We continue previewing the Atlantic Division with the New Jersey Nets. You can read past previews here.

by Sam Rubenstein

Hang on, the Vince Carter bashing is towards the end. Feel free to skip over the rest, just like Vince will most likely choose to skip most of the season once he’s “injured.”

Coming off a season where the Nets, a playoff staple in recent times, were unable to make those playoffs in the pathetic Eastern Conference, it was time for a new direction. Jason Kidd became a headache. A migraine headache, allegedly. The triple doubles and up-tempo must-watch excitement is dead, long live the triple doubles and up-tempo must-watch excitement, but they still have to sell tickets somehow.

As the Nets season imploded and they wisely began the rebuilding process, the media and fans really just didn’t have time to care. What, with the team across the Hudson getting all the tabloid and rubber-necking attention. This was a good thing for Lawrence Frank & Co. because it was not pretty. Within the division, Boston is obviously superior, with the latest banner set to hang. Toronto, even in a disappointing step backwards season for a young team on the rise, was still better than  Jersey. Philly was one of the bigger surprises in the League, and they played with a lot of spirit, heart, fire, blah blah blah. The Knicks will be much-improved just because, you know. And that leaves the Nets.

Over the summer, I was handed a New Jersey Nets business card with the slogan “It’s About Free Tickets & Knowing Your Nets”, with the following kicker:


•Rookies
•Veterans
•Rising Stars
•International Stars
•And More!

Now that’s generic! Do they even have players? I see a photo of Devin Harris and…the less goofy Lopez brother from Stanford? It’s so generic, it’s almost as if the team owner was someone with a reputation for turning neighborhood businesses into shopping malls.

The purpose of this marketing slogan is to get people to come to Nets games in the middle of Siberia, where SLAM’s Art Director Stephen Goggi lives. Moving to Brooklyn, specifically to an area where there is a 24/7 clusterfu-k of traffic, the world’s most dilapidated Target, the dirtiest Coldstone, and a Circuit City where it takes 12 employees 15 minutes to ring up an extension cord, would be an improvement. It’s not happening yet, though. Predicted number of Jay-Z visits to Nets home games this season: how many times do they play Cleveland, the Lakers, Miami, Memphis, Portland, and Chicago combined? Maybe he’ll be there for one one of the Boston games, the guy is a front-runner. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of his music, the words, the lyrics, the beats he chooses. We used “Umbrella” for a poetry unit at this young author’s writing group I volunteer for. The 12 year old girls sang the Rihanna parts and they made me rap the Jay parts. Not to brag, but it was an electric performance.

Sorry about that… focus Sam, focus! Basketbawl!

When the Nets were the most exciting team in the League, with Jason Kidd throwing no look oops to Kenyon, Kittles, and RJ, nobody went to games. When they brought in Vince Carter, once a “price of admission” performer, nobody went to games. So the Nets now have this slogan of basketball players you may want to watch.

Let’s try to figure who is who.

Rookies

Brook Lopez. He should be a better “basketball player” than his goofball brother, but who would you rather have to watch on a day to day basis?

Douglas-Roberts, Chris. The quintessential “This guy is a winner winner winner, who cares if he can’t do this or that? He’s a great athlete, plays hard, so what if he can’t shoot?” I like him. He’s got cool tats.

Ryan Anderson. No opinion.

Veterans

Darrell Armstrong. Yup, he’s a veteran alright. Where do I send my money to watch him play?

Trenton Hassell, Keyon Dooling, Jarvis Hayes, Eduardo Najera, Bobby Simmons, Stromile Swift, Maurice Ager.

Everyone on that list was once a positive contributor on a team that did not suck at the time. They all have their strengths and they are brand names you recognize. Still… I thought Jersey was famous for industrial power plants making that smell. I thought Staten Island was famous for the trash heaps, the junkyards, the discard pile.

Um, I wish them all well though. You guys are all great and special in your own ways. Have a great season!

Rising Stars

Devin Harris. A talent for sure. He’s fast, he was great as a change of pace off the bench for Dallas. Is he a second coach on the floor, which is the only point guard an inexperienced head coach Lawrence Frank ever knew? Not yet. He’s really fast though. And small. Tiny. Miniscule. 185 pounds.

Sean Williams. The token high energy rebounder, dunker, shot-blocker the Nets always seem to find. Hopefully he gets lots of PT. Are you reading this Lawrence?

Josh Boone. Is Josh Boone a rising “star”? No. But he’s too young to be a veteran. A poor man’s Sean Williams.

International Stars

That would be Yi Jianlin. As if Milwaukee weren’t remote and isolated enough…I would like to apologize to Yi on behalf of America. It’s not all like that. He’ll get better in year two, he will learn the game. Who’s better though, him or Nenad Krstic? Negligible.

And More!

Amazingly (yeah yeah, half man, half amazingly), I think this refers to Vince Carter. It’s either that or “Veterans.” What is Vince? A superstar? Just a scorer who does his job, gives the paying customer a couple of smiles and groans, and moves on with his life? His best days are behind him, and this is the best player on the team.

Yes, we have come to the Vince Carter portion of this preview. For years the NBA has been marketed as a league of chosen ones and saviors. All you needed was your team to get lucky with a Jordan, Bird, Magic, Hakeem, Ewing, Shaq, Duncan, LeBron, and you at least had a shot to win it all every year. These transcendent talents are so far above the average player, they can carry an entire city on their backs on tantalizing runs of glory. Of gloooooory!

Then again, some of them are just more like, “Eh, I did my job, did some charity work, entertained some people, signed some autographs, shot some commercials, can I go home now?”

Did you all hear that I am on my way to becoming a high school teacher? Let’s take a look at Vince Carter through the various subjects.

SCIENCE

The law of conservation of matter states: the mass of a closed system will remain constant, regardless of the processes acting inside the system. An equivalent statement is that matter cannot be created/destroyed, although it may be rearranged. This implies that for any chemical process in a closed system, the mass of the reactants must equal the mass of the products.

And yet… the “Greatest dunker of all time” is afraid to dunk. I don’t get it. I won’t be teaching science.

MATH

27.5 – 15.9 = The difference in Vince Carter’s scoring average with the Nets and Raptors in the ’04-’05 season
6.8 – 3.6 = The difference in Vince Carter’s free throws attempted average with the Nets and Raptors in the ’04-’05 season
21.7 – 15.1 = The difference in Vince Carter’s field goals attempted average with the Nets and Raptors in the ’04-’05 season

HISTORY

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1077/is_6_55/ai_61619024

And you thought the Kobe-Jordan stuff was way out of line.

AP PSYCHOLOGY

How depressed are you after reading that last story about Vince from 2000? Oh what could have been.

ECONOMICS

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2922561

And Bruce Ratner has a reputation for being a good businessman?

ENGLISH – POETRY UNIT

The tape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzAim5Yikj8

THAT Vince Carter would have the Izod center (? Am I correct?) buzzing every night. It’s not him anymore. Today’s Vince is still one of the better players in the League, gets his points, carries the team for a few weeks at a time, goes into shooting slumps, does what he needs to do to get paid, and that’s about it. Remember, the reason we were given and accepted for his self-imposed numbers drop-off in Toronto, was that he did not want to have to bear the burden of being “the man.” When he came to a team with a real leader in Jason Kidd, Vince was reborn. This year…RJ is gone too. Don’t get too worked up about this, but this is not subtle cap clearing for a run at LeBron when his contract is up. What do the Nets even want to do this year? Do they want to win games? No! Of course not. Miami has Wade-Beasley. The Nets can trump that with LeBron-whomever soon enough.

It’s like one of those movies where a poor village being raided and abused by bandits must save all of it’s coins to pay a gunslinger to come and save them. The Nets have all of their eggs in one basket. Ha, basket. Still got it! So, they will tempt to lure him with the three-headed monster of money, Brooklyn, and his friend Jay-Z as a figurehead management person. Quick aside: the age difference between Shawn Carter and LeBron is about the same as it is between me and some of the students I will be teaching. Jay, you dirty old man! LeBron, do not accept candy from the nice man.

And so, the young Nets should play hard for Lawrence Frank, learn the game a little, but struggle to close out wins in the fourth quarter, and finish in the 20-30 wins area, setting them up for a primetime seat at the lottery. And of course…the harvest of the free agent crops in the coming summer. Try not to be too obvious, Nets.