Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Thank you, Paul Pierce, for setting the world straight regarding a notion the Nets themselves and those of us who cover them have been selling for more than nine months -- that in the end, age (and experience) will be served.
Now we know it's poppycock.
"Just because you don't have a lot of playoff experience doesn't mean you're not a good team," Pierce said after Sunday night's difficult-to-fathom late meltdown and eventual loss to the Raptors. "You can learn on the fly. Once you go through a series, you get three or four games under your belt, hey, you've got experience."
Hey, wait: Haven't we been told and dutifully repeated since July that after a season of carefully curated playing time, the Nets were poised to use their wiles when it mattered most?
About that . . . It was the Raptors who looked as if they had been there before during the final minutes of Game 4 of this frantic, messy first-round series. In that stretch, their All-Star counterparts committed four turnovers in 89 seconds.
Which is not as easy as it sounds.
This came two nights after the Nets came very close to blowing a 15-point lead in the final five minutes of Game 3.
"This is where we should be at our best, these late-game situations," guard Deron Williams said Sunday after a desultory 4-for-12 shooting night in which he had 10 points and five turnovers. "We've been here before. They're a younger team that doesn't have as much playoff experience, but they've been playing like it."
That is because postseason experience is overrated, especially when it comes to a team full of grown-up pros who won a division title during an 82-game regular-season grind.
True, every member of the Nets' regular starting lineup is older than every one on the Raptors' squad. But memo to those who have bought into the "experience" angle, including me:
Having a backcourt featuring an eighth-year pro who is only 28 (Kyle Lowry) and a fifth-year pro who is only 24 (DeMar DeRozan) doesn't mean you are too raw; it means you are ripe for an energetic playoff run.
Nets coach Jason Kidd, meanwhile, continues to rotate players early and often, as he did in the regular season, when it was assumed he was biding his time until spring. Often the particulars are puzzling. Take Kevin Garnett, whom Kidd removed in favor of rookie Mason Plumlee with 4:43 left Sunday, then put back in with 2:25 remaining.
Why the ongoing concern with overuse for a guy who after the Nets' final game can take five years off as he awaits induction into the Hall of Fame? Any regrets about the KG Plan, J-Kidd?
"Nope, not resting him too much and I don't regret sitting him," the coach said, "because we have the luxury of doing that with Mason and Dray . . . We're not going to run him for 12 minutes."
Aren't those extra minutes in late April what we have been waiting for all season?
"I trust Jason and his decision-making," Garnett said. "I don't ever want to be a distraction to any coach that I play for and I'm not going to start now. If anything, I try to be positive. I try to be energetic. I try to use my experience."
There's that word again. Andrei Kirilenko, 33, took one last stab at it in the gloom of late Sunday night, trying to have it several ways. "We've been in different kinds of situations, losing, winning, losing and then winning after that," he said. "I think that's great experience and it will help us recover after games like this."
Can we all agree to stop now, please? Look, the Nets still could advance, but if they do, it will not be because of the rings on their fingers or the rings on their aging trunks.
It will be because they played better than the pesky Raptors, who, let's face it, are all grown up.