There’s no time to feel sorry for the Brooklyn Nets. This is the hand they’ve been dealt and the only option on the board is to play it out until the very last card.
They know it, their fans know it, the entire NBA knows it. It’s going to hurt a lot more before it can begin to feel better again around the Barclays Center.
In case a reminder of this reality was necessary, the Nets served one up Thursday night for us on their home court with a 117-101 loss to the almighty Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors, playing without Draymond Green but still well-stocked with three more All-Stars in Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson, fell behind to the Nets in the first half by 16 points. This, however, was the lone highlight for Brooklyn because the Warriors came alive in the second half and reminded everyone why they’re one of the best in the league and the Nets are what they are.
Yes, there were the turnovers which plagued the Nets again, 26 of them which led to 32 Golden State points. The dreaded third quarter blues also showed up again, the defending Western Conference champions outscored Brooklyn 39-19 in the quarter.
“They turned up the defensive intensity, turned up the energy, and were really aggressive on the defensive end,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson afterwards of the Warriors. “We have to do a better job protecting the ball. That was the story.”
No, that’s not quite all. The story for the Nets this year is a little more deeper than that. It’s not just that the Nets need to do a better job protecting the ball, or that they must play better in the third quarter. It’s the reality that they’re not very good.
Jeremy Lin is just now returning from his hamstring injury, he’s only played ten games this season and had to chase Curry and Thompson all over the court. The Nets were hoping Lin would be the engine behind Atkinson’s motion offense, but until Lin gets his legs all the way back under him, the Nets are still a motion offense with a gaping hole at the point guard position.
Maybe, just maybe, that will be when the Nets figure out how to keep Brook Lopez fully engaged on offense for four quarters. The big man finished with 28 points against the Warriors, but just five of those came after halftime.
This team’s inability to consistently put four quarters of winning basketball together this season stems from a roster lacking talent, while long on effort but short on resources.
There will be nights where the player development, which has been strongly stressed this season, will show encouraging signs. There will also be more nights, such as this one against a far more superior Golden State team, where all the player development in the world won’t overcome the skill set and star power of their opponents.
Atkinson, along with general manager Sean Marks, are rebuilding this franchise. It’s important, however, to remember they’re also installing a new foundation to build off of.
Every team, including the Warriors have had to go through the bumps and bruises before being receiving a winning hand to play with. The Nets, now at 7-21 on the season while heading to Cleveland next to face LeBron James and the defending champions, are no different.