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I’m hitting the wall. I’d cruised though the winter, happy to have something to keep myself occupied through those cold, black nights. Sure the Nets games largely coincide with my rambunctious daughter’s waning moments, rendering me into both an inattentive fan and father. That putrid combination of giving both half your attention. But I still welcomed those chaotic nights, because I’d had something to look forward to.
But there is no more room for character development and any exposition is a symptom not the writer not having done his job early in the story. Things are concluding. Storylines are ending, while others are patiently waiting for what comes after the 82nd game. The Brooklyn Nets are in the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference. The Brooklyn Nets are not for good or bad, playing out the string. Their season is very much in limbo. They vacated Brooklyn so the Barclay’s Center could have it’s college basketball, and when they’re tired and exhausted from west coast swing their reward is an even more torturous schedule.
At Oklahoma City, At Utah, At Los Angeles Clippers, At Sacramento, At Los Angeles Lakers, At Portland, At Philadelphia, Vs Boston, Vs Milwaukee, Vs Toronto, At Milwaukee, At Indiana, Vs Miami.
It’s a grinder of seasons, sadistically waiting at the finish line like a two mile hill. Sneaking into the playoffs with the 6 seed that they had occupied for so much time this year seems like an impossibility. Sure they could buck the odds and end the season with that 7th or 8th slot, but for what? To be unceremoniously dispatched by the Bucks or Raptors in at best, 5 games? Or finish one spot out of the playoffs for a 1% shot at the #1 overall?
The season is a microcosm of any Nets game. Inexplicable cold streaks followed by inexplicable hot streaks. Lose to the Bulls. Sweep the Nuggets. There’s no real design behind any of it. The only thing that I know is that if the Nets go up big, they’re going to lose. Sitting for weeks in that 6th seed position? That’s their 19 point 2nd quarter lead. It my more hopeless moments, I might suggest that by whatever margin of victory they are up, that plus one is what they will surrender by the end of the game.
Hey, how did their game against Oklahoma City go? Well they were up 16 in the first half. They lost by 12 and felt as though they’d lost by 20. Men associated with the Thunder clowned the Net’s bench players dance. Nobody on the road cares about the great story that the Nets might have become with a critical win in the Sooner State.
They went to Utah
They lost. 6 point game.
Maybe I’ve been delusional. In my head the Nets enter the playoffs as the 6 seed, take a first round away from the 76ers, and gently remind Kevin Durant that they were in the New York market, and that they give him the best chance of being the unquestioned best player on a championship team. That is why you leave Golden State, right? If they really are known for their player development, why wouldn’t an image conscious player making their appeal to the public as one of the greatest to ever play the game, turn toward the team with an coherent philosophy? As opposed to the team with moronic ownership that craves drama and produces stupidity by the tanker. The Nets are a team with one glaring weakness: They don’t have one of the 5 players who can swing the balance of the NBA to their feet. In retrospect, not acquiring one of those has been a real red mark on their legacy. But with one of those, they should be set up to shine as his supporting cast. With an upset in the first round as the national spotlight is focused on Brooklyn for the first and only time all year long, that’s something that you can sell. If you miss the playoffs, or exist just to get greased by the Bucks as the 8 seed all a premier star is going to think is “That’s still a lot of work.”
It would have been better if I hadn’t become a fan, and if my experiment were proven wrong, that you cannot become attached to something just because you spend so much time engaging.
This isn’t where I wanted to be. I wanted this season to play out as a joke, with my ironically detached persona cackling from the rafters as Downtown Brooklyn burned, much in the same way that it’s burned for the past three seasons. I was never supposed to have hope for some payoff at the end of the season. They weren’t supposed to matter to me or anybody else. I don’t suppose they do matter to most people. The workers at my office had finally come around on the idea that the Nets are good. Now it’s me telling them that Brooklyn won’t make it to the playoffs. The fans are always the first to know, and having watched around 60 of these games and having seen their schedule and the schedules that the other teams fighting for those last few playoff spots get to play, I know how it’s going to end. It won’t be pretty.
I’m forced to retreat. To deaden my senses and go into sports shock. That place where you can almost appreciate the devastation of the ensuing rout while becoming numb to the pain. Yankees lost to the Red Sox, who would eventually win the World Series? It’s fine. Giants trade Odell Beckham Jr and then sign Golden Tate. What a time to be alive, that I could witness such horrific decision making and tell it to my grandkids when they ask Peepaw “What was football?” Nets flirt with greatness only to watch it all fall apart as the schedule turns into a perfect storm? This is the life that I have chosen.
I embraced the veneer of fatalism and watched while the Nets took a late lead in Los Angeles, knowing that they would burn through that surplus. I watched while the Clippers soared ahead, and considered the ramifications of turning the television off so that I wouldn’t be forced to watch the cringe horror of Brooklyn losing yet another game that they desperately need to win. But I stayed, partly because I owe that much to you the reader, and partly because for as much as I bellyache and complain about this team failing to come through, the fact remains that time and time again they have overcome seemingly impossible odds to shock the world and come away with an improbably W. They entered the final minute down 10 points. They fought back. The Nets hit everything. Played everything perfectly. They erased the double digit deficit with less than five seconds to spare. I was already up late, living at the end of the R line, knowing that I have to wake up that much earlier to get to work on time. I still had to write this column. Overtime would be painful, but it’d be worth it, just to give them a chance to notch another one of those breathtaking wins.
The Brooklyn Nets are 36-36 and in 7th place in the Eastern Conference