It was all good just six months ago! The Brooklyn Nets did everything that they could during the off-season to be NBA championship contenders. They sent a packaged deal of Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and a lions share of draft picks to Boston in exchange for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry.
They shocked the world when they hired a new head coach too—they hired the guy who took the team to back to back NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, Jason Kidd. Brooklyn also hired Lawrence Frank who coached Kidd back in the New Jersey Nets era after Byron Scott was let go as head coach back in 2004. It nostalgic, picture perfect and sexy—their starting five of Brook Lopez, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were on the front cover of Sports Illustrated with their coach. The magazine cover read: Who Wants a Piece of Them.
They were the Kings of New York, Frank White had nothing on them—or so it seemed.
Eighteen games into the season, a little reality set in for the now 5-13 Nets. Coach Kidd sat out the first two games of the regular season with a suspension stemming from a DUI charge last summer when he was still a player. In his absence, the Nets dropped their first game on the road against a young Cleveland Cavaliers team, but rebounded and won their home opener at home against the NBA champs the Miami Heat. Kidd returned from his suspension that weekend and the Nets were blown out 107-86 in his coaching debut. To be fair the injury bug bit the team too. Point guard Deron Williams sprained his ankle a couple of weeks ago on a Nets road trip, Brook Lopez did too, Andrei Kirilenko has missed 13 games this season because of back spasms, Paul Pierce was shelved for about a month with a broken hand, and Jason Terry has been fighting nagging injuries. Joe Johnson has been the only Net to play all 18 of the Nets regular season games.
The Nets have lost 11 of their last 14 games this season and they are in desperate need of a win.
“We’re disappointed in ourselves with the season thus far,” Brook Lopez told The Source at his basketball camp in Queens on Sunday. “But I think we just need to come out with a different energy and effort and play with a better sense of urgency.”
Drama from within does not help their winning culture either. Last week coach Kidd was fined $50,000 for his role in the soda gate scandal, assistant coach Lawrence Frank, a guy that was supposed to help Kidd in his development as a head coach was demoted from the Nets bench and forced to simply push papers. The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps and Fred Kerber reported yesterday that Frank will seek legal counsel in getting a buyout from the Brooklyn Nets.
By the way, the Nets have a game to play tonight against their crosstown rival New York Knicks who are 3-13 and who’s coach Mike Woodson‘s job has been rumored to be given to anyone who will listen. They’ve lost nine straight games after a 103-99 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. They They’ve dealt with injuries this season too. Tyson Chandler, Metta World Peace and J.R. Smith have all missed significant time. “We are the laughingstock of the league right now,” said the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. “It’s nothing to hide. We are.”
So what about this rivalry that is supposed to be had between New York’s two basketball teams?
Does it even exist? The teams bickered through media sound clips during the off-season on who was the best team in the area. The NBA intervened and asked them both to layoff.
Both teams are playing beneath their privilege but they still do have a rivalry.
“Obviously it’s going to be very competitive,” Nets center Brook Lopez told The Source. “There’s a little rivalry between us.”
“There’s so much animosity between the two teams,” Knicks guard J.R. Smith told ESPN. “But our record, for the team we have, isn’t really doing any justice. Right now we have to put the rivalry on hold and focus on each individual team, as opposed to focusing on we don’t like them and they don’t like us.”
What will we expect to see between the two teams in the nationally televised game on TNT this evening? “Two teams have their backs against the wall,” Nets rookie Mason Plumlee told The Source by phone. “So it’s going to be a lot of energy. We both need this win.”
Despite their records, players take it serious and are playing for New York. “There’s going to be a lot of energy to the game. I’m looking forward to playing,” said Lopez.
With all the losing going around for both teams, one thing is for certain, a team in New York City will come out with a win.
The Clash of the Boroughs matchup between the Knicks and Nets has a 7:00 PM start at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. After this evenings game, the Nets fly out to Milwaukee to play the Bucks on Saturday and have a two game home stand on Tuesday with matchups between the Celtics and Clippers. The Knicks have a two game home stand with Orlando coming to town tomorrow and they play the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
What is the key for the Nets to revive their season? “Obviously it sounds like it makes sense, but just get some wins,” Plumlee told The Source. “Wins could do some things just for the morale. Sometimes we lose a close one to the Lakers and then we get blown out. We need to be in every game. We’re getting blown out a lot of games. So we have to play harder for a chance to win.”
And the Knicks? “I think we just need to win a game and string them together and everybody will calm down,” Knicks guard Iman Shumpert told The Source.