The Brooklyn Nets
are like a concert by your favorite old artists.
I have been lucky enough to catch nearly all of the important hip-hop and soul artists of my generation either in their prime or before anyone has ever heard of them. There was D'Angelo at Constitution Hall in D.C. in 2000. I saw Lauryn Hill at the height of Miseducation of Lauryn Hill with Outkast opening up. I saw the pre-Fallon Roots multiple times and De La Soul at a bizarre free show in East St. Louis, Illinois near the turn of the millennium. The problem is not all of my favorite bands and artists are around my age. For these older artists, I know that I may have to sacrifice some overall quality and settle for moments and nostalgia when I see them live. I know that in most cases the group that I see on stage is about twenty to thirty years removed from their classic or original line up. This is the same with the Brooklyn Nets of the past two years.
There are NBA Players that are in their mid to late 30s that I want to see before they retire. There are old artists and bands that I want to see before they pass away or keel over on stage. Last year, I purchased tickets to see the Brooklyn Nets because four intriguing players -- Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and Andrei Kirilenko were on their roster. I had never seen Garnett, Pierce, and Terry in person, and I caught Kirilenko during one of his lost Jazz years and don't remember much how he played that night. It was a bad sign when the first Nets players to come out for pregame warm ups were Tornike Shengelia and Mirza Teletovic. If I recall correctly, it was a SEGABABA, and Pierce and Garnett were either in Malibu or getting an early start in the VIP room at some lounge in LA. Kirilenko was inactive. Jason Terry played, but he looked like a shell of the Championship Jason Terry in 2011. His shot still look amazing though. If I was to be an NBA Player, I would want to be Jason Terry, an undersized combo guard with an elite shot that is the equalizer.
Last year's Nets tried to replicate the Dukes of September, which featured Boz Scaggs, Donald Fagen, and Michael McDonald and toured in 2010 and 2012. I figured I could hear all my favorite Steely Dan songs, plus the Boz Scaggs classics, and the two to three Michael McDonald songs everybody knows and loves in one concert. I caught them at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas and walked in on "Sweet Freedom." The concert worked. I heard all my favorites, "Peg," "Lowdown," "I Keep Forgetting," "What a Fool Believes," and the modern soul gem, "Miss Sun." I love Steely Dan, but I am not sure if Fagen's voice could carry a whole concert. After a few songs, Boz Scaggs looked like he rather be back home in his vineyard and I am not going to pay money to hear Michael McDonald rehash Motown songs that I am lukewarm about anyway. But the three of them together, it sounded great and no one had to do the heavy lifting. Last year's Nets tried this approach, but basketball is different from music. You need someone to do the heavy lifting. The Nets had great closers in Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson. They have a great spiritual leader/chemistry guy in Garnett. They just did not have the player you need to do the heavy lifting. Deron Williams was this guy in Utah. In Brooklyn, he became an overpaid light skin version of Jarrett Jack, so much so that Jack is starting over him. Like old artists, the Nets were still great in moments and they won a playoff series on experience. But unlike the Dukes of September who put on a great show, the Nets were mediocre and unmemorable.
This year's Brooklyn Nets are like Cameo circa 2010 'till now. If you ever see Cameo, you will still hear "Word Up," "Candy," and some of their classics but it feels like Larry Blackmon's cash cow is simply going through the motions. Blackmon comes in and out of Cameo's sets. He literally runs off and on stage, talks a lot and sings (in his trademark voice) in about half of their songs. Besides Blackmon, I think there was only one other original member. Kevin Garnett is Larry Blackmon. He plays about 18 to 25 minutes a game, and will occasionally take games off. But his trademark scowl, snarl and agitating fake tough guy act is what you associate with the Brooklyn Nets. Even with Blackmon's weird act, the 2010's version of Cameo still sounded good and professional. (Plus, they did a rare album cut, "I've Got Your Image," that spoke to the music nerd in me.) The Brooklyn Nets are also professional and with players like Joe Johnson on the team, they will win games and probably make the Playoffs. There will be moments where they will play great basketball, but watching them, a part of you will wish that you caught Kevin Garnett in his prime and saw the Utah version of Deron Williams.
Some old teams like the Spurs age well. There are some players like Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan, and Kyle Korver who will play great until they are 42. Similarly, some artists just sound great even when they are old, balding, or gray. Christopher Cross's high tenor and well-written songs will sound amazing until he is 75. Frankie Beverly and Maze will still have that jazzy soul and secular church revival appeal until Beverly needs a wheelchair. Unfortunately for Garnett, the wheels have fallen off and this version of his Brooklyn Nets team filled with Euros, veterans, D League stars, and a Plumlee is uninspiring. Sometimes, it will never be the same.
Nets' Watchability Essay
I contemplated selling my 100 level tickets for this game because the Nets are that bland. However, I have not been to Staples in a while and decided to keep the tickets. Once they moved out of New Jersey, the Nets were supposed to be the "cool" team. They have the classic black and white logo and uniforms. They have the cool Russian playboy billionaire owner, at least for the next few months. Jay Z and Beyonce sat courtside. They are in Brooklyn, which is the place where cool people who do not consider weather or housing cost live. The Nets are about as cool as Lawrence Welk or Bob Hope in the late 1990s. The on court product have not matched the preceding hype and celebrity sightings. I went to the Nets game last year, and it was one of the worse close games of the year. The most exciting thing for me was watching Jason Terry and Joe Johnson shoot during the pre-game warm ups. (Those guys can shoot.) This year, I am going to watch the career ending version of Kevin Garnett, if he does not take the night off, and a bunch of professionals mixed in with guys that most avid fans would not even recognize. The team relies on Joe Johnson isolations, and Jarrett Jack to be Jarrett Jack, which is run the offense professionally and take a bunch of 17 to 20 foot jump shots when all else fails. I will watch Mirza "MT33" Teletovic shoot threes, observe Garnett's picks and scowls and wonder how Alan Anderson managed to stay in the NBA. I cannot believe I am saying this, but (besides seeing in person how the Clippers' defense and offense have progressed since November), I am actually going to this game to watch Austin Rivers.
Paul Tee's Prognosis
The Nets are currently in NBA purgatory. They are good enough to get into the Eastern Conference Playoff Bracket, but not good enough to go any further. Mikhail Prokhorov, their owner, has decided that this is not fun anymore and put the team on the market. The front office seemed to want to rebuild, since they are shopping Brook Lopez. But Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are still on the roster, along with useful veteran, Jarrett Jack. And they have very few draft picks in the next few years, thanks to the genius that is Billy King. These Duke guys always seem to have jobs. As long as the Nets have this weird mix of very good veterans and guys who probably should be in Liga ACB, the Nets will be a sure bet for the 7th or 8th seed in the Eastern Conference for years to come. Then again, with the lack of draft picks, they really do not have a choice, even though as a fan, it would be great to see Joe Johnson chase rings with other teams as he continues to slowly reach the downside of his career. The Nets might be the pre-Budenholzer Atlanta Hawks without anyone entertaining like Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford.