Sports

Nets’ Brooklyn Tenure Mired by Headaches and Heartaches

Julius Randle of the New York Knicks drives against Royce O’Neale of the Brooklyn Nets during their game at Barclays Center on Nov. 9. (Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images)

For 10 years, the Nets have called Brooklyn home.

And for those 10 years, it’s been a whirlwind of frustration, disappointment, and underachievement.

I’m a Brooklyn Nets fan. I’m allowed to say this.

In one of my late March 2021 sports columns, I wrote about how the Nets were poised to bring a professional sports championship title back to the borough of Brooklyn for the first time since the Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series in 1955. The team had just traded for nine-time All- Star James Harden, and everything seemed to be falling into place at the exact right moment.

Yet here we are not even two full years later. Harden is gone, head coach Steve Nash is gone, and the state of the franchise is in shambles. Both on and especially off the court, the Nets have be- come dysfunctional – which is not how you want to operate as a sports franchise in the Big Apple.

When the Nets came to town for the start of the 2012-2013 season, hope was restored that the borough would once again celebrate a championship title. However, in seven trips to the postseason since the move to Kings County, the team has only advanced past the first round of the playoffs twice.

Given the stars this team has had, that’s truly unacceptable. Kevin Durant remains a superstar, yet his supporting cast can’t seem to figure it out. Kyrie Irving makes more headlines off the court than on it, and former top draft pick Ben Simmons is still trying to rediscover the top form of his past.

It’s no wonder why Durant was so vocal this summer about requesting a trade, and he’s probably thinking he should have followed through on those plans. Jacque Vaughn has taken over as head coach following the team’s mutual parting of ways with Nash. As poised as the Nets were for a championship in 2021 is how far away they now seem from a title.

“The Nets themselves are a disappointment,” said John Shea, a 1969 graduate of Bishop Ford H.S., Park Slope, and a retired teacher living in New Jersey. “I’ve had a long history with them. These guys are not liked. I read a column from Bob Raissman of the Daily News, and they’re one of the most disliked teams in the league right now.”

Shea has been a Nets fan since the team’s early days in the American Basketball Association. The St. John’s University, Jamaica, graduate was even a partial season-ticket holder when the Nets played at the Meadowlands.

Since the saga surrounding the team – mainly Irving – has been nonstop this year, Shea has not been as interested. He’s been frustrated seeing the team trade away talented young players over the last few years, including Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, and Caris LeVert.

Brooklyn is used to having a “losing” team. Losing is in quotes here, since the Dodgers won plenty of games to get them to the big stage; they just couldn’t come through when it mattered most. The Nets though haven’t even reached a conference finals in their Brooklyn decade.

“I don’t care about the NBA at this time and am rooting for St. John’s,” said Catholic Youth Organization Hall of Famer Bobby Fristachi, who coached basketball at St. Robert Bellarmine, Bayside, and Our Lady of the Snows, North Floral Park. “It’s really Kyrie that causes all these problems from last year and this year.”

Irving remains a major reason why many Nets fans have yet to be engaged for this season. Deacon Anthony Mammolitti of St. Dominic, Bensonhurst, a former/frustrated New York Knicks fan, converted when the Nets moved to Brooklyn. As the Nets have played slightly better recently, he’s starting to get more interested in this season.

“The big factor is the Kyrie Irving factor,” the deacon said. “How much of a detriment is he going to be to the overall cohesiveness of that team? Let’s hope that the new coach can remind the players of how talented and how important Kyrie is. When he’s on the court, he could be a difference-maker.”

The Eastern Conference is tough, with the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Atlanta Hawks all out to fast starts. The Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Toronto Raptors are all playoff-caliber teams too. Even if the Nets can compete for a playoff spot, realistically the team isn’t strong enough at this point for a deep playoff run.

Fans of “Dem Bums” used to always say “wait till next year” after another World Series loss to the New York Yankees. We’re not even a quarter through the NBA season, and already Nets fans are ready to wait till next year.

As a fan, I hope the narrative around this team changes. When things are clicking, they could be a fun, exciting group of players. Of course, winning an NBA title would be the perfect way to change that narrative.

I’m as optimistic a fan as they come – I get that from being a New York Mets fan – and even I’m ready to wait till next year.

What I really am hoping for though is to be using the hard copy of this Tablet column as ticker tape as the Nets parade down the Canyon of Heroes on Broadway celebrating their 2023 NBA title!


Contact Jim Mancari via email at jmmanc@gmail.com.

Tags:
Share this article with a friend.