Hey, all. My name is John. I normally write about the Chargers. I also don't normally write FanPosts, but tonight I'm drinking and trying to pretend the loss to the Bobcats didn't happen and I want to share my own personal revelation with the world. You might want to find a comfy place to sit, because I tend to ramble.
First, a little background. I grew up in New Jersey as a fan of the Nets. I had a Derrick Coleman jersey, a Kenny Anderson poster on my wall, and I cried the day that Drazen Petrovic died. I thought I could never love another sports team as much as the Nets. Then my family moved to sunny San Diego and following the day-to-day goings on of a terrible team that played most of its games at 4pm PT seemed like too big of a hassle. Kids don't much care for responsibility to a sports franchise.
After the Nets eventually moved to Brooklyn, and I had gotten old enough to realize what a scumbag Jason Kidd was, I stopped rooting for the team. It was easy, because in the years since moving to southern California, I had started to become a fan of the Clippers. Why? Well, they were often a part of my local cable TV package and because f!@& the Lakers. That's why.
I went to the occasional game and wowed at the athleticism of Darius Miles and Corey Maggette. I was around for space alien Sam Cassell dragging the Clippers to the playoffs, which he had done with the Nets a few years earlier. I thought Shaun Livingston was going to be my favorite player ever before he got knee-capped. I rooted hard for Lamar Odom throughout his entire career, which I am now assuming is over.
You get the idea. I'm on board. I'm a Clippers fan. The Nets are dead to me, but there was a time when they weren't.
Are we good on background now? Okay, because now we need to travel back to those years when I was holding onto my Nets ties and before I was ready to give myself over to Donald Sterling.
Travel back to the offseason between the 2000-2001 playoffs and the start of the 2001-2002 NBA season. That's when it happened.
Phoenix Suns guard Jason Kidd got in trouble with the law for beating up his pregnant wife (which we should've seen coming), and the perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer was headed to the Nets in a swap for Stephon Marbury, who had led the Nets to a 26-56 record the year before as the team's centerpiece. It was a gift from God. As long as the Nets were willing to look the other way when it came to their morals, the franchise was saved! It was a trade that should've never happened, but somehow did. It was time to party.
In his first season with the team, Kidd transformed them. The team record jumped up to 52-30 in his first year (which was also Byron Scott's second year), the best record in the Eastern Conference, and rode this stallion all the way to the NBA Finals.
Do you see where I'm going with this yet? If so, I'm sorry. If not, I'm really sorry.
The Nets team, which had been searching for an identity and didn't seem to have much talent, got lucky in landing Kidd and then transformed to highlight strengths and hide weaknesses. They ran and ran and ran some more. Opposing teams lived in fear of missing shots or turning the ball over, for fear of giving up an easy 2 points the other way. In addition, the Nets played really good defense. All of this masked their lack of playmakers in the halfcourt offense.
The Clippers, who had been searching for an identity before Chris Paul showed up, got lucky in landing Paull and then transformed to highlight strengths and hide weaknesses. Those who can shoot, shoot. Those who can't, dunk. It's all based around running at every opportunity, and trying to catch defenses off-guard with alley-oops before they know what is happening. All of this masks a lack of playmakers in the halfcourt offense.
Both teams and the culture around them improved the second a future Hall of Fame PG showed up and took over. Both teams were transformed from laughing stocks into perennial powerhouses overnight.
The Athletic Freak PF
Think Blake Griffin is one of a kind? You must have missed Kenyon Martin before his knees went bad.
Kidd's first year with the Nets happened to be Martin's second year in the league. His potential showed up in flashes before Kidd's arrival, and was on full-display in the transition game once Kidd realized that Martin could catch any lob and turn it into a highlight-reel, game-changing drunk. Sound familiar?
The Defensive Menace
I would pay actual money to see a competition between Richard Jefferson and Matt Barnes to determine who could play better on-the-ball defense. This should tell you two things. One, I am terrible with making financial decisions. Two, I don't get out much.
That being said, these players were incredibly similar. The differences lie in their age (Jefferson was drafted by the Nets and inserted into the starting lineup) and in their usage (Barnes coming off the bench). Both were good, but not great, 3-point shooters. Both could drive and finish enough to make defenses respect it. Both were defensive terrors that could all but shutdown even the best players in the league.
The Shooter (Only)
Kerry Kittles had a hard time finding a home in the NBA before or after the Kidd-era Nets. The guy was perfectly suited for his role on Kidd's team, which gave him plenty of wide open 3-point shots in the fastbreak offense and asked him to play tough defense and have active hands. He couldn't really do much more than that, and he also had a hard time staying healthy.
I'm not going to compare Kittles to J.J. Reddick, because Reddick has a more complete game than that. He'd be a good comparison for Jared Dudley, except that Dudley has a bit more to his game than that and is also a bit bigger. I'll compare Kittles to Randy Foye, or maybe even Willie Green. Is that fair?
(Bonus points here if you care to compare Dudley to Keith Van Horn.)
The Interior Defender
Jason Collins, yes that Jason Collins, acted as a Center for a Nets team that made it to back-to-back NBA Finals in Kidd's first two years in New Jersey. He wasn't much of an offensive player, averaging about 6 points per game on put-backs, but his defense is why he was kept out there. His 3.0 Defensive Win Share and 4.7 total Win Share figures from 2002-2003 look awfully similar to the numbers that DeAndre Jordan has put up in recent seasons before breaking out in the first half of this year.
So, why are we here?
Why am I sharing all of this information with you? I don't know. I suppose because I'm having fun with the comparisons (both coaches were ex-players know for their defense!) and thought others might too. Also, the same things that always worried me about the Nets (lack of playmakers in the halfcourt offense; a reliance on the PG to move the ball) have now worried me about the Clippers in the last two seasons.
For the Nets, they were able to make the finals for two years because the East was so terrible, and their reward was getting blown out by the Lakers (filled with halfcourt playmakers) and the Spurs (who can move the ball without relying on the PG).
At this point, this comparison means nothing. We're locked in for the ride. Although I suppose I can take solace in the fact that J.J. Reddick seems like he could very well be the piece the Clippers, and those old Nets teams, have been missing in the playoffs.
There. Rant over. Now let us never compare CP3 to Jason Kidd ever again.