Opening night wasn’t anywhere near what the Brooklyn Nets were hoping for. Poor defense and turnovers were two major reasons for their 140-131 loss to the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
If allowing Indiana to score 140 points in regulation wasn’t bad enough, the Nets also lost Jeremy Lin along the way. With 4:53 left in the fourth quarter, Lin was driving to the basket when he left his feet to attempt a layup. He landed awkwardly and immediately grabbed for his right knee.
The sound of Lin hitting the floor was something I don’t believe will ever fade from my memory. Neither will the look on his face as he went from disbelief to sudden pain, all in the span of five seconds.
The turnovers and “complete breakdown on defense”, as Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson put it afterwards, can be fixed. But a major injury to a key player is a body blow to a team’s season. Just ask the Boston Celtics.
On Thursday morning, the speculation turned into another cruel reality check for the Nets. The team announced Lin suffered a ruptured right patella tendon. His second season in Brooklyn is likely over, the look on his face as he grabbed his knee told us he knew right away.
“We feel awful the injury will cost him the season, however, our entire organization will be there to support Jeremy in every way possible throughout his recovery,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement.
Lin deserved better. He chose to come play for the Nets, knowing they were about to begin a major rebuild. His hamstring only allowed him to play 36 games last season, but it was clear how better the Nets were with him on the court instead of in street clothes limited to moral support.
This season was supposed to be different. Leading up to opening night, Atkinson talked up his excitement for seeing a healthy and reloaded team take the next step forward.
They’ll have to take that next step without Lin, his season comes to an end after only 25 minutes.
Unlike last year, the Nets have the depth to absorb some of the blow from losing Lin. New faces D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, and DeMarre Carroll all have to step their games up to help offset losing Lin’s leadership.
Russell is already off to a fast start, his 30 points against Indiana was a glimpse into what could be Brooklyn’s future.
Crabbe could end up as Lin’s replacement in the starting lineup, he’s certainly making the money to justify starting him. The Nets signed him to a $75 million contract via an offer sheet matched last year by Portland.
While on one hand the Nets will need to figure out who’s their new starter in the backcourt, on the other this is a team tasked with the challenge of moving forward without its primary leader.
Lin was supposed to help the Nets find their way, but for a second straight season all he can do is watch.