I just love watching the Nets play basketball ... and when they don't play, I miss it a lot.
So, I'm not going to cast about for deep analogies regarding their early demise or focus on the salary cap and what they absolutely must do in the off-season. I'm just going to ramble on a bit about enjoying the season as a fan, about enjoying the skills and the drama and the joy and pain and the camaraderie of being just a fan during a season of basketball. As seen by a fan, not a blogger. It's not an essay, just some words strung together, hopefully in a coherent manner.
Truth be toId, I didn't go into the season thinking they would win it all, didn't trust Deron Williams to lead them to a title, worried about Brook Lopez's potential for injuries, feared that Jason Kidd wouldn't get it quickly enough and that Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry (remember him?) wouldn't have that quick twitch athleticism they used to. I expected a very good season, maybe as many as 60 wins, but not the prize.
What I didn't expect of course was 10-21, an unwatchable horror show of miscues and poor execution. Emotionally, I disconnected. I thought they were done for the season back around Christmas. Intellectually, I wondered how things would play out as the search for scapegoats escalated. It had already begun. Woj's article on Kidd had all the earmarks of someone trying to cast him as the villain of the piece. There were a lot of candidates. But I originally got so deeply involved in the Nets to escape reality
Sure, I panicked. I swore I wouldn't renew my season tickets again (Ultimately, I did.). I had renewed happily after 12-70 because I had hope. This was worse. The future, both long- and short-term, looked dismal. Mikhail Prokhorov publicly has said he didn't panic. Privately, I am told, the situation in Moscow was quite different. He was not having fun.
Then, as if a miracle occurred, a shared mystical appearance. It was the triumph of that unquantifiable element in all sports, all competition, confidence. It was unfathomable and that, dear fans, is why we come to games and lay down our emotions and our treasure for people we don't know. It's the grand mystery of why one team beats the other. Why and how did it happen? Some nagging health issues cleared up even in the face of Brook Lopez's season-ender. And you can talk about chemistry, but sometimes, it's just about feeling good about yourself and letting it flow and spread. You know, having fun. They looked like they were having fun and it was infectious.
From that moment forward, the season was finally fun, a lot of fun. It wasn't as much fun as 2001-02, when the Nets surprised everyone with their athleticism and daring or 2002-03, when fans reveled in the team's methodical, up-yours mentality. But 2014 had all the elements of great drama and comedy. There was the element of just desserts, comeuppance and schadenfreude, as Knick fans slowly realized their team wasn't as good as ours. Flawed characters, battling age or their own demons or bad reps, picked up the sword and shield. It was great to watch. So was the basketball.
It wasn't perfect, but sitting in the stands at our great arena is fun. Then, late in the season, the Nets made history with the signing of Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA. There was now pride mixed with the fun. Still,as the playoffs neared, the imperfect nature of the team became obvious to all but the most optimistic fans.
So I relished it all at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs, attending as many games as I could. I wanted to be part of it as it played out, knowing that the experience was finite, knowing how much I missed it in years gone by. Didn't want to miss a thing. Wanted to come out of the subway and see everyone in black and white, taking pictures. Wanted to go inside to share daps and high fives, gossip and swap stories Fandom healed great differences on other subjects. It wasn't an intellectual exercise, fraught with head-scratching or deep dives on to calculators. Leave that the writers and pundits. It's their job.
The highlight of the season came late, sitting with Bobby Edemeka, his triplet brothers and the rest of the motley crew of the Brooklyn Brigade. Investment bankers, currency traders, salesmen, college students, fitness instructors, medical assistants, all in black and white, all having a grand old time.
Now, it's over, dammit. Thanks for the memories. Watching someone else's team, no matter how skilled. Doesn't cut it. I'm a Nets fan.As for next year, I still have hope Mikhail Prokhorov will remain a bachelor, still believe that we will win. What was that? I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN. I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN. Have to.