I think we can all agree that this years NBA free agency period has been a complete circus. For the last few years July 1st, 2010 was built up to be the day when some of the NBA’s biggest names could be on the move. The hype was enormous and even lesser known free agents benefited greatly from it. Whether a solid player like Rudy Gay or Joe Johnson, or lowly draft busts i.e. Darko Milicic, they all made out like bandits. In any other year when the free agent crop was less top heavy these lower tier players would have never gotten anywhere near what they received in 2010. However when you only have three players worth “max money” the rest of the teams are left scrambling to lockup the “others.”
Being an avid Nets fan since the early 90’s, this offseason was one filled with hope and promise, two words that Nets fans rarely had the chance to utter. The new flashy Russian owner, a winning coach, finally leaving the Meadowlands, and Jay-Z were all reasons to be optimistic. The Nets cleared cap space, had draft picks and appeared ready to make a splash in the free agent market. Wide eyed optimism got the best of me, I must have forgotten what team I was thinking about…THE NETS! From Yinka Dare to Ed O’Bannon we usually do not have luck on our side.
I should have known things were going to go downhill after we got screwed with the third pick in the 2010 draft. In most professional sports, the team with the worst regular season record usually is awarded the first pick in draft, not in the NBA. David Stern and Co. decided that it made more sense to rely on ping pong balls to decide the fate of some organizations. In this years draft there were two “can’t miss prospects,” John Wall and Evan Turner. Of course, the Nets would get neither of these and have to make the tough call between Wesley Johnson, Demarcus Cousins, or Derrick Favors. When it came time for the Nets to make their selection I watched the clock wind down, with David Stern standing at the podium. I was totally prepared, and somewhat expecting the Nets to not hand in their selection on time and have to forfit the third pick. That would have been fitting.
After getting shafted at the draft lottery it was time to move on and turn my attention to the impending free agency bonanza. I heard new owner Proky on WFAN, guaranteeing fans a great product and to build a “dynasty.” I’ll admit I had visions of grandeur, Dwayne Wade throwing a full court pass to Brooke Lopez who then tossed the ball off the backboard allowing Lebron to slam it home……a guy can dream right? We had our pick of free agents from Lebron to Carlos Boozer, I was expecting at least one or two to come our way.
Fast forward a week or so, Wade, Lebron and Bosh go to Miami, Boozer heads to Chicago, Amare goes to NY, and David Lee (the player I thought was most likely going to sign with NJ), is shipped off to Golden State in a sign and trade. Terrific, the Nets get robbed in the draft and shutout in free agency, I guess there is a reason they are the worst team in the league. At this point Proky starts to backtrack on his earlier statements regarding winning a title in the next few years and building a “dynasty.” Instead of being on the fast track to a championship we are now hearing “winning takes time,” and talks of being back in the lottery again next season.
According to Nets brass they didn’t want to overspend on free agents. Unfortunately you have to pay players what the market dictates. The Nets should have known that when you have Wade and Lebron filing for free agency in the same year the rest of the free agents would be getting inflated contracts as well. So instead of paying one, really solid player such as David Lee or Carlos Boozer a large sum of money, they decide to dump $35 million on Travis Outlaw. That is complete lunacy so typical. Instead of getting a difference maker, the Nets go for the lower quality but still expensive option. No Nets fan wants to see management dipping into valuable cap space for a mediocre player. With that being said, I don’t mind the lesser signings of Jordan Farmar or Anthony Morrow (a prolific outside shooter, something we have needed for years).
I could bitch and moan for hours about the Nets, we’ve had a love/hate relationship since 1993 and I don’t expect it to change. I’ll try and put my team in perspective as with the following anecdote. As many of you know I love cars, and I compare the Nets to Hyundai’s flagship automobile, the Genesis. The car is luxurious, flashy, and has many innovative electronic upgrades; completely moving away from the negative perception many of us have about the Hyundai brand. The Genesis was received so well that it became Motor Trends “Car Of The Year.” The Nets are similar, they have made many positive changes within the organization, they are upgrading to a brand new and exciting arena in Brooklyn, they have new management, and a terrific core of young players. Unfortunately no matter what they do they are still seen as the same bottom of the barrel team, or to stick with the Hyundai theme, a 1991 Accent. These small moves will not do, they need to make a big signing or trade and get the Chris Paul or Carmelo Anthony type of player. Hyundai took a big leap and introduced a $40,000+ car that helped get them out of the doldrums, the Nets need to do the same and grab the big name player who will take them from worst to first.