It seems unreasonable – unfair, even – that a fan should approach the start of the NBA season with relative apathy. Joy and hope are chief among the emotions the beginning of any season is supposed to elicit, yet my burden is that of the indifference I feel towards the Brooklyn Nets, the team I support above all others in the world of sports.
It is sometimes easy to forget the Nets could belong to Kansas City, Louisville or even Seattle. Bruce Ratner had little choice but to sell a franchise that was hemorrhaging money in New Jersey, and it just happened to work out that a Russian oligarch was interested in both an NBA team and a piece of the New York market. This fact and the lingering newness of Brooklyn are perhaps the organization’s only shields against rampant lethargy among the fan base that hasn’t quite decided what investment to make in the team.
Experts have pegged the Nets to finish somewhere between 6th and 10th in the Eastern Conference. On any given night, the Nets have too many solid players to be bad and not enough difference makers to be good. Even Lionel Hollins, hired to replace the keen to leave Jason Kidd, was brought in not to improve the Nets offense or defense, but to squeeze as much blood from a stone that dates back to a different geological age. Finishing between 6th and 10th in either conference is often called purgatory for teams with somewhere else to go.
The Nets have nowhere else to go.
The problem isn’t that the franchise is directionless; the problem is the franchise is rudderless. The offseason was about maintaining solidity while shedding a few dollars. Looking ahead, there are no assets of significant value on the roster, and any chance of a decent draft pick over the next four years depends on the mutual cooperation between the Nets and this year’s Atlanta Hawks and the 2017 Boston Celtics. The Nets are little more than a ship drifting at sea, relying on the NBA currents swirling around them to chart their course.
Who wants to cheer for the currents of other teams?
Sure, there are narratives to follow — Deron Willliams’ confidence, Brook Lopez’s health, the possibility of this being Kevin Garnett’s last season in a storied career – but those are of the “mildly interesting” variety. It is unlikely anything will happen this year that has a positive or negative impact on the Nets’ chances for success on any scale.
This stance feels shameful and harsh. Should championships be the only measure of success? Maybe fans take for granted the entertainment provided by any team’s simple existence. To whom, and to what, are NBA teams even obligated?
The answer to that last question lives somewhere between “themselves and their fans,” that murky grey area that defines the substance of any relationship. Like any relationship, this one bends, twists and scars as it’s exposed to the elements of time. Some seasons will be good, some seasons will be bad, and some seasons will be so overwhelmingly meh that they hardly deserve the name. Hopefully though, when everyone adds up the totals at the end, it all balances out.
So, I’ll watch every game I can, and I’ll root for what I judge to be the best interests of the team, all the while appreciating the fact the Nets are at least here, in Brooklyn, and not in Kansas City, Louisville or Seattle. I’ll do all this knowing this iteration of the Nets will wash ashore, and be replaced by something different, maybe even something better.
After all, it’s just basketball… unless it isn’t.