Book Review: The 'Paradox' of the Nets' first year in Brooklyn
By Jason Schott - @JESchott19
Jake Appleman has a new book out called Brooklyn Bounce on the Nets' first season in Brooklyn. It is an in-depth look at the Nets from someone who has been around the team since he did a high school sportswriting project on Stephon Marbury in 1999.
The book opens with what Appleman feels was the high point of the inaugural season, the Nets' first round Game 1 win over the Chicago Bulls on April 20, 2013. This night was what the franchise envisioned when they moved here, and Appleman gives every detail of how the night went. There was the Blackout in Brooklyn theme, fans got black t-shirts to complete the blackout theme, the Nets wore their road black uniforms, Jerry Stackhouse sang the anthem, and tidbits from the media side, describing the black-and-white M&Ms to the black-and-white cookies with the #HelloPlayoffs design to the black-and-white tortellini.
It is soon after that he goes into what is a main theme of the book, the "paradox" as he calls it with how the Nets introduced themselves to Brooklyn, starting with their franchise player, point guard Deron Williams. Appleman writes, "In business, popularity was work if you weren't already popular, as the Nets' branding efforts revealed. Both to his credit and to his detriment, Williams didn't want to do the work to be popular like so many upper-echelon NBA players. The result was a double-edged sword. He came off as a bit more real, a little bit more honest than most of his peers, but he definitely didn't dress up as a long-lost mustachioed twin during postseason commercials."
He goes into great detail about when Williams was brought to the Nets in 2011, and one thing was an issue early on. "(Avery) Johnson and (Billy) King and the Nets wanted to present a unified front behind Williams, even amid widespread disagreement on the pronunciation of his name - again, Dare-wren not Duh-ron or Der-in. And Williams himself wasn't sure he even wanted to be the name on the marquee."
D-Will would correct reporters repeatedly on how his name is pronounced, including numerous times at the Borough Hall event with Joe Johnson in the summer of 2012 after he was re-signed. One instance I thought showed how petty and cruel Williams is on this came at a charity event at St. John's Bread and Life in Bedford-Stuyvesant for Thanksgiving. Williams was serving a person in need, who was telling him how much he enjoys watching his games, like watching him play was a bright spot in his tough life. He made one mistake, calling him Der-on, and was quickly corrected by Williams that "It's Dar-en," and did not even do it in a funny way.
Appleman's assessment of the other main players on the team - Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans, and Kris Humphries - was spot-on. He is correct in telling his audience that Lopez would rather talk about anything than basketball and is a dull quote after games, Wallace was the voice of the team in many ways telling it like it is, Evans was very approachable and said whatever came in his mine and is pleasant to deal with, and Humphries only said things that seemed to be tested before-hand and not real genuine.
One of the strengths of the book is a look at the Nets' nomadic history going back to when they were the New Jersey Americans of the ABA on Long Island in 1967. It also is fascinating how he traces the history of Nets point guards from Drazen Petrovic to Kenny Anderson to Stephon Marbury to Jason Kidd to Devin Harris to Deron Williams.
When you reach the part on the games, including the first ever meeting with the Knicks that was delayed by Hurricane Sandy, it's like your mind is brought back to how exciting it was when that season began and everything was new.
The way Appleman tries to make his points is a little tricky to get used to. Instead of going in chronological order the way the season went, he detailed the first month before giving an anecdote about Media Day when Deron Williams acted as a member of the press and asked Avery Johnson a question. This led into a detailed analysis of the first Nets-Knicks matchup.
Appleman acts a bit too sure of himself when he writes this about talking to Kobe Bryant after the Lakers beat the Nets on November 20, 2012. "'I like 'em,' Bryant said of the Nets. 'I like their talent. I like their balance. I like how Avery has them executing, and they're playing well together.They look very good to me.' I didn't follow up by asking about the Nets possibly waving Avery Johnson off."
That is an easy thing to put in a year later, but at that time the idea that Johnson would be fired five days later was unthinkable, so for Appleman to say now he regrets not asking Kobe about Avery's job status is disingenuous."
There is a nice look at General Manager Billy King's career, starting with his time in college at Duke to being in the Philadelphia 76ers front office. There also is a look at his ties to Larry Brown, who coached the 76ers while King was there.
Overall, the book is a good read and, once you start, you can't put it down, as it continues all the way to the offseason moves, with bringing in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston and the surprise move of naming Jason Kidd as head coach. It is amazing to think how much went on in one year in Brooklyn.