In the end, the Cavaliers didn’t move up into the top three or the overall No. 1. The ping pong balls dropped and Cleveland stayed at No. 8, not bad, but not what their fans had hoped for last summer when they sent a disgruntled Kyrie Irving to Boston for the Nets unprotected pick.
That’s some solace but for Nets fans, the big news of the night was that the last debt owed from the disatrous 2013 trade with the Celtics had been paid off. From this day forward, all the Nets first round picks belong to no one but themselves. A Nets fan hadn’t be able to say that since June 2013.
But in the face of cheers and tweets and memes that “It’s over, finally over!” there’s another reality. It’s not so much over as it is a new starting point.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will be around to haunt and taunt for years to come. They’ve given the Celtics a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s possible that whoever the Cavaliers take on June 21 will also have a long and productive career. And Kyrie Irving isn’t a Celtic without that pick to trade.
No need to go into the ugly details of how Billy King and Dmitry Razumov panicked after an excruciating loss in the first round of the 2013 playoffs and went for broke. We’ve read enough about THAT this week. Moreover, Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have said they’ve never dwelled on what was lost, just the future. (It’s more difficult for fans.)
So how to look at tonight? Like we said, it’s not so much an end but a beginning, an opportunity to plan better, longer term. The Nets fate is now (for the most part) in their hands.
There are STILL some lingering effects of bad, if not horrid, management. The Nets will continue to pay Deron Williams more that $100,000 a WEEK through June 30, 2020 and while they now control all their own first round picks, they won’t have their own second rounder until 2021. Not to mention the team’s reputation.
Some pundits believed that it would take 10 years for the Nets to recover from the excesses of the King era. Marks and Atkinson have chipped away at that boulder with smart trades like those that brought Brooklyn Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and D’Angelo Russell, not to mention the salary dump that turned into a coup, DeMarre Carroll. Development has played a big role as well.
Marks and Atkinson may never be able to recoup the loss of Brown and Tatum, but that’s not the issue now. It’s about finding the next Brown and Tatum ... or developing a reasonable facsimile. Not easy.
Still, one part of the Nets long rebuild is over, which is great, but there will be other hurdles ... and setbacks. So hold or temper the cheers, the tweets, the memes. Be patient, be understanding.
Marks, in his end-of-the-season press conference, preached that mantra. It was a bit of a veiled criticism of the old regime ... or as close as he gets.
“We don’t want to skip any steps along this rebuild,” he old the assembled media. “I think if we skip steps and think we can do it right now or we could’ve done it a year ago, that’s when franchises end up digging themselves into a hole. They lose the flexibility in which to build and win with.”
We’ve learned that lesson.