Five years ago, a 225-by-95 foot mural of Mikhail Prokhorov & Jay-Z hovered over James Dolan's office with the words: "Blueprint for Greatness".
After a few poor years filled with irrelevancy in New Jersey, how could you not love this? The Nets were back and ready to take over New York.
And then here I was, five years later on a Sunday afternoon en route to cover a Nets-Warriors game at the Barclays Center. As I walked up the stairs and onto the Long Island Railroad platform, I heard a familiar voice. It was the voice of Kristaps Porzingis, the New York Knicks newest hero, voicing over a message to passengers asking them to ‘stay courteous' and that he'll ‘see you at the Garden'.
I pictured him winking and smiling as he said it.
This was two days after the Knicks destroyed the Nets at the Garden by a final score of 108-91. Porzingis recorded a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds and individually hit just as many threes (three) as the Nets hit TOTAL.
It signified the end of any real rivalry and a sad end to the Brooklyn Nets relevancy in New York ... at least for now. It was the only nationally televised game for the Nets this season, and they stunk up a storm from start to finish. It was never even close.
Brooklyn is no longer the ‘new' trendy thing. It worked in gaining fans and relevancy the first three years, but now, the only thing that gains fans and builds relevancy is WINNING, something the Nets are not doing. Porzingis, the poster boy for the Knicks, represents everything the Nets did wrong when trying to force their greatness.
You see, the Knicks were god awful last season, but at least they were rewarded with a player like Kristaps. The Nets on the other hand, are playing very bad thus far and they don't even have a pick to reward themselves with come July. No pick. No national TV. No relevancy/headlines. And probably no playoffs.
With the boss Mikhail Prokhorov in town, the perfect storm of bad news formed this past week to represent the downfall of the Brooklyn Nets.
Where we stand:
The Nets finished the week with a 1-2 record, with the sole win coming against the Phoenix Suns and the two losses coming against the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors.
Other than the Phoenix game -- where the Nets looked really solid to close out the game -- there wasn't much to smile about. They allowed 42 points and trailed by 21 points in the first quarter to the Knicks. They were giving the Knicks just about any shot they wanted, and the guys in blue and orange were never looking back.
Versus Golden State, the Nets fell behind by 14 points after another abysmal first quarter, but fought back in the second quarter and scored a season-high 38 points in the quarter. They trailed by only seven heading into the fourth, but the undefeated Warriors displayed their dominance by going on a 17-4 run to start the fourth with Stephen Curry AND Klay Thompson on the bench. You give them credit for getting back up after being pushed down, but like we always say: there is no such thing as moral victories in this league.
The Nets are now 10 games under .500 at 5-15. They stand in 14th place in the Eastern Conference and record-wise, they're the fourth worst team in the NBA -- barely above the Sixers, Pelicans and Lakers -- all three who have their own draft picks.
The good news is that they'll be playing the next five games in Brooklyn. They won't travel until December 18th vs. the Indiana Pacers.
Game of the Week:
Well, there's only one to choose from.
It was a rather impressive win over a solid Phoenix team. The Nets trailed by nine, midway through the fourth quarter after being on the wrong end of a 14-2 run. Phoenix had all the momentum and just had to close this thing out, but the Nets were having none of that.
Brook Lopez checked into the game and the Nets instantly jumped out on a 12-2 run, giving themselves a five-point lead with under three minutes remaining. The Suns never full got back in this game, but still had a chance to at least tie the game with a few seconds remaining. They were forced to take a three, but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson swiped the ball out of Brandon Knight's hands, just as he was about to lift up and take the shot.
It was two straight wins for the Nets in which they closed the deal within the final minutes of the game. It was also the fourth straight win at home. The guys were feeling good in the locker room. The music was bumping in the locker room and the players were speaking very optimistically.
Things were looking up from that point. With the Knicks rivalry game just days away, the small win streak couldn't have come at a better time. Unfortunately, we know how that went.
Weak of the Week:
There were quite a few weak moments this past week, but none worse than the news about Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
On Saturday, the Nets were calling it an ankle sprain that occurred at practice while covering Bojan Bogdanovic. By Monday, the Nets announced that he would be out indefinitely due to a non-displaced fracture of the posterior talus in his right ankle. He'll receive surgery later this week.
There comes a point where you wonder when the Nets will get any mercy. Things haven't been anywhere near good this season. And for people with cable providers other than Comcast, Hollis-Jefferson has been one of the few reasons to watch this struggling Nets team.
"I was stunned, I was shocked," Hollis-Jefferson told reporters Monday. "It's hurtful to be in that situation. Trying to be one of the best rookies, working really hard and then you get news like that you don't really know what to say. You're at a loss for words."
Hollis-Jefferson has easily been one of the best non-lottery picks thus far. He's averaged five points and six rebounds, while ranking first in steals among rookies with 1.4 per game.
Not to mention, he's been one of the best players on the Nets. With him on the court, the Nets have allowed 98.9 points per 100 possessions. With him off, it falls off to a team-low 107.1.
The Nets and its fans need RHJ back as soon as possible, but if the losing continues, there is ZERO reason to rush. Bojan Bogdanovic will start in his place.
Thaddeus Young has played great of late, but this week's head nod goes to backup point guard, Shane Larkin.
In the past three games, Larkin has averaged 10 points, six assists and three steals on 50 percent shooting. He's committed just one turnover TOTAL in the three games played. What stood out the most, though, was his impact in the Golden State game. He came up with three quick steals which proved to be a difference maker in a 12-0 comeback run in the second quarter.
Pick your poison with this one. I'm going with Jarrett Jack, who's played exceptionally well this season with an average of 13 points and seven assists per game. But this past week was definitely not his best.
He shot the ball at a low 30 percent and 14 percent from three, while turning the ball over nearly three times a game. His notorious plus/minus numbers came back into conversation after finishing the week with a minus-13 in 30 minutes.
In his prior three contests versus the Warriors, Jack averaged 20 points on 66 percent shooting. On Sunday, he scored just 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
Highlight of the Week:
T-ROB with the MONSTER one-handed slam vs. Phoenix.
The Nets need to get it together in every aspect possible: Starting with the team, to the coaches, to management and of course, ownership.
Clearly something is going on with the coaching staff. A Russian article reported that Hollins would be axed once the Nets found a replacement. NetsDaily, however, has different sources informing us otherwise.
Not saying it is, but IF the Russian article is true, then it's just preposterous. It'll add on to the already high tally of mistakes the Nets have made when it comes to basketball decisions. And I'm not talking about firing Hollins. That's for you to decide whether it's a mistake or not.
But if they're going to do it, then DO IT. But DON'T make Hollins suddenly become a temporary coach until you find the "right" guy. You're supposed to get an interim coach and then find the replacement. It's probably smart they take their time to find the best fit.
Lets forget about the possibility of five coaches in five seasons. Forget it. Just make sure whatever change(s) made, if any, are the right ones filled with the right people that are committed to forming a basketball plan and sticking to it.
This whole debacle is becoming a circus act. It's exactly what we wanted to avoid when moving to Brooklyn.
As for Lionel Hollins, well, his actions and comments speak for themselves.
"When it's over, somebody calls me up and says you're not here anymore, I pack my sh*t up & I go home."