Even as the Brooklyn Nets crumble in front of our eyes, the team would be wise to stay in the moment.
One look into basketball's history books could paint a disastrous picture of what lies ahead.
The 2013-14 Nets are a mirror image of the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Only this mirror also features a sound system regurgitating the same audio clips that echoed throughout L.A. last season.
The plus-sized paychecks, preseason dreams and regular-season nightmares are identical. Coaches are being questioned, stars are fading and training tables are overloaded once again.
The Lakers could never match on-court product to on-paper talent. Brooklyn, by all accounts, is quickly heading toward a similar fate.
No matter how frightening the sights and sounds have gotten in Brooklyn, they're most chilling for the eerie familiarity that they bring the basketball world.
The Nets were built to be a defensive power.
Pairing Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez was supposed to wall off the basket. Deron Williams had the athleticism to keep pace with track-star point guards, and Andrei Kirilenko was brought in to plug any defensive leaks along the perimeter.
None of that has gone according to plan.
Lopez (ankle), Kirilenko (back) and Williams can't stay on the floor. Garnett's finally started to act his age:
Garnett can barely run...look at him trying to get that deflected ball geez— Greg Hrinya (@GHrinyaNets) November 21, 2013
Not only has the team failed to meet defensive expectations, it has quickly become one of the league's worst units.
The Nets rank 26th in defensive rating (104.9), but diving deeper into the numbers shows just how helpless this defense is. Brooklyn is the worst team in the league defending pick-and-roll ball-handlers (0.93 points per possession), 27th against spot-up shooters (1.06) and 23rd versus gunners coming off screens (0.97), via SynergySports (subscription required).
What do all these elements have in common? They take effort, energy and youthful athleticism—all three notable omissions from this roster.
A date with these Nets has become a free pass to pad the stat sheet.
The Lakers were built for the opposite side of the floor.
It was meant to be a pick-your-poison system. With four future Hall of Famers (Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard) sharing the floor, there wasn't supposed to be a right answer for the defense.
Yet any method of defensive attack turned out to be a good one. Mike D'Antoni never figured out how to use his frontcourt. Gasol (13.7 points, 46.6 percent shooting) paid the biggest price for the coaching gaffe. Nash lost touches and eventually his effectiveness.
Howard (10.7 field-goal attempts per game) was a forgotten piece of the offense. The chances he did find were blown at the free-throw line.
Bryant poured everything he had into saving the offense until his body had nothing left. He closed out his season with seven straight games of 40-plus minutes, before a torn Achilles abruptly ended his campaign.
The Lakers' vaunted offense, just like this once-heralded Nets defense, never materialized on the hardwood. L.A. (105.6 points per 100 possessions) didn't quite share Brooklyn's struggles, but it's strength never outweighed its weakness.
D'Antoni's team was a predictable mess on defense (103.6 points allowed per 100 trips). The Lakers looked old, slow and often disinterested in that end of the floor.
Those descriptors could all be extended to this Brooklyn offense (99.6 offensive rating). Lopez, when healthy, has been reliable on that end (20.5 points, 57.4 percent shooting). It's impossible to place that label on any of his teammates, putting a glaring gap in this team's attack:
The Nets are making Mason Plumlee the focal point of their offense right now.— devin kharpertian (@uuords) November 10, 2013
Mason Plumlee is Brooklyn's Earl Clark, almost a desperation heave with time left on the clock. Lopez's ankle is playing the role of Howard's back. Williams' ankle feels like Nash's, well, everything.
Maybe the Nets realize how similar they are to those Lakers. It would explain the striking similarities in their sound clips.
The Nets have played 11 games this season. More than 86 percent of their schedule still remains.
Far too early to panic, right? Wrong.
Desperation, huh? Urgency even? All in the middle of November?
Seems a bit extreme, doesn't it? Well, no, actually. Not when you remember how quickly Bryant sounded the alarm last season.
"We're hitting the panic button now," Bryant said, via Hoopsworld.com's Alex Kennedy, just three games into the 2012-13 campaign. "That's what we're supposed to do...We got to push at it."
Ah, of course. The classic shroud of confidence in the face of adversity.
Strange, but I feel like we've also heard this from Brooklyn's camp.
"We're not panicking," Williams said after his team dropped to 2-4 this season, via BrooklynNets.com's Lenn Robbins. "We know it's going to come together."
What exactly leads Williams to this conclusion? Surely not his own play. He's shooting just 40.5 percent from the field and averaging 4.0 turnovers per 36 minutes.
Wait, I know what it is.
It must have been that time last December when D'Antoni spoke on the way his team could "come together," via Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. You know, right after the Lakers had sputtered through a 1-4 stretch.
Those white flags you see waving in Brooklyn? Purchased on clearance this summer in L.A.
Same Story, Different Ending?
Hard to say if that would be a good thing for Brooklyn. I mean, the Lakers did manage to make the postseason at least.
Those recycled cliches do hold a bit of truth, though. It is incredibly early in the season. The Nets do have time on their side.
Will the Nets fare any better than the Lakers did last season?
But they don't have history in their corner. Not with the way things unfolded for the Lakers last season; not with so many problematic parallels already surfacing.
So, how long will this storyline continue? Still too early to tell.
You'd like to think the Nets can get healthy and rebound from this sluggish start. But all teams have injury risks, and Laker fans can testify to the fact that those risks are heightened on an aging team.
Perhaps most damning, though, is the way Jason Kidd has closely resembled D'Antoni. Kidd doesn't look like he knows to handle his roster; he coaches like someone without a coaching background.
A surrender at this point would still be premature. But those "it's early" excuses already sound a bit old, don't they?