MINNEAPOLIS – What’s going on with the Brooklyn Nets has reached train-wreck status, where you don’t want to look but you can’t help it. Then, after you do, you feel a little guilty for slowing. And maybe in need of a shower.
The Nets’ early-season crisis is pushing toward its fourth week after the 111-81 dismantling by the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night at Target Center. At 3-9, this team of high expectations and low returns has dropped four in a row and seven of its past eight, falling to 1-7 on the road and seemingly clueless in this funk.
Don’t take our word for it. Check out this postgame comment from rookie coach Jason Kidd, in what apparently was meant to be a positive:
“In the first half, we cut it to 16 and then we gave up a six-point play. And then it just got away from us.”
Kidd had conflated a couple things – the Nets had crept as close as 59-43 in the third quarter when a technical foul and a flagrant-1 foul by veteran Kevin Garnett on Minnesota’s Kevin Love turned into three free throws and a 3-pointer by Corey Brewer in a span of 11 seconds. A few minutes later, the Wolves pushed ahead by 30 and kept it near that the rest of the way.
Seriously, though, Kidd’s quote seemed sardonic, self-deprecating, something fit for SNL. No one in the Nets’ locker room was laughing, but with more of the same, there will be some hearty guffaws coming from outside it.
As in, have you heard this one yet? “I don’t know how many times we’ve had the lead – maybe against Washington – but…” Kidd said, when asked about Brooklyn’s familiarity and thus presumed ability to play from behind. Yikes. This squad laden with former All-Stars, reaching back to an overtime loss against the mediocre Wizards two weeks ago in search of a lead – that’s just sad.
There are mitigating circumstances for Brooklyn’s struggle at the moment. Deron Williams (ankle), Brook Lopez (ankle), Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (knee) all sat out Friday. Garnett and Paul Pierce have missed games, too.
But the Nets began the night ranked 25th in defense (107.5 rating) and 21st on offense (102.0) and got worse in both categories against the Wolves. They have given up 22 more 3-pointers than they’ve made, 21 more offensive rebounds than they’ve grabbed.
Garnett is averaging 6.7 points and 7.8 rebounds. Pierce has shot 7-for-34 since returning from a groin strain three games ago. Joe Johnson‘s 13.4 ppg is his lowest in more than a decade and his 15 points at Target Center were strictly no-impact. And on and on.
Afterward, the mood was subdued, chastened, their fight gone at least until they’re back in the tank Sunday at home against Detroit. If this were going on in Cleveland or Portland or a bunch of other less intense markets, there might be a shot at the patience and clear heads the Nets will need to dig out, one quarter at a time.
But in that town? With this roster and payroll? With hopes so high and games coming as quickly as they are now?
Whoa. Just whoa.
“This is what it is,” Garnett said. “We created this monster and we have to deal with it. You have the business of basketball come into play, I’m sure. And management’s probably going to do what it’s got to do, and that’s out of our hands.”
All righty then, that’s cracking open an ominous door…
Garnett also said: “It’s pretty much everything right now. We’re trying to soul search right now and see who we are. Each individual has to look at ourselves in the mirror and see what they can do better. Period. Point blank. We’re better than this. What you gonna do, you gonna quit? Quit is not an option.
“It’s November. We’ve still got, what, four, five months to go. We’ve got a lot of basketball to play.”
At the moment, that’s sounding like a warning and a threat.