BROOKLYN – With a fifth of the NBA season in the books, New York’s answer to Miami’s “Big Three” – Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh – were to acquire two of the original “Big Three” of this generation, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, from the Boston Celtics. Ironically, the third Big Three Celtic, Ray Allen, now plays for the Heat. Veterans Pierce and Garnett – who by all accounts are well past their primes but can still contribute – were supposed to add gravitas to an already-emergent ballclub with plenty of talented players, not least of which Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, and take them to the Eastern Conference finals against the vaunted Heat.
Thus far, however, things have not gone according to plan. The Nets began the first fifth of the season with a surprisingly poor 4-11 record. Meanwhile, their fellow New York hoopsters on the other side of the East River, the Knicks, as of Thanksgiving Day were even slightly worse than that: 3-11. The Celtics, on the other hand, resigned to spending the next few years rebuilding their former glory, at 7-11 have gotten off to a better start. If the season were to end today, it would be the Celtics – and not the Nets or the Knicks – in the playoffs.
The Nets former player and rookie coach Jason Kidd has not been want of trying, though, even resorting to spilling a soda on the court – “accidentally,” until he finally fessed that he did it on purpose – in order to stop play (his team had no time-outs remaining). Kidd was fined $50,000, a week’s pay, for his antic. No need to feel too bad for him, though: he may not bring home the entire $2.6 million of his salary this year, but he’ll probably do just fine on a mere $2,550,000.
In all probability, the Nets (and Knicks) will bounce back, and the Celtics – currently experimenting with a young, athletic, but woefully inexperienced team – will hit bottom before rising once again in a couple of years, when they put all the draft picks they got from the Nets for Pierce and Garnett to good use.
NBA amalgams take some time to simmer. Unfortunately, Pierce and Garnett do not have a whole lot of time left. The Nets best start to gel sooner than later, because talent they have in droves; it is time that is fast evaporating.
For the moment, this writer, a proud born-and-bred New Yorker who managed to be a Celtics fan all these years anyway, can’t help but chuckle. But if the Nets do get their act together and rise up to challenge the Heat, I’ll be cheering them on (almost) as loudly as if Pierce and Garnett were still wearing green.