WALTHAM, Mass. -- Back in December 2009, a website called Really Simple Scores enacted a social media plan to create Twitter feeds related to every team in the four major professional sports that answered the simple question: Did Team X win last night?
Six years later, most of the feeds range from only a handful of followers to a few hundred. One of the most popular among the automated posts, however, is that of the Brooklyn Nets. And if you scroll through the most recent of the roughly 800 followers for @DidTheNetsWin, you'll find usernames (@Celtics 2019 Champs), avatars (pictures of Brad Stevens or championship banners) and bio descriptions that all indicate an obvious allegiance to the Boston Celtics.
With the Nets set to deliver an unprotected 2016 first-round pick to the Celtics as part of the haul from the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce blockbuster from 2013, many Boston fans have followed the @DidTheNetsWin account to keep tabs on how the Nets are faring. When the Nets lost the first seven games of the 2015-16 season, it only increased the attention on Brooklyn.
Now, after every Nets loss, these posts get a smattering of celebratory responses from Celtics fans, many of whom might also happen to be following Ben Simmons (@BenSimmons25), the LSU freshman standout and a player pegged to be among the prizes of the 2016 draft. Poke around Twitter after a Nets loss and you'll likely see the hashtag #NetsPick or #CelticsPick in reference to the selection Boston will receive.
The Celtics and Nets play a home-and-home series over the next three days, starting Friday in Boston and closing Sunday in Brooklyn. That's half of the four regular-season meetings between the teams and it's not lost on Boston fans that the Celtics have a chance to increase Brooklyn's lottery odds with any loss the Nets endure.
There's a growing obsession in Boston about the Nets' pick in large part because of its current projection to deliver a top-three pick. The Celtics also have the potential to add 2016 first-round picks from the Dallas Mavericks (top-seven protected) and Minnesota Timberwolves (top-12 protected), but it's the Nets' pick that fans are drooling over.
In fact, you can make the case that some Celtics fans are more obsessed at the moment about whether the Nets will deliver a top pick than how Boston itself is faring this season. Celtics fans, of course, would prefer the best of both worlds -- for Boston to earn a return trip to the postseason with its young and developing roster, and for the Nets, Mavs, and Wolves to deliver the best possible first-round picks.
But in our Twitter survey last week, 73 percent of respondents said that, if they could only have one scenario occur, they would prefer the Nets deliver a top-three pick rather than Boston land in the Eastern Conference finals this season.
What's more, when the idea of whether Boston might use that Nets pick to chase an impactful body that might become available on the trade market, many Celtics fan balked at trading the pick. Even though the odds of Brooklyn delivering a top pick -- and that pick then panning out to be a superstar -- are incredibly long, especially at this early stage of the season, some Celtics fans decried the idea of including the pick in a trade for the likes of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who is viewed by many as a top-10 player in the NBA.
Celtics fans, once leery of the trade that ended the Big Three era by sending Garnett and Pierce to the Nets in exchange for a package headlined by three future first-round picks, are now overjoyed by what's seen to be a lopsided haul. Boston already used one of those picks to nab second-year swingman James Young at No. 17 in the 2014 draft, but Celtics fans are hopeful the 2016 pick will be much higher. What's more, Boston owns the right to swap spots with the Nets in 2017 and collects an unprotected 2018 pick.
Heck, some Celtics fans have gone so far as to ponder whether the Celtics should consider tanking against teams like the Philadelphia 76ers with hopes of inflating the win totals of the teams that are most likely to land in the basement of the league standings (and, thereby, improving Brooklyn's lottery odds).
Inside the Celtics organization, the focus is almost solely on Boston itself. Team decision-makers can't outwardly root for the Nets to lose, but they surely sneak a peek at the final scores each night with the same hopes as Celtics fans because those picks will be key in how quickly Boston returns to true contender status.
The Celtics' players? Most are unmoved or unaware. Even with nine players under contract for next season -- and four more either on non-guaranteed deals or expecting qualifying offers -- most players are focused on the play of this year's team. After all, there's no guarantee that any of them will be around when Boston either executes these picks or trades them for established talent.
Celtics swingman Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, knows full well the draft is a crap shoot.
"I don’t pay attention to draft picks, to tell you the truth, because guys have still got to come and play," said Turner, who has been embraced in Boston for his versatility, particularly as a ball-handler off the bench. "Obviously [the 2015] draft seems pretty promising, but last year everybody blew smoke up the draft, and you may be getting s--- disguised as steak, you know what I’m saying?
"So you really just focus on what you can control. Sometimes it might be a two-man draft and if you’re the third team, you might get [left] out. And same if you get a great player like Joel Embiid and he’s hurt for two straight years. You can’t really focus on the future because it’s never guaranteed."
For his part, Celtics coach Brad Stevens showered the Nets with the sort of praise typically reserved for the league's elite when asked about their recent play.
"They’ve been playing really well. And the thing about it is you can tell, there’s a great deal of urgency in their play," Stevens said. "I’ve watched Jarrett Jack, [Brook] Lopez, Thaddeus [Young], Joe [Johnson], those guys have all been playing really well. They’re getting great energy from their young guys and from their bench. I’ve been really impressed.
"I didn’t really watch their first seven games or so, but now watching recently and, especially that Golden State game -- they had Golden State beat. And at Golden State, which is really really hard to do, obviously. But then to come back, beat Atlanta [Tuesday] night and go on the road and lose a tough one [in Charlotte on Wednesday] where they led the whole way -- I mean, they’re playing well. We’re going to have to play well to win. That’s a consistent theme for our team though. If we don’t play well, we’ll lose."
And, for the next three seasons, when the Nets win, the Celtics lose too. The next two games are a chance to double the pleasure of a Boston victory.