Once a vivrant home of glimmering hope in the eyes of enthusiastic fans and great expectations that served as an escape from their torturous existence in New Jersey, Barclays Center has become a mausoleum for NBA All-Stars and future Hall of Famers.
At least Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry are clocking minutes. They were meant to be Sherpas providing guidance on their title expedition; instead they’ve been forced to drag their star teammates' with them.
Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez were the anchors in Brooklyn. Lopez is the NBA’s most efficient post-up scorer, according to Synergy Sports, when he’s healthy, but Lopez’s health has been fleeting for the past three seasons and he's missing his fifth straight game with a sprained ankle.
Brooklyn’s $190 million combined salary and luxury tax is the biggest waste of cash this side of A-Rod, and $100 million dollar point guard Deron Williams is turning into the Lakers’ Steve Nash a decade early.
It’s hard to believe there was a time when Williams and Chris Paul were battling neck-and-neck with each for the title of the NBA’s best point guard.
Out on the Left Coast, Paul resurrected L.A.’s “other” franchise and is collecting double-doubles at a record-pace. Williams is grave digging in Brooklyn.
Every time Damian Lillard and the Trailblazers get a win, a hardcore Nets fan’s hair thins. In March, it’ll be two years since the Nets swapped their top-three protected 2012 first round pick for Gerald Wallace to keep Williams satisfied before he entered free agency.
That draft pick netted Portland Lillard. Wallace became a trade chip for Pierce, Garnett and Terry. Wallace’s LifeAlert is being monitored in Boston while he chastises the youngins in Boston’s locker room. Williams is rehabbing another ankle injury, but even when he's been healthy, the point guard averages just 6.0 assists and 9.3 points per game.
In a season in which the East’s elite nearly laid down their arms (Derrick Rose going down, Josh Smith leaving Atlanta) and gave up their rations (Jason Terry, KG and Pierce from Boston), the first 13 games have been a funeral procession for the Nets. Their slow, plodding offense certainly moves at a similar pace.
Ultimately, Mikhail Prokhorov’s 2010 Draft Lottery promise of a five-year championship deadline was a death sentence.
These are the same old New Jersey Nets, except they moved 17 miles east and came dressed in black for the funeral. Per NBA rules, they were black on the road, but home contests are what the black clergy would call a homegoing.
This was supposed to be the year Garnett and Pierce ended the Miami Heat’s Big 3 era that they were partly responsible for beginning.
Instead we’re witnessing the denouement of K.G. and Pierce’s careers while they succumb to self-inflicted wounds.
Whether it's their old legs or coaching incompetence, the Nets have been Jekyll and Hyde in the first and second halves. One of the league’s top first half teams is the NBA's worst second-half team.
Recently, NBA.com's John Schuhmann detailed the root of Brooklyn's second-half struggles in painstaking detail.
In the first half, the Nets have been the fourth best defensive rebounding team, grabbing 77 percent of available defensive boards. In the second half, they’ve been the worst defensive rebound team, grabbing just 68 percent.
Again, Garnett’s numbers see a major drop-off, but it’s because he’s been so good in the first half. In fact, he’s the best first-half defensive rebounder in the league, grabbing 38 percent of available defensive boards before halftime. In the second half, he’s merely the fourth best defensive rebounder in the league, grabbing 29 percent of available defensive boards.
PIE is a statistic that measures overall production as a percentage of all the stats accumulated while that player is in the game. Among 210 players who have logged at least 100 minutes in the first half of games, Garnett ranks 15th with a PIE of 16.4 percent. Among 208 players who have logged at least 100 minutes in the second half, Garnett ranks dead last (0.8 percent).
Bonus stat: Kevin Love leads the league with a first-half PIE of 20.6 percent. Paul George leads the league with a second-half PIE of 24.8 percent.
No other player has suffered nearly the drop-off that Garnett has after halftime.
Garnett is hitting 35 percent from the field and Pierce is shooting just 27.7 percent in his past four games, but has been putting good arc on his surreptitious snipes aimed at Jason Kidd. Williams’ special coach-killing skills haven’t been necessary in Brooklyn. His teammates are driving Kidd to the edge of a cliff there is no return from.
Kidd denied Pierce a trip to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003. In Brooklyn, he’s proving old habits die hard.
Early in his coaching career, Kidd’s been paralyzed by obliviousness, a poor understanding of rotations, conflicts with his more experienced assistants and being out-coached after opposing teams make halftime adjustments.
“Right now, the third quarters have really been our Achilles’ heel,” said Pierce. “We gotta do a better job coming out after halftime and being ready and playing with more energy and doing the things necessary to avoid that.”
After Kidd copped to making a mistake by removing his hot subs by going back with the starters recently, Pierce was quick to point fingers. “He’s the coach. He makes those decisions.”
On Saturday night, A Tribe Called Quest played their penultimate show in Barclays. It was a fitting analogy for the Nets do-or-die season. Not everyone can survive this debacle. Kidd’s coaching career could end before it even began, while Pierce and Garnett are on their farewell tour like ATCQ.
Brooklyn’s plot has been found underneath the Eastern Conference standings. It’s just a matter of deciding whether they'll be buried there as a team or sacrifice Kidd for the cause.