The 2013-14 season has been an absolute roller-coaster ride for the Brooklyn Nets.
Injuries, disappointment and a deluge of losses characterized the first quarter of the 82-game season, but the Nets have turned it around since the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. After a 10-21 start, Brooklyn actually looks like a basketball team.
But before Brooklyn peeled off such a screeching U-turn, the team had hit rock bottom. Criticism was mounting, things spiraling out of control and soda was splashing against the floor.
The lowest, and most symbolic, point of the season
It seemed like just another game for the Nets. Yet again, a team that had no business beating Brooklyn was about to do just that.
The Los Angeles Lakers were up 96-94 with slightly over eight seconds to play in the November 27 contest. Kidd’s team was 4-10 at that point, desperately searching for something—anything—that would get everything on the right track.
Jodie Meeks was at the line for the tail end of a pair of free throws, and the Nets were stranded with no timeouts.
Well, that didn’t matter, because wily ol’ J-Kidd introduced his ice-cold Coke to the floor of Barclays Center. A huge break in the action ensued as the mess was cleaned up, and a Nets assistant was able to draw up a play for Paul Pierce to tie the game after Meeks hit the second foul shot.
Pierce’s attempt—an open three-pointer set up by a screen from Kevin Garnett—rimmed out, the Nets lost and their rookie coach got slapped with a $50,000 fine for his conduct.
"Paul [Pierce] got a great look, but the league fined me for something that I probably shouldn't have done," Kidd said, courtesy of ESPN. "We'll move on.”
That moment, one of such desperation and desolation, perfectly encompassed what the first two months of the season were all about for Brooklyn.
Embarrassment, discouragement and, most of all, the bitterness of losing.
Nowhere to go but up
Following the spill incident, Kidd “reassigned” Lawrence Frank, who at that time was his top assistant. And to throw gasoline on the already roaring media fire, the Nets continued to lose.
Brooklyn got stomped by their crosstown rivals, the New York Knicks, on December 5. The 113-83 loss to the equally dreadful Knicks was a telling sign that the Nets were in disarray.
A brief three-game winning streak followed that beatdown, but a subsequent 2-9 stretch dragged BKN back down to the pit of the Atlantic Division.
But on January 2, Joe Johnson buried a cold-blooded jumper at the buzzer to lift Brooklyn over the Thunder. And nearly a week later, LeBron James was walking off the Barclays Center floor having just lost a double-OT thriller.
Maybe the Nets had some life in them after all.
On January 20, Brooklyn squared off against the Knicks for a second time. Having won six of their last seven games, the Nets went into Madison Square Garden and made a statement, soundly throbbing the ‘Bockers by 23 points.
The entire roster was healthier than it was at the beginning of the season, and Kidd was finding his footing on the sideline. BKN was back in business.
As of February 11, the Nets sat three games behind the Toronto Raptors for control of the Atlantic and held the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to a strong January performance.
But in addition to having a deeper roster than anticipated over the summer, the Nets have a strong locker room core.
Here’s what Pierce told Tim Bontemps of the New York Post on January 28:
We’ve never had the finger pointing, we’ve never put the blame on anybody but ourselves. We kept coming to work, kept staying professional because we still believed we’d turn this thing around. The thing is: When you believe and you continue to get through the tough patches, it shows how things can kind of turnaround, and that’s what you see right now.
When backed against the wall, the Nets stuck together and came out swinging. With the way the team has been playing, the possibility of a playoff run has become conceivable.
It hasn’t been a smooth journey by any means, but ugly wins are better than pretty losses. And after such a rough start to the season, an atrocity summed up by Kidd's infamous spill, the Nets are finally looking like the team they were supposed to be.
All stats are accurate as of February 11 courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.