“You can take the Nets out of New Jersey, but can you take New Jersey out of the Nets?” is a question WFAN’s Steve Somers is fond of asking. It’s a good question.
There are a few things we’ve learned so far about the Brooklyn Nets this inaugural season, but the answer to Mr. Somers’ query is not one of them. After two games, this group looks a little bit like the same old Jersey devil.
The over-hyped Nets eked out a final minute seven-point win against the Toronto Raptors in their home opener.
Two days later, in typical New Jersey fashion, they let a 22-point third quarter lead slip away to Minnesota. The injury-depleted Timberwolves limped away with an 11-point win.
The Nets are lucky they didn’t have to face the scorching-hot New York Knicks in that postponed first game of the season, too.
Now, they travel to Florida for a meeting with the Miami Heat and the surprisingly potent Orlando Magic.
Already Brooklyn could wind up starting the year 1-4, or 2-3 at best.
So, are they still the New Jersey Nets, but in Brooklyn clothing? Time will tell.
There are some things, however, that appear to be the naked truth...
The New Jersey Nets were an NBA laughing stock for much of their history, and in particular the past five years. The fans stayed away in droves, even when the team was good.
How poor a fanbase was New Jersey’s?
Making the postseason from 2001-02 through 2006-07, and the Finals those first two years, could not lift the Nets’ home attendance from one of the worst in the league. Over the first 10 years of the decade (2001-02 through 2010-11), the Nets, according to sportslistoftheday.com, had the fourth lowest total attendance in the NBA.
Poor showings prompted pundits like the mouthofthemidwest to ask “Are 1,000 people considered a crowd?”
Well, attendance has grown in Brooklyn.
ESPN asked coach Avery Johnson about the crowd,
"Let's just start with the fact that we're in Brooklyn now and it's a big difference," Johnson said. "You saw the crowd tonight, even under the circumstances. Not only did we have a sellout, they were into the game."
“They were into the game?” Ouch, New Jersey.
Returning center Brook Lopez is rocking the boards and scoring buckets. He’s got 40 points (including 27 against the Raptors) and 14 boards in two games.
Last season, injuries cut his season to five games in total.
You have to believe if Lopez keeps this up and stays healthy, the Brooklyn Nets will be adding a good 10 wins at least to their bottom line over last year’s record.
Lopez is a serious pro center. He’ll lead the team in blocks, too. And he has respectable career numbers: 17.5 PPG, 7.5 RBG, 1.7 BPG.
The big knock on Lopez is two things: Poor field-goal percentage and bad rebounding.
But he’s off to a 20 PPG average and, per Newsday, ”expects more of himself in [the] rebounding department.”
Before the season had even begun, there were whispers about backup point guard C.J. Watson.
Examiner.com saw him as, “the most important Net no one is talking about...Call him an unsung hero, a sixth man, a darkhorse, or any other euphemism, Watson could end the season as savior.”
And Watson’s starting the season strong too, muscling MarShon Brooks out of the way for that “sixth man” title with more minutes and points.
He’s got five three-pointers already, too, which is most on the team.
To be fair, it’s very early. But two games in, the Nets are dead last in average rebounds, as usual.
They finished 28th last season without Brook Lopez. Now with Lopez back, things are worse?
Don’t blame Brook (14), or backup forward Reggie Evans (15). Admittedly, they could do a tad better.
Kris Humphries, though...what happened? He’s working the boards at less than 50 percent off his regular rate.
And the rest of the roster needs to jump a little higher. Andray Blatche follows those three Nets above as the next best rebounder on the team with seven. Who?
Maybe that four-year, $40 million contract wasn’t such a hasty idea.
Gerald Wallace doesn't score, rebound or assist with the best of them, but he does balance all three together at an above average level. He can bring up the ball and run the floor, too, if necessary.
And Wallace may actually be the best defender on the Nets' starting five. He is still quick for sure, and he plays a mean D, stealing and even tearing down some boards at 6'7".
The New York Times says:
Gerald Wallace is still the most intriguing element in the Nets’ chemical composition, a free radical with the power to shape their still-evolving identity. Wallace is the Nets’ hustle, their strength, their grit and their versatility. He can guard three positions and anchor a small lineup.
And look what happened when he was out of the lineup against the Timberwolves: Brooklyn lost.