After beating the Sacramento Kings to clinch a playoff berth, this will make it back to back playoff appearances for the Brooklyn Nets and the fifth time they’ve made it to the playoffs since moving to Brooklyn in the 2012-2013 season.
Brooklyn’s first appearance in the NBA playoff pitted them against the depleted Chicago Bulls that spring. The series needed a Game 7 to get a winner and since the Bulls were down three starters and the game was at Barclays Center, the Nets were favored. They lost.
Not long after, Billy King and Dmitry Razumov believed the Nets needed a toughness and made the mistake of a lifetime, sending four first rounders to Boston for three players with rings and yellowing birth certificates. Ugh.
After a disastrous first half of the season, the Nets game back and made the playoffs again. A dramatic Game 7 win over the Raptors even got them into the second round, but LeBron James happened. After beating the Heat four times in the regular season, Miami came back and proved it was a Miami super team...
With no Brook Lopez and an aging lineup, the Heat were too much for Brooklyn to handle, leading to the Nets losing in five games, again at Barclay Center.
It was more of the same in 2015. More regular season disappointment and a late run led by Brook Lopez. The Nets barely made the playoffs and faced the 60-win Hawks, with their four All-Stars: Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, and Al Horford...
Brooklyn surprised everyone by pushing the Hawks to six games (almost seven). They almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NBA history but just fell short. Deron Williams had his last great game with the Nets, a 35-point outburst in Game 4.
And that was that. The Nets went on a playoff drought, starting with Lionel Hollins-led 2015-16 team that won all of 21 games. By January, ownership had enough. Hollins was fired, Billy King “reassigned” into oblivion.
Change happened. After an exhaustive search, Sean Marks was hired. He had no experience as a GM, no draft picks and a couple of middlin’ stars, Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. Other candidates for job wanted to rebuild against Lopez and Young but Marks said, no, time for a rebuild. A long one.
Two seasons, one with 20 wins, worst in the league, and 28 wins. Jeremy Lin, at that point, the highest paid free agent, missed 127 out of 164 games ... and fans had to watch as the Celtics took one pick after another, payments for players long gone.
Then, led by a group of reclamation projects, the Nets surprised everyone and made the playoffs last year, even got into the sixth seed. After ending that drought, the Nets were matched up against the 76ers, led by Joel Embiiid and Jimmy Butler...
The Nets were just outmatched talent-wise so losing in five games with a lot of young talent was still seen as an accomplishment, especially because the playoff drought was finally over!
Now, following Friday’s playoff clinching, I was reminded of Brooklyn’s neighborhood rivals, the New York Knicks. You remember them? The Nets have had so much more success in the NBA and New York since 2012. For 60 years, this was always what the Knicks were, but now in the city, they just aren’t. Out of curiosity, I gathered a couple of my friends who are die hard Knicks fans to get their reactions to all of this.
Dakarai Williams, an incoming sophomore at Brockport University, told me,
“Brooklyn’s success early on was surprising. After making such a big move with no young star to depend on, you would expect a long adjusting period before becoming good. They were even able to stay relevant after having no draft picks.”
After going all out to contend for a championship in 2013 through THE trade the Nets were left with almost nothing for the future. This is something that Nets fans will never forget. Days were just longer and suddenly there was nothing to look forward to having no draft picks or playoff success.
After bringing in Sean Marks in 2016, things began to change in Brooklyn. Marks brought in D’Angelo Russell from the Lakers, traded for draft picks, and even found ways to scout for underrated talent in these drafts. Most importantly, Marks also brought in Kenny Atkinson. Atkinson was a former Atlanta Hawks assistant and development coach where he helped players like Dennis Schröder improve his game.
On the Brooklyn Nets, Atkinson helped develop the young talent on the Nets roster. Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Jarrett Allen are just some of the players that prospered under Kenny.
In typical Knicks fanatic fashion, Dakarai said, “Even with the Nets having two superstars in KD and Kyrie on the team, the Knicks still get headlines for things like the Spike Lee saga, or whether or not LaMelo Ball wants to play for the Knicks or not.”
Collins Mba, an incoming sophomore at Brooklyn College, is another one of my friends who supports the Knicks. He told me,
“When the Knicks do good, everyone is happy. When the Nets do good, some people are happy. Madison square garden is such a spectacle that even though the Knicks are performing poor, they are still seen as a legendary organization in New York City.”
The Knicks will always be relevant in New York whether they’re good or bad. As for the Nets, it took being good to be relevant in New York. This explains why KD and Kyrie were so drawn in by the Nets in last year’s offseason. Now that the Nets have clinched the playoffs, I will say it again, this will be the fifth time in eight years that the Nets have made the playoffs. Compare that to their local rivals, who’ve made the playoffs exactly once ... in that first season the Nets were in New York.
Forget the Knicks. They’re at home. So I spoke to some of my friends who are diehard Nets fans. They were stoked about making the playoffs yet again.
“It makes me proud to support the team especially because we’re called the little brothers to the Knicks,” said Jameel Yahia, an incoming sophomore at St John’s University.
“We’re adapting to a winning culture and we have pieces to continue that culture as well. I’m extremely proud of this accomplishment,” added Gerald Britton, an incoming sophomore at FMCC.
The Nets have made a name for themselves in New York by taking the city from the Knicks. They’ve also made it clear that it’s going to stay like that for a while too. As the Nets marketing slogan says, they’re “Kings of New York.”