What do these three numbers have in common?
1976, 07102, 11217.
They represent the past, present and future of the New Jersey Nets. But the real question, the one every Nets fan wants answered is—can the future conger up memories and results of the past?
Sadly for Nets fans, the answer is no. At least not anytime soon.
The Nets haven’t won a championship since 1976 and certainly aren’t going to win one in their last season in New Jersey and the 07102 (Newark’s zip code). They’re in the basement of the Eastern Conference with no chance of emerging, playing with a walking-wounded roster that doesn’t even want to suit up in New Jersey anymore.
(Did you hear Deron Williams’ comments about the Prudential Center in Newark? He said: “I don’t like this arena one bit,” and “it’s a good thing it’s not our arena next year.” Wow, that’s harsh).
Even though the reality has set in that this team is going to struggle to crack 20-wins (maybe even 15), there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that hope rests in the final number: 11217.
That’s the zip code where the Nets will play next year, in the Barclay’s Center, in the Northwestern part of Brooklyn, just below the lower tip of Manhattan, in an area called Fort Greene Place, NY.
The Nets are banking that the new arena, the new location and the new zip code will return them to the glory days. The days when Julius Erving led them to the ABA title in 1976 or more recently when Jason Kidd was running the show, leading the Nets to back-to-back NBA finals appearances—where they were promptly dismantled by the Shaq-era Lakers and the yawn-era Spurs.
Will the Nets be better when they move to Brooklyn?
Just think of the two players mentioned above and you’ll get where this is going. One is a Hall of Famer and the other is a surefire Hall of Famer who just won an NBA title with the Mavericks. These are two transcendent, once-in-a-generation players who will no doubt be talked about as long as there is basketball.
Think the Nets have a transcendent player on their roster now? I don’t.
Deron Williams is the closest thing they have to a superstar (he was just named to the All-Star team), and while he can run the floor, find open players, score 20 a night, and play half-decent defense, I don’t think he’s transcendent, I don’t think he’s a future Hall of Famer and I don’t think he’s going to lead the Nets to a NBA championship anytime soon.
Sure, he took Utah to the playoffs four times.
And yes, the Jazz made it to the conference finals in 2007 with him at the point.
But he hasn’t brought a team to the finals, he hasn’t won a title and he hasn’t been able to change the losing culture surrounding the Nets since he arrived last year. In fact, he might have perpetuated it this year with his comments about the home arena.
Of course we cant put this all on D-Will, and I wouldn’t presume to. But there in lies the problem. The Nets don’t have anyone else to put this on.
Their starting center (and starting negotiating piece in the Dwight Howard trade talks), Brook Lopez, hasn’t played this year because of a broken foot, their potential-star rookie, MarShon Brooks, has missed 10 games, Damion James and Keith Bogans are done for the year and a bunch of other B-level players have been out too. That’s led to an absurd amount of different starting lineups (14 last I checked) for the basement-dwellers from Jersey.
Do you think that will all turn around in a year? Two years? Three years?
Maybe they can if they trade for or sign a player like Howard, who transcends his generation as the best big man in the game. But if they keep the roster they have, if they don’t make some big unforeseen move in the offseason to get a superstar player, nothing can help them win next year.
Not even a change of zip codes.