Sports

The Nets are so weird


Kevin Durant’s season ended way too early for anyone to be happy in Brooklyn.

Kevin Durant’s season ended way too early for anyone to be happy in Brooklyn.
Image: Getty Images

And thus ends yet another attempt by the Brooklyn Nets to skip the line and crash into the NBA penthouse. Actually, “another Nets experiment” sounds a little more apt. Because the Nets, the Brooklyn version, have always felt like one.

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They’ve been in Brooklyn a decade now, and the move in from New Jersey and how the team has been subsequently run has always felt like a team trying to become a landmark NBA franchise in an instant. Which isn’t really possible, but the Nets sure thought it was. Perhaps it was a ploy to capitalize on whatever leftover nostalgia there was for the Dodgers, even if every Brooklyn Dodgers fan is dead. While also simultaneously trying to cash in on the nouveau riche status of Brooklyn today, which is in direct opposition to that whole Dodgers thing. But that’s been the Nets, constantly trying everything that doesn’t work together, clawing at a relevancy few achieve and most don’t deserve.

There was an opening in NYC, thanks to the Knicks’ haplessness that has essentially run for the entirety of the 2000s. Except the Knicks are still, somehow, one of the league’s few landmark teams. It’s not a mark you can just wash off, and the Knicks have tried harder and better than anyone (OK maybe the Bulls did). But the Nets actually did make all the trades and signings that the Knicks said they would but couldn’t. Neither ploy worked much.

Remember when it was Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Deron Williams? They were too old or too hurt or too both to ever see anything beyond the second round. And then it was this current experiment, Kyrie, Durant, and first Harden, and then some dude who no one can find, put into the tank, door locked, everything shaken to see what will come out. Still haven’t seen a conference final, or even a team that ever felt cohesive or all that entertaining to watch. It was just ooze. Talented ooze, to be sure, but ooze nonetheless.

I guess it’s pretty apt for Brooklyn as a whole, saying and feeling like you’re part of everything New York is while across the river from a lot of it. This Nets experiment even has the Brooklyn staple of a guy who is only too happy to tell you everything he knows about anything, when it turns out he doesn’t know anything about everything.

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There is no becoming a signature name in the game by simply saying that you are now. This is where the Heat warped everyone’s mind by the collection of Wade, LeBron, and Bosh, except afterwards they were more than comfortable to return to the Heat way and culture. It was always the exception, and not the rule.

You can be a great team, you can even be a dynasty without being a member of the long-term glitterati. But the Nets have always seemingly been after more.

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So whatever shiny thing was out there, whatever splash there was to be made, the Nets have done it with an unmissable air of desperation to be taken seriously. That included signing Durant knowing he would miss a full season, and yet all his successes still remain having come on teams that would have won without him anyway. It was swinging for Kyrie and Harden and then moving on from Harden at the first sign of trouble. It was hiring Steve Nash as coach because it sounded like something.

Again, you can’t skip the line and you can’t run from who you are. The Nets are that guy who tells you they can get you into the club and that they know the DJ and the owner, and yet the bouncer still looks at them blankly when they actually try. You can’t just move in from Jersey and claim you’re the center of the Earth, though about half the residents of that state certainly try at some point in their lives.

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Once you’re the Jets or Mets, you’re the Jets or Mets all the way. Fuck, Nets even rhymes. You’re second class, you’re the stepchild, you’re the other. At least the other two have made that part of their identity. The Nets are in denial. The Islanders took a swing at this, and quickly realized where that road led and went back to where they belonged (a true New York experience). The Devils had the right idea. Move deeper into New Jersey and be happy with the 10,000 A.J. Sopranos that come to your games.

The Nets have been trying to get on dad’s suit for 10 years now, and keep tripping over it. It’s not going to fit. And not being dad is OK. They’ll run this back again next year, and when Durant and Kyrie can’t go supernova at the same time for two months, and they ask Steve Nash what his Plan B is, and his facial expression will be, “B? Plan?,” we’ll be here again. It’s just not what you are, Nets.

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