Advertisement
Sports

The Brooklyn Nets Are a Team About Nothing

As Kevin Garnett brays against, well, everything, the Nets are becoming a glitzy production with zero substance to back up all that glamour.

by Colin McGowan
Dec 10 2014, 2:15pm

Photo by Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Garnett is not shutting up. Not now, not ever. When the Sun swallows the Earth, Garnett will be there, mean-mugging the dying star, clapping his hands, and calling it a pussy motherfucker. Then he will wait for his teammates to intervene.

This arch-pugnaciousness had its charm when KG was balling in Minnesota and winning and challenging for championships in Boston. It has always been bullshit theater, but for much of his career, it spoke to his intensity and competitiveness, which helped make him the best defensive player of his generation. If he needed to yap himself into a headspace that allowed him to fly across the lane like an angry kite, so be it. In the after-after-glow of Garnett's apex, his aggro outbursts speak to nothing so much as the way zeal can curdle into crankiness. Garnett is now talking smack for the sake of it, sourly running out the clock on a contract that has dragged on a couple years too long. He is doing this in Brooklyn, where charm goes to die.

Read More: Kevin Love Is Lost

If the Nets were a band, they would be a fog machine. If they were a movie, they'd be the cash-grab sequel to that movie. Mikhail Prokhorov is a man of only the grandest ambition, but in trying to create a league-dominating, globe-conquering megabrand, he skipped over the part where he should have assembled a good or interesting basketball team. There are so many players in the NBA who are fun or strange or otherwise worthy of our fascination, and yet: The Nets are employing a starting lineup of Deron Williams, Bojan Bogdanović, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez (when he's healthy). Three of those guys are on the trading block. One is the sports world's second-most compelling Bojan. One is an aging professional asshole—it's what he does on the court as a matter of course.

The team cries out for Jason Kidd, who is growing more inventive by the game in Milwaukee, where he's playing paterfamilias and teaching a young and incongruous squad how to make beautiful basketball together. It's unclear whether Kidd was run out of Brooklyn or if he ran himself out—no one involved in that breakup lacks for ego, so either is plausible—but what matters is that he took his rough-diamond coaching genius with him. He has been replaced by Lionel Hollins, a fine tactician who lacks the imagination to wring anything remarkable out of the beige roster that's been handed to him. Hollins is old-mannish, in ways both good and bad. You get the idea he looked at the depth chart upon being given the job and exclaimed, "What in the hell is a Mirza Teletovic?"

In the post-Kidd era, the Nets are without a core. They have nothing around which to revolve, and so they are defined by a perma-spectacle that tries to hide the nothingness at their center. Having Prince William and Kate Middleton drop by the Barclays Center is a very #Nets thing to do. It is even more #Nets to get rolled by the Cavaliers on the night of the royal visit, and to treat that rolling as an afterthought. Behold: a photo gallery entitled "A Grand Royal Night in Brooklyn." Shield your eyes, peasants, for the star-power is abundant!

The Nets' continued use of the ol' sound and fury method makes everything all the more disheartening because sports should not feel bloodless, like something cut out of a luxury lifestyle magazine. There is a lot of pap and blather around sports—truck commercials and cynical hashtags and replays brought to you by Allstate—but the games themselves are largely great. They are the only reason we put up with everything else. Our butts are on couches and in arena seats because we want to be stimulated emotionally or intellectually, and to be occasionally assaulted by awe.

The Nets—the group of players itself—can't provide much of any of that, and so to watch one of their games is to be subjected to substanceless, distracting pageantry. Maybe Kevin Garnett can be excused for aging ungracefully. Wouldn't you be ornery, too, trapped on a miserable team made up to look like a party?