Latest posts by Ian Scott McCormick (see all)
- Beyond Infinite Nets Game 85: Lost in a Cloud – April 20, 2019
- Beyond Infinite Nets Game 84: The Problems With Narratives – April 16, 2019
- Beyond Infinite Nets Game 83: Welcome to the After Season – April 14, 2019
And then the fog rolls in, the sound and noise drift into the recesses of your memory. All the strife, all the anguish. It’s history. You cross they Grey Rainbow Bridge and find yourself in purgatory, which you greet with the middle aged cousin to jubilation: Contentment. Because you really are just happy to be here. You really do feel as though you’ve climbed the mountain. Would getting dunked on for four games feel like a victory lap? At this point, sure. Coming out of the wilderness of minimalist expectations, anything that happens in the playoffs is a blessing. And now that the bare minimum has been met, both you and the team are free to enjoy loose basketball. You have nothing to lose. The field can take nothing away from you. In a sense you are dead, but that does mean that you should be mourned. You are free. You have transcended to the After Season.
It’s been a ride. I consider this the most honest sports blog in the game, and I can tell you that I didn’t plan the whole life after death theme until this morning as I took a jog along the edge of the water and watched as the fog nearly completely engulfed the mighty Verrazano Bridge that typically looms large over the neighborhood. Pretty, right?
I wanted that to be the header image, but I shot it vertically like a dumbass, and now I can’t get it to work without cutting off too much stuff. Whatever. The point is, I’m not going to lie to you, or pretend to be something that I’m not. In fact, though I could have been easily persuaded to lean more into the melodrama than was necessary, the fact is what has shown up in the post is more or less how I’ve felt for the season. This hasn’t been an act. I’ve never bullshitted you. If anything, I’ve probably gotten too deep into my own navel as I’ve watched this team, sometimes because my mind drifts. I won’t pretend to have maintained a laser like focus on the season, but I’ve more or less kept tabs on it. It’s the people who pretend that they live and die with every possession that draw my suspicion. You can’t be that into the game. Right?
Maybe I’m full of it. Maybe that certainty is what proves I’m not only psychotic, but the worst kind of nut job: The one who not only believes that he’s sane, but every so often gets the hunch that he’s the only person talking any sense. And maybe this preamble is what it takes for me to prepare to watch as my season is tested by the anthesis of what I claim to root for as a basketball fan.
Bring on the Sixers. Years ago, I’d staked out my claim that the Process was a fraud. That it was hollow. I’ve repeated the point ad nauseam on this blog whenever the Nets had played the Sixers, and sometimes when they hadn’t. I’ve made the same arguments over and over. Hell, I’ve recapped this before. We are officially in reruns. But now there is that added spice. Now the season is on the line. And though the Nets have succeeded in a way that cannot be marred by the results of any playoff tilt, the fact remains that the heart wants what it wants. I want to watch the Sixers go down. I want to watch the Nets show the world that tanking is stupid, and that you simply cannot know who is the future, so you might as well try to win the game that’s in front of you. I’ve banged that point like a fundamentalist who knows that he’s correct, if for no other reason than that they can’t imagine what kind of place the world would be if they were somehow mistaken. The Nets cannot prove me wrong this year, but they sure as hell can drive home the point.
I never enjoy close contests in the moment, but with the anesthesia of distance I can say that I’ve loved this Nets season. They have been “a fun team to watch.” They have played “an unselfish brand of basketball” and ticked off all of the cliches that are so annoying to read when they’re written about any team other than the one you watch on a nightly basis. And I’ll remember that going into the season there was some question about whether or not they’d actually go for something more than maximizing their own first round pick. Not only would a number of analysts have given them a pass for failing to show up to work, a good number of knowers would have deemed it “good business” to stink up the joint and try for more ping pong balls when a singular talent like Zion lurks in the distance. But let it never be said that the Nets are Zionists. Or Ja Morantists. Or, foolishly, RJ Barrettists.
Going into the game were stills of Sixers fans still singing the praises of the Process. They tailgated and made sure to flash homemade signs touting the process. They are fundamentalists as well, and lord help us when they discover Sam Hinkie was always a false God. They had attempted to disrupt the league by losing and stockpiling picks, whereas the Nets might actually disrupt their plans by recruiting one of the architects of the San Antonio Spurs dynasty- Sean Marks- along with Kenny Atkinson, a student of Mike Budenholzer and a branch on the great Gregg Popovich coaching tree.
And so when the Nets did not wilt in the opening minutes, and took the lead in the first quarter, it was Philadelphia’s fans turn to feel rage. They booed their team off the court at the end of the first quarter, where they were down by 11. A Jimmy Butler buzzer beater to cut the halftime defecit to 8 spared the team at the end of the 2nd, but once again, they booed at the end of the third. The team that had done everything short of thrown a Championship Parade for the 10-72 squad was suddenly demanding results and finding nothing. And this loss is not proof that they would always lose, and will never win with this squad. Far from it. Even with the win, the Nets are most likely still heavy underdogs to walk away from the series. But it does show that their work is not finished, and losing over and over again will not automatically produce a title.
Again, I’ll say it so that somebody out there might someday understand. The game is not about the Championship. I have watched damn near every game this season. There were a few exceptions where I just wasn’t able to get to a TV, but conservatively, I’d guess that I’d watched 77 Nets games going into this weekend. I might have missed five. That sounds about right. And the Nets almost certainly will not shock the world and win the title, but I can promise you that I will remember this season more fondly than any Warriors or Rockets fan. I’ve witnessed the alchemy of competence out of what seemed like nothing, and the ride of not knowing whether the team would win or lose on any night has been more exhilarating than being some prohibitive favorite who dunked on the sisters of the poor. And doing so with the borderline reckless Matadorian flourish instead of say, the Indiana Pacers ugly, conservative game theory, has made it all the richer. I’ll remember this team and this season far longer than you will remember any of yours. I’ve lived it. I’ve consumed it. None of that changes simply because they pulled out the win on the road this afternoon. But it sure felt good to see them do it in Philly.
The Brooklyn Nets lead the Philadelphia 76ers 1-0 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.