It's disappointing, yet not altogether unsurprising, to watch the raging tire fire that is the downfall of the Brooklyn Nets. It's happening right now, before our very eyes, with sources leaking details and Adrian Woj reporting them every step of the way, and it's hard not to have mixed feelings about the whole ordeal.
I say it's unsurprising because this is the way things often go in today's NBA - especially in a high-profile, big-money organization like the one in Brooklyn, it's typical for a stakeholder like Jason Kidd to get delusions of grandeur and begin thinking he deserves more. More of everything - money, power, respect, you name it. The bigger the position you're in, and head coach of the Nets is certainly a big one, the higher your aspirations inevitably get.
It's disappointing because the Nets are becoming a huge punchline in a market where the league really doesn't want to have one. The Knicks and Nets looked poised a year ago to become two of the best teams in the NBA, creating a cross-town rivalry like we'd never seen before in the sport, and now that hope is shot. Both teams are a mess, and I definitely agree with all who say the game is worse off without a vibrant scene in New York.
This goes deeper, though. For me, it's not just about the Big Apple. I appreciate all 30 teams, but as a Celtic guy, I've got an inordinate amount of love in my heart for the Nets, who adopted two of Boston's old franchise players and sold them on the prospect of winning another ring before retirement. It now looks fairly clear not only that that will never happen, but also that the ends of Kevin Garnett's and Paul Pierce's careers will be marred by ego trips and tabloid-fodder scandals in their locker room. The Nets are in shambles, and it's tarnishing two great careers.
When I try to sort this whole mess out in my head, the word I keep coming back to is "loyalty." It's a term that pretty much everyone in the NBA talks about from time to time, but few have the integrity to actually exemplify it. In a league where there are 30 teams and there's always another opportunity out there to grab more fame or more cash, it's really hard to stay faithful. Not many guys do it.
Garnett is one of those guys. He's staggeringly loyal. He's loyal to a fault. When he's on a team, he's on it, and you practically have to pry his cold dead hands off. His teammates are close like brothers; his opponents are his mortal enemies. No exception.
KG may have three different teams on his resume, but don't mistake occasionally switching jobs for being disloyal. The man has always showed fidelity to his people. He spent 12 years at the start of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, despite the fact that the franchise was a train wreck and the front office could never build a winner around him, because he was just too devoted to 'Sota to move on. Finally, in 2007, both sides agreed that a transition was necessary, and he was dealt to Boston. KG later expressed regret that a move didn't happen sooner - when asked about LeBron James' free agency in 2010, he famously said that "Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can’t get youth back."
At his next stop, in Boston, Garnett was again stubbornly loyal at a time when many wouldn't have been. He could have easily retired in the summer of 2012, walking away when his contract expired and his physical skills were starting to give out, but instead he came back on a three-year contract because he couldn't bear to leave Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce behind. We all know what happened next - that core group stuck together for just one more season before Doc bolted for Los Angeles and Pierce convinced KG to flee Beantown with him.
Now Garnett is at stop No. 3, and again, questions of loyalty are threatening the stability of his career. There's an obvious disconnect between the two former Celtics and their current (exiting?) coach. KG and Pierce are loyal guys - loyal to their craft, to their team and to each other. Kidd, sadly, appears loyal to nothing and no one other than himself.
Of course, no one ever said that loyalty was required. The NBA is a business, and players have the freedom to advance their own self-interest, whether that means pursuing more money or status or anything else. We as fans may prefer that our favorite players be team-oriented Kevin Garnett types, but we have no control. It's a free country.
It's just sad, that's all. It appeared that Garnett was on track to play another year for Kidd as recently as Thursday night, when Newsday reported that the two were keeping in touch about offseason workout plans. It looked like Garnett was poised to play one last season with Kidd by his side, a fitting epilogue on a Hall of Fame career for the big man, ideally with Pierce by his side.
Now what? Does Pierce leave in free agency with the team's infrastructure crumbling? Does Garnett follow him out the door? Whenever what happens with Kidd happens, there's the potential for a scary chain reaction of events. Careers could be altered.
A year ago, Pierce sold Garnett on the idea of playing for a deep team with championship aspirations, and Garnett went along with it. If KG could do it over again now, I wonder what he'd say.