swamp and now in Brooklyn.
The Hoops Devil has been very clever in torturing the souls of the die-hard fans, especially since 1990. It may seem as if the Nets have been perpetually bad; however there have been many instances in which greatness appeared to be on the horizon until something catastrophic occurred. This has happened too many times during my lifetime, and this is precisely why I am in need of an old priest and a young priest.
Now before you have me committed, consider the following:
Exhibit A (1991-93 seasons):
After several years of futility, an impressive core of young talent was assembled featuring the likes of Kenny Anderson, Derrick Coleman, and Drazen Petrovic. Bill Fitch and then Chuck Daly led them to consecutive playoff berths as the sixth seed, but they were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers both times in the first round.
The rematch against the Cavs ended with a decisive fifth game on the road, which should be considered a success considering we were without Anderson to a broken wrist (thanks John Starks!) and Petrovic was hampered and limited by a sprained knee ligament.
(Note: The Nets were 39-27 when Petrovic first got hurt and finished 4-12. This dropped them to the 6th seed.)
Although we didn’t advance past the first round, progress was felt and with the legendary Daly at the coaching helm, the Nets appeared to be headed in the right direction for years to come. Disaster then struck shortly after the 1993 playoffs when Petrovic tragically died in a car accident. The Nets would never be the same.
Petrovic’s void was filled by Kevin Edwards and the Nets returned to the playoffs the following season to face their cross-river rivals in the first round as a seven seed. The Knicks eliminated them in four games and Daly ultimately retired.
The Butch Beard era was officially underway, and the Nets would average 29 wins for the next 3 seasons. Hellooooo Armen Gilliam!
Exhibit B (1997-99 seasons):
The second season under John Calipari saw the Nets finish with 43 wins and a playoff match-up with the defending champion Chicago Bulls. The Nets were swept out of the first round, but there was tremendous optimism regarding the future with the talented youth of Keith Van Horn and Kerry Kittles complementing the solid veteran core of Kendall Gill, Sam Cassell, and Jayson Williams.
To say the following season was a train wreck is putting it mildly. The team fired Calipari after winning three of their first 20 games, Cassell was dealt for Stephon Marbury, and Williams’ career essentially came to an end as his leg was broken after a nasty collision with Marbury.
Exhibit C (2006-07 season):
Ask any Nets fan what the missing piece was during the Jason Kidd era, and expect to hear “a big guy who could score down low”. Enter Nenad Krstic who immediately meshed well with Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter. Their “Big Three” was quickly becoming a “Big Four” as Krstic had just completed his first full season in which he averaged 13.5 points as a 22 year old.
Twenty six games into the 2006 season, in which he was averaging over 16 points per game, Krstic tore his ACL. His breakout season came to a screeching halt, and although he returned the following season, he was never the same player.
Exhibit D (2010 NBA Lottery/Offseason):
Fresh off of their 12 win season, the Nets had the best odds of winning the draft lottery which would have guaranteed them a franchising changing player in John Wall. Even the second overall pick would have given them what appeared to be a nice consolation prize in Evan Turner. Luck or lack thereof, the Nets ended up with the third overall pick.
To make matters worse, this was the same off season in which LeBron James toyed with and rejected management’s pursuit. Rod Thorn then had a senior moment when he signed Travis Outlaw (5 years, 35 million dollars) and Johan Petro (3 years, 10 million dollars) to laughably, lucrative deals.
Exhibit E (2013-14 season):
This exhibit is still under construction; however you should be able to recall all that has gone wrong since we aren’t too far down Memory Lane. Think about how much hype surrounded this team following the prized acquisitions during the offseason in which the Nets appeared to have rectified every flaw with a significant upgrade. A 60-win season and a deep playoff run was certainly in the realm of possibilities, especially since the team had won 49 games the year before.
Oh well, where shall I begin? The fact that “Deron’s Ankles” may replace Achilles’ Heel in the English Vernacular or that Andrei Kirilenko has changed how we look at “day-to-day” injuries? How about Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry aging in dog years?
Aside from all of the other issues, Brook Lopez breaking his foot for the second time in three years was the most devastating blow to their title hopes and the future outlook of the team. Even on an extremely talented roster, Lopez was their best offensive player whose size gave them a competitive advantage over most opponents.
With a roster comprised of aging players in the twilight of their careers, Lopez always seemed to factor into the long term plans. At 25 years old and still developing, he has earned the recognition of arguably being the best offensive center in the league.
Even with his most recent surgery, Lopez’s future has a cloud of doubt hovering over it as his name is now associated with Bill Walton and Yao Ming. Nets fans will cling to the hope that his career will resume down the same path as Zydrunas Ilgauskas instead.
Seems like this is all too much of a coincidence, right? If you’ve been around the block as long as I have, you learn quickly to expect the worst at any given moment. What other way is there? At least now there is a logical explanation for all of these unfortunate events.
Maybe I am wrong here and we should be thankful for the special treatment the Nets have received from the Hoops Devil. After all, this has always kept things interesting and without it our franchise would just be ordinary- nothing noteworthy. On second thought, perhaps I have developed a severe case of the Stockholm Syndrome.
Why the Hoops Devil has it out for us, we will never know. Hopefully the day will come soon when another franchise captures his/her attention. Until then, keep in mind that we are at the midway point of this season and the second half could get even more interesting…
The black paint job is fresh with white trim. The logo has been redesigned to create an image that would appeal to a broader, hipper demographic. Fancy new accessories have been added on, yet an element of doubt surfaces that the engine won’t start.
Deron Williams told reporters during the Olympics that he couldn’t wait for September to come so he could get his teammates together a week or so before the official start of training camp to start “workin” and getting to know one another. As per the tweet from @deronwilliams today with the picture above attached it shows he is true to his word and has his guys in the gym working hard.
This is a great sign for all Brooklyn Nets fans as it shows that this “new era” in Nets basketball is “focused” and “committed’ to winning and bringing home that NBA Championship.
Keep it up boys…..
This PG from Kansas may just be the breakout player of the 2012 Draft (41st). Tyshawn Taylor (@tyshawntaylor) was selected by the Portland Trailblazers with the 41st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft before being traded to Brooklyn for cash considerations. Many teams passed on him draft night and I have a funny feeling that many will regret that decision as Taylor is a gritty and hard-nosed PG that will surely learn a ton from an All Star like Deron Williams and turn the draft snub into a source of motivation. The Hoboken native should feel right at home in Brooklyn and with the right coaching could just be a top Rookie in 2013. Stay tuned….
“If the Nets truly found a home in Brooklyn — and not just an extension of Madison Square Garden — they’ll find out on the first day of the season. The Brooklyn Nets will open up their inaugural campaign at the Barclays Center against the Knicks on Nov. 1 in a nationally televised game at 7 p.m., a source confirmed. It’s a surprising move, and perhaps a dangerous one for the Nets, who are trying to establish themselves as Brooklyn’s team in historically Knicks territory. The Knicks will then play the Miami Heat at home Nov. 2 on ESPN, according to the Miami Herald.”
More from Bondy’s conversation with Deron Williams:
“Deron Williams said playing the Heat, not the Knicks, would bring the most excitement to the season opener.”
The Official NBA schedule comes out Thursday July 26th @7pm on NBA TV
Kurt Helin of Basketball Talk says that Deron Williams thinks the Nets are just fine and can handle the added stress and pressure of the coming weeks with Trade rumors to start flying….
“We’ve had a lot of injuries, a lot of things to fight through,” Williams said. “I think we’re a pretty resilient team.
“Guys have been pretty much dealing with this all season. It’s not like it really hasn’t been a big focus (for us), there are frequently asked questions out there. I think guys have handled it well all year and we’re going to do keep doing it. That’s our job.”
According to Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, there is a rumor going around that would see Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson go to the Los Angeles Lakers for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Also a third team, possibly the Raptors, would send Jose Calderon to Orlando. It’s not sure what Orlando would give up although they could re-route Gasol to Toronto.
The newspaper got a hold of Magic CEO Alex Martins who denied that report.
The Magic, including owner Rich DeVos have stated they won’t deal Howard because they believe the All-Star center will re-sign with them in the summer.
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