Like many of the teams the Los Angeles Lakers have faced this season, the New Jersey Nets are not a very good basketball team. The Nets are the less-than-proud owners of a 6-17 record, the worst in the Eastern Conference. After whiffing on every possible big name in the off-season, despite having enough cap space to go after two max free agents, the Nets are also the less-than-proud owners of a group of free agent signings of which the "big" name is Travis Outlaw. They are fresh off of a season that saw them spend most of the year on pace for the worst season in NBA history, and despite their ineptitude, the NBA lottery only rewarded them with the 3rd overall pick, barely making it into the lottery. In case you haven't figured it out yet, there's not a lot to be excited about in New Jersey, not that there ever really is.
Their owner is pretty damned exciting though. Mikhail Prokhorov is the only guy currently providing the Nets with any buzz. Of course, when you are a Russian multi-billionaire who flies models all over the world to hang out, when nobody is quite sure how you obtained your money in a country that is rife with corruption and organized crime, you might just trend a little higher than the average suite dwelling owner of a professional basketball franchise. And, despite a lack of foundational talent, there might just be a future for this team. After all, they have the biggest financial backing of any team in the league. They are constructing a new arena in Brooklyn that will allow them to better tap into the New York market, and shed the depressing nature of associating yourself with the state of New Jersey in any way. There's actually a lot of positive stuff going on for the Nets, it just so happens a lot of it isn't basketball related, and needs some time to get going. In the meantime, they are stuck with a bad team filled with young pieces, and a whole lot of losses. It's something the Nets just have to get through, and hope that all that losing doesn't kill the buzz.
But Prokhorov doesn't believe in hope. He makes his own luck. So he and his team have launched on a daring and counter-intuitive plan to ensure that the buzz generated by the proceedings off the court isn't jeopardized by the failures of the team on the court. That plan? Make sure nobody is watching.In case you've been living under a rock for the past 15-20 years or so, there is one sport that absolutely dominates the American landscape. Basketball? Despite being the sport of choice for this particular blog, basketball is and has always been an amazing niche sport. There are just too many people who can't identify with the players, or don't like the way the game has evolved. Baseball? With games routinely going 3+ hours with action that can be boiled down to 5 or 10 minutes, today's ADD generation can't slow down enough to enjoy "America's Pasttime"
Football, now that is the sport that has America's attention. Every Saturday and Sunday during the fall, a majority of American sports fans find themselves a nice comfortable spot and enjoy some football. There are enough games in college to spread throughout the day, but the NFL operates on a rigid schedule, with a majority of games kicking off at 1 PM EST. Which, not so coincidentally, happens to be the same time that today's Lakers-Nets game is set to tip off.
1 P.M. EST ... that's 10 AM here in the city of Angels. Is this even allowed? Aren't there rules about basketball being played that early, kind of like how you aren't supposed to start drinking before noon unless under specific circumstances. And putting this game up against the NFL on Sunday? That's sporting event suicide. It's like scheduling Heather's Reasons Why Not against Seinfeld. There's simply no way that a large amount of people are going to be thinking "Hmm, Nets basketball or 5 football games all at once ... I gotta go with the basketball." There's no way the Nets front office doesn't know this, so the only logical explanation is that they don't want anybody to see this game. It's a bold strategy.
As far as basketball goes, you might as well take our recent previews for the Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, or L.A. Clippers and use them piecemeal. Like those teams, there aren't many things the Nets do well. They are below average defensively, well below average offensively, and unlike the last two poor opponents the Lakers have faced, the Nets don't even have a must see rookie to spice things up a bit. Don't get me wrong, Derrick Favors is a decent player, performing better than expected, but if we can't see John Wall's speed or Blake Griffin's hops up-close, a game like this provides little in the way of entertainment.
And maybe that's a good thing, because our boys are struggling something fierce. They just had one of the worst offensive performances you are likely to see, and they are desperately in need of a nice easy win to sort out their issues as they await the return of Andrew Bynum. The Nets are likely willing and able to provide a stepping stone for the Lakers to snap out of their funk and get things going in the right direction again.
But will it matter? The only question about today's game that matters is this. If an NBA game is played, and nobody saw or heard about it, does it still count? We'll find out today.