While the caveat it’s still early still applies, the Brooklyn Nets are not coming anywhere close to resembling a championship caliber team on and off the court as they blew an 11-point lead in a 108-98 loss and then refused to face the media after the game.
The Nets started out doing all the right things in this game. They shot 14-of-17 from the field in the first quarter and were lead by Kevin Garnett, who shot 6-of-6 and seemed much more like the player they tried to acquire to fix last year’s flawed squad than the old man that has been on the court for the first nine games. They were playing with energy and they were dominating.
The only problem was that the Trail Blazers were hitting their shots too, big shots, and were right behind them. The Nets shot 73.7 percent in the first quarter, the Blazers shot 72.2, So when the Nets went cold, they quickly caught up. Soon that 11-point lead from earlier had turned into a seven point lead at the half.
Garnett quickly cooled early, but Livingston took over to lead the team. Then, for some reason, the Nets took both Garnett and Livingston out in the third and brought in Andray Blatche and Tyshawn Taylor with a 69-66 lead. Over the next five minutes that slim three point lead turned into a trailing-by-eight disaster as the Trail Blazers went on a 19-6 run to closeout the third.
“Just bad coaching, I take the blame for this,” Jason Kidd said afterward. “The guys played hard and we got a little stagnant on the offensive end. This falls on my shoulders. We got off to a good start and in that third quarter we came out flat.”
That was the game. Sure, the Nets played without Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Andrei Kirilenko, but they were playing well and winning. It’s hard not to notice that as soon as Kidd pulled Livingston and Garnett that the game got out of hand quickly.
Late in the game, the Barclays Center broke out into a “Let’s go Trail Blazers” chant. It didn’t last long and quickly turned to boos. Boos that were not been heard at home yet this year until Monday night.
“It’s a process, there is still a ways to go,” Kidd said. “There are still quite a few games left…Again, as the coach, we have some work to do. Injuries are part of the game, we have those right now but there are no excuses. We have to be able to, if we can’t score, hold the opponents and right now we’re not doing that.”
After Kidd addressed the media following the game, the Nets opened the locker room to reporters. Only when the reporters got there, the locker room was still locked. NBA rules state that it needs to be open no later than 15 minutes after a game, but in this instance it was nearly 30 minutes until reporters were finally granted access.
When the locker room was finally opened, Tornike Shengelia was the only one inside. He quickly dressed and left though without saying anything to reporters who then waited until the rookie Mason Plumlee came out to speak with reporters.
“(We’re) pretty frustrated,” Plumlee said to a pack of reporters wondering where any veterans were. “We thought we would come out and play better tonight but for whatever reason we did not.”
“This was definitely a setback,” he continued. “I think the energy wasn’t there tonight that you saw in L.A. and Phoenix. Whatever we do offensively or defensively, there has to be energy and effort. Some guys did it tonight and not everyone did it and that has to be consistent for us to be a good team.”
Eventually Shaun Livingston showed up and tried to shift the blame from Kidd back to the players.
“It’s on all of us,” Livingston said. “I take a majority of that (responsibility) as well because as the point guard you got to initiate the offense, make the right play calls to get guys involved. Maybe that’s the time where I should look to be more aggressive and getting into the paint, drawing fouls, maybe getting some free throws to pick our momentum back up.”
The problem with that was that Livingston played an amazing game. He finished with a season-high 23 points in just 28 minutes and was not on the court when the Trail Blazers broke up the game with that big third quarter run.
Eventually Jason Terry showed up as well, nearly an hour after the game had finally ended and 30 minutes after reporters were waiting around for anybody earning more than the league minimum to come out and answer for such a disappointing loss.
“There is no time table,” Terry said of the process that Plumlee admitted isn’t progressing. “We would like it to happen sooner than later, but obviously number one you have to get healthy. We’re missing our key big man and our point guard. Shit, I’m not sure how much success you are going to have without that, but it’s what we’re faced with. We’d rather have it happen now then later.”
When asked why the locker room was closed longer than it should have been or why it has taken him so long to face reporters (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were still waiting in the restricted area at this point), Terry didn’t give an explanation.
“There was no meeting at all,” Terry said. “Just guys kind of reflecting and realizing that we let another opportunity slip. There are brighter days ahead, I guarantee that.”
When asked if the loss was really on Jason Kidd, Terry, again, put the blame on everyone. “He looks in the mirror and feels it’s his fault and as players we feel it’s our fault. Everybody is in this together. We’ll watch more film tomorrow and head back on the road again,” he said.
After Terry finished talking, reporters waited as they knew Pierce and Garnett still had to come back to retrieve their stuff. They waited five minutes or so before a sullen Gary Sussman, the Nets Vice President of Public Relations, quietly announced that nobody else would be coming out. A $190 million team that was blasted for being “soft” and “lacking leadership” last season (Deron Williams’ words) only one player making more than the league minimum was willing to come out and answer for a 3-7 start.