The Brooklyn Nets will be playing for more than wins going into the new campaign. They will be playing to earn the rest of the league’s respect. R-E-S-P-C-T. Last year, teams didn’t take Brooklyn seriously thanks to all the off- and on-court problems that made it impossible to compete at full power, night in and night out.
On Media Day, Nets star Kevin Durant made it known that the Nets will be looking to earn what Aretha Franklin sang about.
“We (front office) figured out that’s what we need … to just be a respectable team,” said Durant. “I feel like we don’t have any respect out there on the court, and that’s what I want for us. … I want that respect.”
Brooklyn’s new acquisition Markieff Morris, reportedly recommended by KD, confirmed the point. Matter of fact, he did more than just confirm it, he labeled last year’s Nets team as “soft.”
“I agree with what he said,” said Morris. “They soft. Just point blank, period. When we played up against them, they were soft. Just go right up in their chest. And that’s what we did. Miami beat them without their best players, there was a bunch of two-way guys and guys that came up for COVID. Just go in their chest.”
In fact, building a word cloud on the Nets preseason conversations, respect would be near the middle and in bold letters. The easy way to get it is with wins and in doing that erase the bad feelings associated with the 2021-22 season. All three members of the new “Big Three” has spoken about it and more than once.
After ending the regular season as the seventh seed, the Nets were absolutely humiliated in the playoffs at the hands of the Boston Celtics who ignominiously swept Brooklyn. They became a laughing stock throughout the whole offseason, made even worse by Kevin Durant’s trade request and the uncertain status of Irving’s future.
Now, it’s time to get that respect. After the big and surprisingly easy wins in Milwaukee and Minnesota, following two bad losses at home, the Nets are taking on a little swagger.
“I want everybody to not believe in us at all, honestly, besides the Brooklyn Nets fan base. I want to go in being the underdog. But I KNOW what we’re capable of and I think we can win a Championship,” said Ben Simmons in a YES interview that aired Friday.
“I’ll tell you right now — it extends all the way up,” Irving said of commitment in an interview published Saturday. “From Joe [Tsai] all the way to the 16th guy on the team. We all can feel it because we all have a piece in our success. And we all have a piece in when we fail. So that accountability that we continue to hold for each other is definitely something that we’re going to continue to build on, and I think the results will speak for themselves.”
That’s a good distance from what he said about the end of last season on Media Day.
“To be honest with you, it was probably the first time – or one of the only times in my career where I’ve felt embarrassed leaving the court.”
The Nets will continue to have doubters. Respect won’t come easily, but at least going into the season, the Nets believe they have a shot at getting it.
“I want that respect, and you do that by how you work every single day,” said KD on Media Day.” We skipped some steps in how we worked throughout the year last year because of the circumstances — vaccine mandates, people disgruntled, injuries. We could’ve kept pressing forward, and that’s what I try to do as a player. I’m not preaching something I don’t practice. I come in here, every rep matters to me, so I want everybody to feel the same way.”
In response to this on The Old Man and Three, Simmons recalled this as O’Neal being ignorant.
“I think it’s kinda ignorant,” said the three-time All-Star. “Like Shaq and Chuck (Charles Barkley) sometimes what they’re saying because they have a platform to kind of like protect us and, you know, do good. Um, obviously they’re supposed to criticize us, you know, we’re basketball players – But when it comes to personal stuff there’s a level of respect they should have. Even Shaq, like, when I was dealing with everything going on, I actually messaged him and he put it out. And I was like, alright.”
There is no doubt that the league has lost respect for the Nets. Simmons along with the rest of this team will be looking to change that and this is indeed personal. If the Nets want to earn some respect, they are going to have to perform. Or, like Markieff Morris said on Tuesday, knock somebody on the ground.