“Whoops, there goes my soda.” – Jason Kidd
This is the time that the Brooklyn Nets are finally poised to take over the Eastern Conference. They’ve got a historically-great forward to play alongside a talented scorer and six-time All-Star at guard, plus a promising young center, a three-point shooting white guy at forward, and a bunch of decent wings. The Nets have a first-time coach who was a star point guard for the Phoenix Suns, but don’t worry, he has his former head coach on the staff as insurance. Yes, they’re owned by a shady foreign billionaire who’s almost certainly using the team to launder money, but he’s very willing to spend said money. Sure, the Miami Heat just went to the Finals, but this team looks even more loaded!
Spoiler: I was describing the 2013-14 Nets! Switcheroo, motherfucker. Admittedly, there was no real parallel to Spencer Dinwiddie, a likeable player with an inspiring career arc who basically washed away all that goodwill by becoming a Bitcoin obsessive who, at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, wanted to put a message about austerity and the national debt on his jersey. I guess that’s Paul Pierce pooping his pants in the Finals. (For the record, Future Hall of Famer Joe Johnson made his seventh All-Star team during the 13-14 season)
That season, Coach Jason Kidd fired Lawrence Frank in December, Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett got hurt, and the team went 44-38, five games worse than the previous season. But I’m much more bullish on this team for a few reasons:
- Kevin Durant is a lot younger than Kevin Garnett, plus he’s better. No knock on KG whatsoever, but it feels like Durant’s Achilles injury and all his fighting with teammates/teenagers on Instagram has distracted us from how much this dude whips ass. Should we be concerned about the effects of his Achilles tendon snapping in half? Sure, but he probably has access to secret tendon-gluing medicine that’s only available to Tim Cook’s inner circle. He should be about the second-best player in the East.
- I would be very surprised if there was a power struggle between Nash and Mike D’Antoni, mainly because neither of these guys actually has that much power. Nash is a rookie and seems physically incapable of yelling, and both of his well-paid lead assistants were NBA coaches for years. Kyrie Irving got in trouble for saying that they wouldn’t really have a coach, but how much coaching does it take to say, “Give KD the ball”? Durant, Irving, and Dinwiddie are great at creating their own shots, the centers are scoring off rebounds and lobs anyway, and Mike D’Antoni is probably very content to sit back and not be dealing with James Harden or Tilman Fertitta every day. He might even grow the mustache back, just out of sloth.
- The more they run, the less DeAndre Jordan plays. Look, I’m not a DeAndre hater, and think he’s a very underrated offensive player (while being incredibly overrated defensively). But this team needs to let Jarrett Allen spread his wings like the beautiful big-haired condor that he is and run with all these wings. Maybe DeAndre plays while Kyrie and KD trade ISOs, and Allen runs with the fun bench? Ultimately Allen played the same number of minutes with Jordan on board last year as he did the year before. He’ll be fine.
- This Nets team doesn’t have the frumpiest man in NBA history, Paul Pierce.
Still, the team could be combustible. Kyrie threatened to boycott the media and demand ten post-ups a game. Dinwiddie is in a contract year, already got hurt, and might be distracted from rehabbing his leg by his impending free agency and giant bitcoin farms. Bernie Bro MDA might be uncomfortable in going to China’s favorite team instead of their biggest NBA enemy. And it might not be great for team unity that the entire bench is on the trading block all the time.
But weirdly, I see Kevin Durant as a stabilizing force. In the same way he’ll patiently talk to Instagram strangers about their suicidal thoughts or whatever he does for hours every day, he’s a perfect sounding board for all of Kyrie’s various theories. He’s had so many years insisting that he’s not mad online, he has likely successfully convinced himself that he’s never mad in real life either. And he’s convinced himself he has something to prove this year, although Kyrie would dispute the idea that there can be any proof, or objective truth in the universe.
The Nets are loaded, with depth at every position, and also loaded with secret contract incentives that won’t come to light until Taurean Prince becomes a vice president of Alibaba US or something in 15 years. They’re basically a well-funded tech startup that just brought in some hotshot executives, which is what Steve Nash tries to look like anyway. Sure everyone is thinking about their stock options and literally no one is there for the long haul, but until then they’re ready to put out some kick-ass quarterly statements, get another round of funding, enjoy some really nice office perks, and then lose to the Heat in the Conference Finals.