29° Good Morning
29° Good Morning
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Nets should have been modeled on 'Dem Bums'

Nets' Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce watch in

Nets' Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce watch in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

When sports journalists note things such as Saturday night being the most consequential postseason sports event in Brooklyn since Game 7 of the 1956 World Series . . . well, mostly we're just being cute.

The Dodgers were creatures of a different millennium and of a different sport than the Nets, who hosted the Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals needing a victory to keep their season realistically alive.

The Dodgers also were of a different era in player movement, with restrictions that afforded them the opportunity to become part of the community, and for fans to watch them grow up in Brooklyn uniforms.

All of which is a roundabout way of getting to a gnawing something that has been not quite right about the 2013-14 Nets, a team that after an awful start actually became sort of interesting, and sort of successful.

The problem is that they have been surprisingly buzz-less, despite a hip address and the mega-splash of last summer, when they acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the since departed Jason Terry.

Their regular-season TV ratings -- though better than in the Jersey days -- were dwarfed by the Knicks' and their playoff run often has been overshadowed by that of the Rangers, not to mention by the NFL draft.

And if they fail to survive the Heat, they will confront the reality that they mortgaged much of their near future and ran up massive payroll bills for a dud.

Yes, it's true, the Nets have sold plenty of tickets and are far more relevant than before they crossed the rivers to Brooklyn.

But given how things have unfolded, it is fair to ponder an alternate reality: What if rather than mimic the Yankees and Knicks, the Nets had bided their time, built a young, likable roster and gradually taken root in Trendy Town?

No, they could not have kept a core together the way the Dodgers did before some of the current players' parents were born. Times have changed. But they could have come closer to that model than this assemblage.

So, here we are.

The star around which the entire enterprise was planned, Deron Williams, mostly has been a disappointment, and went scoreless in Game 2 Thursday.

The best player on the team, Joe Johnson, has a quiet personality and a less-than-dynamic game.

Brook Lopez, whose foot injury ended his season after 17 games, has struggled to stay on the court.

Pierce and Garnett are nearing the end of the line, especially Garnett, and adhere to the NBA's media access rules only when the mood strikes them.

Of course, no one, including me, would be complaining if the Nets had been as good this season as they thought they would be.

But the notion that the only way for them to have proceeded in the transition to the big city was to throw as much of Mikhail Prokhorov's money around as possible was misguided.

Nets fans, whoever they are, would have been patient if they needed to be, and that would have been much more fun when the good times arrived than trying to make the Heat sweat using other franchises' established and/or fading stars.

Part of the point of Dodgers fans saying "Wait 'til next year" was there was a future worth the wait. It's not clear where these Nets go from here.

By the way, that final game of the '56 World Series didn't go so well for Brooklyn. The Dodgers lost, 9-0, with Jackie Robinson striking out to end it in his final major-league at-bat.

The guy who struck him out was Johnny Kucks, who grew up in New Jersey.

New York Sports