Bock’s Score: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, But The Nets?

Literature gave us “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.’’ The NBA gave Brooklyn a basketball team that belongs in the Developmental League

The Brooklyn Nets reached the halfway point in the NBA season at 8-33, the worst record in the NBA. They had lost 11 straight at that point and had managed to win exactly one game on the road. By accident, teams win more than one road game in half a season.

They were last in the league in points allowed per game and last in point differential. Night after night, they seemed to find new and interesting ways to lose. Rooting for the Nets can be downright depressing.

But wait. There is hope. Like baseball, football and hockey, the NBA has this thing called the player draft, a path to respectability for teams that are struggling. A hotshot coming out of college can change the fortune of a have-not team in a hurry.

The problem for the Nets is they don’t get to draft very often. This is because on July 12, 2013, general manager Billy King mortgaged the team’s future in a trade with the Boston Celtics. The Nets received Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, both in the twilight of great NBA careers, and Jason Terry and D.J. White, both meandering their way through mediocre NBA careers.

 In exchange, Brooklyn sent four players to Boston, the most prominent being Kris Humphries, whose claim to fame was being married for about a minute and a half to Kim Kardashian. More importantly, the Celtics received the Nets’ first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 as well as the right to swap places with Brooklyn in 2017.

The quick fix produced a trip to the second round of the playoffs for the Nets that season and after that a spiral into the oblivion in which the team now finds itself.

With the Nets’ picks in 2014 and 2016, the Celtics chose James Young out of Kentucky and Jaylen Brown from California. Both remain with a young, improving team. Boston will happily exercise their draft swap rights with the woebegone Nets next June for a lottery pick. And, oh, yes, the Celtics also own the Nets first-round pick next year, as well. That’s four prominent draft spots gone for a team in desperate need of help.

Somehow, the Celtics let the Nets keep their 2015 first round choice and with the 29th pick, Brooklyn chose Chris McCullough, whose college career at Syracuse lasted 16 games before he tore an ACL. He was not exactly ready to provide any immediate help for the Nets and has spent most of his time shuttling between Brooklyn and the team’s  D-League affiliate.

Pierce and Garnett are long gone from the Nets. Jason Terry did not make it through a season in Brooklyn before resuming his vagabond tour of the NBA. White never played a game for the Nets. The roster has been a revolving door of players coming and going. The major off-season move was bringing in point guard Jeremy Lin, who lit up New York when he played for the Knicks in 2011 before setting out on his own tour of the NBA with stops in Houston, Los Angeles and Charlotte. He turned out to have a weak hamstring that made him available for just 12 of the team’s first 41 games.

Since moving to Brooklyn in 2012, the Nets have been through six coaches – Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, Tony Brown and now Kenny Atkinson

 And, oh yes, Billy King doesn’t work here anymore, either.

At the moment, Atkinson is preaching patience, promising better days ahead. Hope is what the Nets are selling these days. Wins, however, are a bit more complicated.

Is there any chance this franchise can recover anytime soon? In the lexicon of its home borough: Fuhgeddaboudit!!

 

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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