I’ve had mornings, especially as a younger bird, when I woke up on the wrong side of the nest after wetting my beak around town, unsure of where I am or how I flew there. Head pounding. Moaning. Hunting for half-finished Gatorade bottles and pieces of banana. Reconstructing a jumble of half-memories. Wondering what happened to that good-looking hen from the after-hours spot.
But the worst of that mess doesn’t compare to what our Nets must have felt on the flight back from Portland this weekend. The players went out West for three games that could have proved them as legitimate contenders this season, and came back with egg on their faces (That’s a metaphor, but I do know some fellow fowl who might be tempted). They blew a 19-point lead in Phoenix, gave up 66 points in the first half to Golden State, and shot 1–19 from three-point range in Portland.
It was no easy trip on my bum wing, but I made the return flight to Brooklyn, stopping only to sleep at an old pal’s pad in Chicago, and managed to get back to Barclays on Monday. No sooner had the ball been tipped than I regretted cutting my West Coast vacation short. Our boys stumbled through an ugly loss to the Heat, a team they beat four times during the regular season last year, back when the Miami was home to a guy named LeBron James.
But I could see this train-wreck coming before Brooklyn even set foot on the left coast. I’m talking about Joe Johnson’s comments after the Nets’ Nov. 9 win over Orlando, which at the time gave the team at a tidy 4–2 record.
“I just think guys kind of exhaust their options and then when there’s nothing else for them, then they’ll pass it when they have to,” Joe reportedly said. “For the most part, we’ve been very selfish. Four and two, I mean, it’s pretty good, but I wouldn’t say it’s where we want to be right now against teams that aren’t playoff teams.”
Hold up. First of all, Joe, the Nets won the game that prompted those comments. No need to harsh everyone’s mellow. Yes, the Nets had yet to beat a team with a winning record, so tempering any excitement over those early victories wasn’t a bad idea. But if the thought process was, as a veteran, that you wanted to hold your teammates’ egos in check, you could have kept that drama in-house. I’m assuming you were targeting Brook Lopez, as the Big Lug has a tendency to slow down the offense — why not talk it out like human men over a beer at Freddy’s?
Secondly: Joe Johnson is accusing people of not passing the ball enough? The man known as “Iso Joe” for his love of handling the ball in isolation from the rest of the team, before launching jumpers? Is this some sort of joke that doesn’t translate to us winged folk?
It’s true that in the first half of the Phoenix game the Nets squad moved the ball better and played one of its best offensive halves of the year. But when things took a turn for the worse, “Iso Joe” was in rare form, dribbling around while everyone looked on before chucking up shots. If Joe is going to talk the talk, he needs to do the pigeon. If not, I’ll continue to squawk the squawk.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to spill my drink on Jason Kidd. Speaking of which, spare a buck for a beer?