As long as I have been watching the NBA, I have been a New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets fan. Yes, those Nets. The team that has had a cumulative .447 winning percentage since the 2003-2004 season, the year I started following them. However, this is also the franchise that was purchased by a charismatic Russian oligarch in 2010, plays in a state-of-the-art arena in one of the most exciting cities in North America, and has been to the playoffs in six of the last 12 seasons Supporting the Nets is very much a roller coaster of an experience.
Fandom is a complicated concept. At its core, it involves people spending incredible amounts of time and money supporting another group of people who play games in a particular uniform. A fan’s highs and lows can be reflected in how their team is faring, a phenomenon psychologists call ‘basking in reflective glory.’ Ever I became a Nets fan, there hasn’t been much glory to bask in. The Nets—both their New Jersey and Brooklyn iterations—should be a lesson in mismanagement for other franchises. Consider the facts: The Nets have cycled through eight coaches in the past 12 seasons, only two of their first round draft picks in the same time period still play with the team, and their basketball operations are running a $144 million dollar deficit—$131 million more than any other team in the league last season.
The franchise hasn’t been a perennial cellar dweller by any means; rather, the Nets have been oscillating between functional and dysfunctional for more than a decade, and most often end up being mediocre. The Nets aren’t just mediocre though, they’re the worst kind of mediocre.They reel you in under the false promise of future success before collapsing under a heap of overvalued assets and perplexing losses—Toronto Maple Leafs fans should know this feeling very well.
This year’s wild trade deadline—nine per cent of the league’s players were moved—was more of the same. Early reports suggested that Brooklyn was a frontrunner to land Oklahoma City guard Reggie Jackson, a dynamic yet disgruntled player who had the potential to be a future cornerstone. In typical Nets fashion, they lost out on Jackson to the Detroit Pistons. They did, however, pick up Thaddeus Young, an above-average, albeit undersized power forward while only giving up a limited and aged Kevin Garnett. Two steps backwards, one-and-a-half steps forward.
The thing that bothers me most about the Nets is that they have no on-court identity, they are undeniably boring to watch, and they have no identifiable long-term plan. At least with the Philadelphia 76ers, who started off this season with 17 straight losses, fans know that there is a ‘process’ that the organization is trying to follow.
It’s time to start over in Brooklyn. The endless .500 seasons need to end if the Nets ever want to achieve success with the way that the NBA is currently configured. The treadmill of mediocrity is the NBA’s wasteland, and the Nets have been residents for 12 tumultuous years now, pretty much the entirety of the time I have been an avid fan. What will make me happy as a fan now is not another playoff appearance and early exit, but rather a fresh start and a complete overhaul. Maybe then, the Nets will be more than nothing.