NEW YORK -- As the third quarter turned into the fourth quarter Wednesday afternoon, fans at Barclays Center heard an unfamiliar sound.
Normally, even when the Brooklyn Nets are getting blown out -- and it’s happened a lot this season -- public address announcer David Diamante will implore fans to stand up and support the home team.
Usually, his cries fall on deaf ears, anyway. But this time, with the Nets trailing 77-58 to the Chicago Bulls, Diamante was silent. Yes, Diamante, ever the optimist even in the most turbulent times, had given up on this team. The fans, though, would be heard throughout the second half, their boos as loud as ever, with a pocket of them calling for coach Jason Kidd’s ouster.
For the second straight season, the no-heart Nets were walloped in their building on Christmas, this time 95-78 by the visiting Bulls. In case you care, they are 0-17 when trailing after three quarters.
A year ago to the day, Nets CEO Brett Yormark tweeted the following after Brooklyn got whooped by the Boston Celtics: “Nets fans deserved better today. The entire organization needs to work harder to find the solution. We will get there.”
(Yormark later clarified that he wasn’t talking about the team, but Avery Johnson was fired shortly after the tweet.)
Coming off a 49-win season, the Nets thought they had gotten there when they surrounded their talented core of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson with veterans like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.
GM Billy King, under a win-now mandate from owner Mikhail Prokhorov, spared no expense and relinquished several future assets to turn the Nets into a championship contender.
But 28 games into the season, all they can be described as is a $190 million mess. Their franchise center, Lopez, has already been lost for the season. They’ve been decimated by injuries. Their old players -- especially Pierce and Garnett -- look just that: old. They lack an identity. Rarely have they played with the necessary energy and effort.
Their coach, Kidd, believes they’ve become complacent, comfortable with losing. Their body language when they miss a shot or lose a turnover seems to confirm as much -- even though the players disagree. They haven’t shown up in third quarters and haven’t played well enough on defense.
Bottom line: The present is bad and the future looks even worse. The Nets are 9-19, three games back of the Toronto Raptors (11-15) in the Atlantic Division. Their first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018 don’t belong to them (because of the KG/Pierce trade). The Atlanta Hawks can swap firsts with the Nets in 2015 (because of the Joe Johnson trade) and the Boston Celtics can swap firsts with the Nets in 2017 (because of the KG/Pierce trade).
Brooklyn’s logic was always clear and sound in theory. Win now. Worry about the future ... in the future. They were moving to a $1 billion arena, and they wanted to assemble a cast of stars and steal the back pages and fans from the rival New York Knicks. But it hasn’t worked. Williams admitted this season has been a "nightmare," and he’s right.
So now what? What’s next?
Even though some fans would disagree, firing Kidd doesn’t seem like the right move. You want to argue the Nets should’ve hired a veteran coach? Fine. But Kidd hasn’t had a healthy roster -- six players have combined to miss 69 games due to injury -- and the players he does have available have highly underachieved, especially Garnett and Pierce. They were supposed to change the culture and be massive upgrades over the combination of Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans. Hasn’t happened.
Plus, Kidd has the backing of ownership, at least as of recently, anyway.
King could try to shake things up, but his assets are limited. Do the Nets want to admit this whole thing was a failure yet? Doubtful. The playoffs are still very much in reach -- purely in terms of the standings themselves -- with 54 games left. And you’d think they’d at least like to see what Kirilenko brings to the team first. Still, there’s no question King is working the phones and exploring every option to try and improve the team before deciding to blow it up or retool it.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. Things are crumbling fast. Change is needed, whether it comes internally or externally. But when? And how? Lead assistant/defensive coordinator Lawrence Frank was the first to go. And if things continue this way, you have to wonder: Who’s next?