The AAC isn't exactly the most raucous arena in the NBA, but it's hard to overemphasize how dead it was tonight. There isn't much about the Nets that is exciting on or off the court and there's no reason for fans to get into a game they are apart of. At least the 76ers have some interesting young players and they play an fun, uptempo game based on athleticism. You can be old and good or young and bad but you never want to be old and bad. The way the Nets play sucks the life out of the arena and there's nothing entertaining about it.
The Nets three best players are all back to the basket scorers who want to isolate in the mid-post, dribble the ball into the ground and try to create space for a below the rim shot. The way they play would be tolerable if it were a good team and they were winning games - when a bad team plays like that, it's just miserable for everyone. This might have been the worst played NBA game I've watched in a long time and it's one of the games that everyone would have been better off simming. Now that the All-Star break is in view, this is the dead time of the NBA season and you could really tell in this one.
The worst part about it is that there's nothing to look forward too for Nets fans, no pot waiting at the of the rainbow. What's happening to Brooklyn right now is why I think the NBA should think long and hard about automatically protecting Top 5 picks. You can't expect a fanbase to sit through a season as miserable as this without any consolation. It's bad for business. In this analogy, the Celtics are vultures on the side of the road who are mercilessly picking an old hobbled man to death and then are going to pick through his belongings. What's happening to the Nets this season is something out of a Dostoevsky novel.
2) The Nets bench put up a performance for the ages
Check out the plus/minus numbers from this one:
Andrea Bargnani: -18 in 11 minutes
Shane Larkin: -11 in 18 minutes
Sergey Karasev: -10 in 4 minutes
Bojan Bogdanovic: -24 in 19 minutes
The Nets starters aka their actual NBA players were actually competitive in this game. Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Donald Sloan even had positive plus/minus numbers while playing 35+ minutes in a game they lost by 12. That tells you how bad those all-bench line-ups were and whoever the Nets interim coach is might be better off staggering their minutes so they can carry the below replacement level players on his roster. Karasev racked up his plus/minus numbers as part of a front-court that included him, Bogdanovic and Bargnani and Suga Shane Larkin at the point of attack. It was one of the worst line-ups that I've ever seen an NBA team run out, much less in the 2Q of what was still a competitive game.
The Nets bench players combined to score 2 points (!!!) on 14 shots. I don't want to overreact to one game they had clearly mailed in but I wonder how many of those players are going to be in the NBA next season. If you are coming off the bench for a team as bad as Brooklyn, you already have one foot out of the league anyway.
3) The end of the road for Thomas Robinson?
Even for hardcore NBA draft fans, it's hard to summon up too much energy to dissect the careers of guys like Larkin and Karasev. Larkin had what I like to call "a confirmation game" - when you play your old team you can either have a revenge game and show them what they are missing or you can do what Larkin did. On the positive side of the ledger, he had 3 rebounds. On the negative side, he went 0-5 from the field and had 0 assists on 3 turnovers and committed 2 fouls. The next time he comes to the AAC, it might be as a fan.
The more interesting player on the Nets 2nd unit (and I am using that term loosely) is Robinson, whose still living off being a Top 5 pick in the 2012 draft. He has now played on 5 teams in 4 seasons and hasn't been able to stick in the rotation for any of them. The crazy part is that it's not like he was an end of the bench guy who was the 15th man everywhere he went - every single team that had him gave him minutes for an extended period of time before giving up on him.
What's weird is that he's actually putting up decent per-minute numbers so you would think that a team like Brooklyn would throw him out there just to see what they have. The problem is that he gets those numbers in such an ass backwards way that it's incredibly harmful to his team. There's just no room in the league anymore for power forwards who can't shoot and centers who can't protect the rim and those are the only roles that Robinson could conceivably have on an NBA roster.
4) What's next for Joe Johnson?
It's hard not to feel some amount of sympathy for Joe Johnson watching him play out the string. This is not the way an NBA career should end. He's being stretched way beyond his capabilities and being asked to carry a team that he probably couldn't have in his prime, much less at the tail end of his career. The only role for a veteran who has been in the league as long as Johnson on a team as bad as this is as a mentor but what's the point in mentoring young guys who will be out of the league before you? Johnson is being paid a stupendous amount of money to play for this team and that has to be the only thing keeping him sane at the moment. He's a professional whose going to come in every night, punch the clock and hoist mid-range jumpers, but there's no question that this is a job for him right now. This is how I imagine he cheers himself up when he gets home.
While he's clearly a shell of his former shelf, I'm not sure that he's done as an NBA player. He has played in the NBA for 14 seasons (and made $173 million dollars in the process!) but he's still only 34 years old. He needs to do what his former Nets teammate Paul Pierce did to extend his career - slide down a position and go up against slower players who can't take advantage of his lack of speed. Johnson is 6'8 240 and he has a ton of old man strength so he would be more than able to survive at the 4 position in the modern NBA. He would be a great small-ball 4 off the bench for a contender and I wouldn't be surprised if he has a 3rd act on a relevant team next season. It's definitely worth a shot in the off-season because I can't imagine that Johnson is going to ask for a lot of money in free agency.
5) The only reason to watch Nets games the rest of the season
@JonathanTjarks Until they get Rondae back.— Danny Leroux (@DannyLeroux) January 30, 2016