The Nets are the No. 2 team in their own market in fan following and get relatively little attention nationally, but Chris Webber believes they have earned so much respect that they have many neutral fans quietly pulling for them.
“To me, they’ve defined themselves recently, and that’s with playing hard,” the Turner analyst said Tuesday on a call to promote Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. “They play hard every night.
“This is something that players and fans started noticing about three years ago, and then with the trade for [D’Angelo] Russell and the consistency of effort that’s been proven, they’ve become, for a lot of fans that I know, kind of sentimental favorites, just respecting them and a team being under the radar.
“They’re someone that you can root for very easily. They kind of play with the heart we saw with the Celtics the last few years when they had injuries.”
Reggie Miller, another Turner analyst, said, “I’m so surprised that the Nets aren’t getting more national love, just for the simple fact of what they’ve done. Obviously, they’ve had injuries. [Caris] LeVert just came back, but [Spencer] Dinwiddie went down. They have a first-time All-Star in D’Angelo Russell. Jarrett [Allen] in the middle.
“This team plays hard, they play together, they play for one another. We talk about young teams, sometimes jealousy and ‘whose team is it’ can kind of divide a young team, and I don’t get a sense of that with the Brooklyn Nets. They’ve hit a bump of late, losing some games I felt that they should have won, but once again health has played a factor in that.
“But I still believe they’re going to make the playoffs, and they can make some noise if healthy because they have closers. They have finishers in D’Angelo and Dinwiddie and now that LeVert is back, and Allen, who’s a fantastic shot blocker. I really do enjoy watching this team.”
Asked whether the Nets might be in position to land big-name free agents, Miller said, “Why not? Absolutely. Why not?”
Said Webber, “When you talk about a destination, to me they have the glitz and glamor of New York, plus the history of the Nets, which is pretty good but maybe isn’t respected by everyone . . . I think they can definitely recruit, not only based on their geographic location or history of the team or, matter of fact, even the people that sit in the front row, but the fact that they’ve created a culture where they play hard. That’s fun to see as a fan.”