In the Nets’ quest for a legitimate scoring and rebounding big man, there have been some real busts throughout the years. Since Jayson Williams left, the Nets have struggled to find a strong rebounder and scorer. To put it bluntly, the Nets’ success has lived and died with their guard play for around ten years.
If you haven’t been a Nets fan for long enough to remember these miserable big men, I’m jealous of you. Not one center they’ve had in 11 years is worth remembering. That might just sound dramatic coming from a currently bitter Nets fan, but sadly it’s true. However, to make my point, I need to dive into the depths of history a little here and bring up the depressing past. If you’re a Nets fan, by the end of this, you’ll be a martyr to crappy centers just like me.
Way back in 1999 the Nets actually had the nerve to start Jim McIlvaine at the center position. He was a 7-1, 240 lb. center who was plain and simply a worthless excuse for an NBA center. He couldn’t rebound, he couldn’t score and he couldn’t take a charge if his career depended on it. Add all that up and what do you get? You get a short stint in the league and a career 2.7 PPG and 3.1 RPG. Thanks for your service Jim!
They responded by acquiring guys like Evan Eschmeyer, Rony Seikaly, Gheorghe Muresan and everyone’s favorite player to hate, Alonzo Mourning. Alonzo had some well deserved hype, but he ended his time with the Nets on bad terms and a string of DNPs. All these guys had two things in common; they spent less than two seasons with the team and failed to make any kind of lasting impact. After so many losing seasons, the organization finally took some initiative. They traded for Jason Kidd in one of the most lopsided deals the league has even seen. On the two teams that Kidd took to the finals, (’01-’02 and ‘02-’03), the Nets’ starting centers were Todd MacCulloch and Jason Collins, respectively. The leading rebounders on those two postseason teams were Jason Kidd in ‘01-’02 and Kenyon Martin in ‘02-’03. Just a thought here, but some kind of presence at the five spot might’ve made a difference against Shaq Daddy the first year and the “Twin Towers” in San Antonio the next year. Even with Jason Kidd nearly averaging a triple-double in both those postseasons, the Nets never really stood a chance against those Hall of Fame centers dominating the inside.
The most recent center that I admittedly was excited about was Nenad Krstic. He had some serious potential and improved every season on the team. However, on Dec. 22, 2006 he tore his ACL against the Lakers. I remember it like it was yesterday and man was it ugly. The site of his knee awkwardly twisting as he spun to the basket made me cringe. Sadly, that was the last day the real Nenad Krstic played in an NBA game. It is fairly clear seeing him play today and looking at his stats that he’s not the same player anymore.
That leads me to Josh Boone. When the Nets drafted two Huskies back-to-back in 2006, Boone being one of them, I was happy with it. The Nets were again making an effort to find that center they desperately needed. However, just like his teammate selected earlier in the draft that same year, Hilton Armstrong, he’s been a huge disappointment. As sad as the players I’ve mentioned have been for the Nets, Josh Boone is the most unimpressive. Sure, there have been players with worse stats to play for the Nets, but Boone has let us down in every way possible.
Coming into the league, there wasn’t any hype for Boone. No one expected him to become a dominant scoring center (who would from a 23rd overall pick?) Basically, all he had to do was hustle on the boards and push people around in the paint to sustain his value. Good for you Josh, you even managed to live down to those expectations. His best year statistically was 8.2 PPG and 7.3 RPG, which are respectable numbers to me. I’m a notorious supporter of giving credit where it’s due, but even here Boone doesn’t deserve it. He put up these numbers while playing in a lineup with Jason Kidd. All Kidd does is make people around him better and get them paid… but that’s a different article for a different day. As soon as Kidd left, Boone’s numbers fell. He responded by matching a career low 4.2 PPG the next season and only 4.2 RPG. News flash readers; playing with Jason Kidd is a luxury. When he left and Boone’s numbers suffered, it exposed him for the sub-par player he really is.
By all means, don’t take my word for it. Watch him play and tell me with a straight face that this guy is a reliable NBA center. He has no sense around the basket. Two or three blown layups is a usual thing for him. Honestly, I might be able to get past that, because not every center has great scoring ability (Hasheem Thabeet was drafted 2nd overall mainly for his defense, rebounding and shot blocking). So if that was the case, I could live with him being a calamity around the rim… but his issues only start with his inability to score. You’d think a 6-10, 237 lb. man would be more physical in the paint, but he just isn’t. I remember a game against the Warriors watching Corey Maggette absolutely outwork and overwhelm Josh Boone for two straight offensive rebounds. He’s been getting pushed around by small forwards his whole professional career and it’s unacceptable. That Maggette sequence just sticks in my mind because of how utterly powerless he looked trying to fight for those rebounds. Boone is 5 inches taller and 25 lbs heavier. I don’t care how big Maggette’s biceps are, that’s embarrassing.
Just to top things off, as if his play isn’t bad enough, his attitude is worse. Just watch him after he gets outrebounded, misses a dunk or blows a defensive assignment (which is often). He is constantly scowling or hanging his head. You have no confidence Josh Boone? Well it shows on the court. It’s a joke he’s making over $2 million this season, but there is hope yet. The Nets have a team option for the 2010-2011 season on Boone and it’s in my prayers every night that they don’t exercise it. If he does become a free agent, it is my opinion that he does not deserve another NBA contract; he barely deserved the first one. I realize big men are always in demand in this league, but Boone isn’t worth the money or the headache.
The only solace I find in this sea of garbage over the years is that the search for a center seems to finally be over. Brook Lopez is the answer to every single question that Nets have had about the five spot since Jayson Williams left more than 10 years ago. He’ll rebound, block shots, score in the low post and threaten at times with a respectable 10-12 foot jumper. Brook Lopez needs to become a franchise center. So please Rod Thorn, get Josh Boone out of my face and let the search for a viable big man officially come to an end.