Friday, June 26, 2009

NJ Nets Turn the Page, Vince, We Bid Adieu

The Nets finally closed out an era, even if it was the newest incarnation of a bridged era from their highly successful time in the early 2000s. The Nets would have been at this day quite possibly four years ago had they not netted the 27 year-old Vince Carter back in 2004-05. Back then, Jason Kidd was on the verge of doing what he did in 07-08 much earlier: turn himself on the team. Carter was not the answer to all of the Nets problems - and what he could not do made his preternatural skills such a tease - but he ultimately did some phenomenal personal things.

Carter's exploits particularly down the stretch in 2005, leading the Nets to an improbable playoff berth, was one of the most impressive things a Nets fan had seen since the days of Dr. J. His feats of scoring and engagement - and until then unforeseen aptitude as a passer - gave Nets fans the feeling that anything was possible on the basketball court. You think back to all the unbelievable moments - the whirling dervish at the Staples Center; the game-winning shots in Utah, Toronto, and at home against Atlanta; the effortless olley oops and forays to the hoop; the how-did-he-do-that pick and roll passing; that time against the Spurs when he had mid-40s in the third quarter before Bruce Bown went cheap shot on him - and you can't help but be somewhat saddened by the departure of Vince.

He took the controls as a leader last season - when other veterans in the twilight of primetime might have shirked those responsibilites (see Kidd, Jason) - and he did everything you would expect. He was not a bulletproof no-doubt Superstar, of course: his moments of settling for the fadeaway J (which might i say he made many), for being possibly too easy going, of not showing that "killer instinct", pepper his sportscenter highlight moments with just as many moments of fallibility. Those who see him every day know what you are going to get - it's not too the degree, but somewhat akin to how Yankee fans probably feel with Alex Rodriguez.

So much talent - and hype - which appears to come so easy, and yet there seems to be big swaths of mortality laced in there when purposefully watched over the course of time.
Sure, Vince can do that. But there is also a somber feeling about the end of this era, flawed as it was but surely with its moments. Because it also seems to portend to something happening beyond basketball for the Nets. (It seems, as their incessant catch phrase goes) It's about...salary dumps...and surviving. Rod Thorns seems to be making the trades that he so often was on the other end of shrewdly making. Sure, Courtney Lee is good and young and showed some things. But in earlier Nets eras, the Rafer Alstons' and the Tony Batties' sound a lot like the Eric Williams' and Aaron Williams' - and the "contracts" of Alonzo Mourning. Vince was traded by the Nets the way he seemingly was brought to New Jersey.

And for that, it peppers this trade with holes. His window is closing on primetime, as his contract numbers escalate, but when the Nets make a trade like this - while substantially laying off their business-side workers (and advance scouts!) and the contracts of their assistant coaches - it feels not only like a salary dump, but a dump for survival. As if, even with their immediate salary relief, it might still not be enough. Unfortunately, it does like it's "more than a game." That was their catch phrase to signify all the entertainment options you could find at a Nets game in somewhat more flush times, but it could be the basketball state of affairs now.

You understand the trade on its face, but it feels like the Nets will only be more inconsequential now.

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