The Brooklyn Nets added two Hall of Famers in a Draft Night trade without necessarily getting all that much better. It may or may not prove to be a smart move, but let’s give the Nets points for commitment.
Your friend, for reasons known only to your friend, waited months for this haircut appointment. It was important to your friend — this is a metaphor, by the way — and you want to support your friend.
And so it was that when your friend returned from this very expensive haircut — for which, again, your friend waited months and endured all kinds of demeaning New York City-style luxury purchase insults (an invasive credit check, multiple letters of reference, a home visit from a judgmental associate hairdresser named Fab, who also ran some rudimentary blood tests) — with what could only be described as a pretty bad haircut, you didn’t say anything. Your friend, and credit to your friend on this, realized it was a bad haircut. A very bad haircut. Feathers are involved. Saffron threads lace through an alarmingly long rat-tail. Your friend purchases gallon jugs of L.A. Looks hair gel to keep it looking the way it’s supposed to look. This is expensive, too, as L.A. Looks hair gel was last manufactured in 1990.
But this was a bad haircut months in the making, and an expensive bad haircut, and your friend had talked a great deal about it and believed in it. So your friend did what seemed right at the moment: got a Discover card and went out and bought some clothes — Bieberian leather sportswear and aggressively riveted pants and things that lace up and other things with zippers-to-nowhere in strange places — to match the haircut. A great deal of money was spent, again. Though a much smaller amount of cash back was also returned to your friend, through Discover’s cash-back policy.
And when it was over, your friend’s look was … well, gaudy is one word. Some unfortunate Buzz Bissingerian pleather leggings, a dozen sleeveless tops that each cost as much as condominiums in Sun Belt states and so very many boots. But it all sort of worked together. Your friend was transformed, at great cost, into something maybe a little ridiculous, but something also maybe a little less ridiculous for its consistency and ownership of its ridiculousness.
Your friend is, of course, the Brooklyn Nets. Your friend had quite a Thursday.
It’s the morning after, and with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry on the roster, the Nets look not so much great as greatly expensive. Per Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the team’s payroll will approach $100 million. Its luxury tax bill will bump up against the $80 million mark. For the second-straight offseason, the team has traded a significant portion of its roster in one move, and left itself to build a bench out of bargain-priced was-available types. It’s not so much a Brooklyn team, in terms of ethos or style, as it is a model borrowed from Wall Street — a gold-plated C-suite and a boiler room full of strivers and temps. Truly a symbol of gilded tacky void-hearted blah blah you get it.
But here’s another thing about it: why not?
This, after all, is the team the Nets have chosen to be: an aggressively marketed, platinum-dipped luxury good with refurbished sweatshoppy guts. An exercise in aggressive short-horizon marketing that, by sad coincidence, owes Joe Johnson almost $70 million over the next three years. Less metaphorically, it is a team with a bunch of high-priced stars and no evident commitment to developing young players or building a quality bench. It’s not at all a bad team, it’s worth mentioning, both by those standards and considering that its starting five will be as talented as any in the NBA next season.
It’s not necessarily a good one, either. It’s better, and better enough to play a few more home playoff games, but it’s not one likely to improve markedly over the next few seasons or at any point be as good as Miami or Indiana or a full-strength Chicago. But let’s give credit where it is due. The Nets have a strange and probably doomed plan — Make A Splash™ and stockpile stars and trusted winners and just let it happen — and they’re not just sticking to it, but committing to it utterly, and at great cost, and not without some risk of looking ridiculous.
And why not, really? There are a great many ways that things might not work for the Nets where this deal is concerned, and it really is strange to see a team borrowing the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers Model so soon after the 2012-13 Lakers were the 2012-13 Lakers. But the ways in which the Nets’ gambit might fail are all more or less the same ways that things might not have worked out had the team not made the deal. They are still asking an absolute beginner of a coach to manage larger-ego’ed veterans who were his peers several months ago. They are still bench-less and capped-out and locked in to players in various stages of decline. They just swapped away the rights to three first-round picks. It’s not the way most of your basketball intellectuals would choose to build a team, which means exactly as much as you choose for it to mean. It certainly is not the most cost-effective or forward-looking way to build a team, and it doesn’t necessarily seem like a way to build a championship team, although the players will have the last say on that.
But this is the team-building method that the Nets chose, and they keep choosing it. They made their goofy bed, and damned if they’re not getting some new spun-caviar pillow shams and a gold leaf duvet and making themselves comfortable in it. It may or may not work, and the initial idea may not deserve this kind of commitment. But there’s no questioning the commitment, and there’s no pulling off this look without that.
And so here is your friend, expensively be-booted and sleeveless and asymmetrically haired, credit cards maxed, stubbornly working it. There’s nothing to say but “go for it.”
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