Brooklyn Nets: How do Nets survive as NBA’s most hated team?

CLEVELAND, OHIO - JANUARY 20: Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - JANUARY 20: Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

As the playoff picture starts to come into focus, one thing has become crystal clear: the Brooklyn Nets have emerged as public enemy No. 1.

Gradually, a brewing storm of contempt and distaste for the Nets has made its way through the NBA airwaves. Everyone from media pundits, analysts, Hall of Famers and current players have expressed their displeasure with the situation the Brooklyn Nets have created.

Accusations of buying a championship and stacking the deck have become consistent, sentiments echoed by many individuals across the NBA spectrum. Whether the disapproval and critique hold any merit is a moot point; “champions’ or “collapsed” will be the story told when the smoke clears.

The chatter amongst the cynics expounds on Brooklyn’s lack of chemistry, injury-prone stars, lack of defensive intensity and reliability amongst other presumed inadequacies. All points can be subjectively justified, but two things the Nets shouldn’t lack heading towards the postseason is motivation and plenty of bulletin board material.

Individually the Nets’ “Big 3” should be able to draw motivation from the proverbial asterisks the media has put on their own legacies and personal careers. There is still a notion that the heroics of James Harden fall short the deeper he goes into the playoffs. Implications still ring of Kyrie Irving’s lack of success without LeBron and Kevin Durant’s need to jump to a 73-9 Warriors team to win championships.

The Nets have been under the basketball world’s microscope for most of the 2020-21 NBA season. Every injury, mishap, player acquisition and outspoken tweet becomes a front-page headline.

The contradiction and lapse in memory of how other top NBA teams were assembled has been overshadowed and disregarded by the threat of Brooklyn’s possible success. Some would presume the masses simply don’t care who wins as long as the Nets aren’t the last ones standing at the end of playoffs.

So where do the hated Brooklyn Nets go from here?

Brooklyn’s top priority and focal point should be making it to the playoffs with a full and healthy roster. The Nets will more than likely have to sacrifice perceived lack of regular season chemistry and continuity for vitality and longevity in the postseason.

Brooklyn’s road to a championship is an unconventional one, but not an impossible endeavor if they have a healthy roster anchored by the “Big 3.” What they lack in chemistry they make up for in superior offensive talent and experience.

With three players who command constant attention and double teams on offense, fundamental details like finding the open man will keep opposing teams scrambling. Brooklyn is anything but short on role players who can spread the floor and big men who are able to finish at the rim at a high percentage.

Outside of staying healthy, accountability, low energy and passive effort will be Brooklyn’s biggest obstacles moving forward. Slow starts and a shortage of defensive intensity has been a problem embedded in the Nets culture from the beginning of the season.

The playoffs will call for a conservative team effort of focus and everyone staying engaged and locked in for 48 minutes. Points in the paint, second chance rebounds and easy drives to the basket are concerns that Brooklyn must address and rectify.

Whether deliberately or unintentionally, Brooklyn has put themselves in a “championship or bust” scenario in the critics’ eyes. Embracing and overcoming the unorthodox rode that lies ahead is the only way to silence the noise.