Less Dollars Makes More Sense

Less Dollars Makes More Sense

As I woke up Sunday morning an emotional hot mess, I realized that I wasn’t alone. No I am not referring to my insomnia-suffering pregnant wife, but a significant portion of the Brooklyn Nets‘ fan base. Brooklyn’s decision not to resign Paul Pierce to what appeared to be a bargain price of $5.5 million per season is what triggered these feelings of frustration, confusion, and anger amongst many.  After all, these are Mikhail Prokhorov’s Nets.  We don’t look at price tags when we go shopping.  At least that’s been the mentality we’ve all grown accustomed to. After letting it sink in, the decision to let Pierce walk started to make sense.

The decision not to retain their veteran leader contradicted the philosophy in how the Nets have done business since leaving The Garden State.  This wasn’t a gradual change but a complete one-eighty shift overnight.  The Nets don’t appear willing to spend at will anymore and are preaching fiscal responsibility.

It is my belief that what upsets many Nets fans was not the decision to let Pierce walk without making an offer, but the trade made with the Boston Celtics a year ago.  At the time the Nets felt they were a player or two away from seriously contending for an NBA title.  They went all in when they mortgaged the future for a chance to add Kevin Garnett and Pierce to the roster.  Those two were going to provide the necessary leadership and experience that would elevate Brooklyn into the upper echelon of the league.

It was an enormous risk, yet many were thrilled at the time.  Remember, hindsight is always 20/20.  No one could have foreseen the bad luck the Nets would endure throughout the season in the injury department.  Clearly finishing as a sixth seed only to last five games in the second round was not what Billy King and company envisioned when the “Boston heart transplant” became official.

The championship pedigree was only able to elevate Brooklyn to the 2nd round.

The championship pedigree was only able to elevate Brooklyn to the 2nd round.

To now switch to a corporate philosophy of being more financially responsible makes you wonder why the deal was even made in the first place.  From an outsider’s perspective, they got caught up in the moment with their “All In” campaign. It’s as if no one considered how this deal would shake up in terms of costs for the 2014-15 season and beyond.

Irresponsible? Yes, but once again, a chance to go for it now certainly made fans excited. Now the Nets organization and their fans can only hope that this deal doesn’t become the NBA equivalent to the now infamous “Herschel Walker Trade”, when the Minnesota Vikings paid the Dallas Cowboys a king’s ransom which provided Dallas with the future assets to assemble their dynasty during the 1990s. Walker’s tenure with Minnesota was certainly a disappointment and the lopsided deal won’t ever be forgotten by football fans.

Although it is doubtful that any Nets officials will admit that the trade with Boston was a colossal failure, their actions now seem to reflect that sentiment.  It’s a harsh reality to accept, but perhaps the ownership and management realized that this team with Pierce is not on a championship level.  Could they compete in the East? Yes.  Could they contend for a title? Probably not.

Like anything else in life, you can’t dwell on past mistakes and must remain focused on the future.  There is no doubt that the deal was a mistake and will only make the Nets the punch line for jokes by sports pundits and fans for years to come.  The key is not to compound any problems, and maybe signing Pierce could’ve been just that.  Did you know that if the Nets had signed Pierce to the exact contract offered by the Washington Wizards, it would have cost the franchise $22M, or about the same salary as LeBron James?  Now be honest with yourself, would adding Pierce make the Nets a legitimate contender for the upcoming season?

Yes, Piece was productive and played a key role in helping the Nets salvage their season and advance to the second round of the playoffs, but he is also turning 37 this year.  What happens if Father Time really catches up with him this season?  He had his signature moments during the regular and postseasons, but he also had those forgettable ones too. How much of a disaster would it be if the Nets are paying an excess of $20M to a player who struggles to defend his opponent and his scoring production continues to plummet?  It was Branch Rickey who famously said, “Trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late.”

Obviously there was no trade involved with Pierce’s departure from Brooklyn.  Had they resigned him where would he play?  He did look old and slow while manning the small forward position during the first half of the season.  Would it be ideal to play him alongside Brook Lopez as a stretch four, and if so who’s rebounding? Can’t the Nets get the same 13 point, 5 rebound production from Andrei Kirilenko and/or Mirza Teletovic?

Perhaps an extended role for Teletovic can yield similar production.

Perhaps an extended role for Teletovic can yield similar production.

I totally get that it’s not our money and Mikhail Prokhorov’s bank account seems unlimited, but I am willing to bet that you don’t become one of the wealthiest men in the world by overspending for depreciating assets.  As much as he wants to win, owning a team is still a business and I doubt that he or any other owner would be accepting of losing substantial money.  No one can accuse him of being cheap as he spent upwards of $190M this past year, something the sports world hadn’t seen since George Steinbrenner.  The difference is the Yankees made a profit, whereas the Nets recently lost $144M according to recent reports.

Trust me when I say that I am just as much disappointed that this deal didn’t work out and the Nets have appeared to have dug themselves a hole in terms of the future.  It may seem that they opted for Jarrett Jack over Pierce, but perhaps it was more about obtaining a young asset in Sergey Karasev.  They have given away a lot in recent deals, so recouping some youth seems to be a top priority now and will hopefully help them retool for the future.

The trade ended up as a bust and although it’s not easy, it’s time to turn the page.  As a fan, I appreciate the efforts made in recent years but I respect the change in direction.  Successful organizations don’t operate the way the Nets have in recent years.  Hopefully the Nets have learned their lesson and will make more sound, responsible decisions moving forward.

Purple Pain

Isn’t being a sports fan supposed to be an escape from reality?  After all, isn’t life already filled with enough stress?  Your hobby should bring you joy…not pain.  Well, if you are one of the unfortunate people on this planet that calls him/herself a Minnesota Vikings fan, Sundays can feel a lot worse than waking up for work on Monday.

It's not easy being a Vikings fan.

Being a fan has definitely prepared me for life’s disappointments.

You’ve heard of the 5 stages of grief?  Well, if you are a fan of the purple, there is a vicious cycle that we go through continuously that truly pushes our emotions to the limit.  The clinical term for this series of emotions is called the 5 H’s: Hope, Hype, Heartbreak, Humiliation, and Hell.

I have been a fan for 23 years and it just hit me that this is very real and it sucks!  In case you were wondering, we are currently in the Hell portion of the schedule.  How long we stay there is anyone’s guess.

I know what you are thinking, I am out of my mind and none of this is real.  Let’s revisit recent history so that I can map out how the 5 H’s have occurred.

Hope:

Brad Childress was hired to instill a disciplined culture and smash-mouth/defensive-minded identity to a team that was more likely to party with hookers on Lake Minnetonka than win a meaningful game outdoors.  Heck, we even changed our uniforms.

The concept of a disciplined Vikings team both on and off the field was too good to be true.

The concept of a disciplined Vikings team, both on and off the field, was too good to be true.

Hype:

After winning 10 games and earning a playoff birth, the Tarvaris Jackson/Gus Frerotte quarterbacking duo was upgraded to the legendary Brett Favre.  The front office’s belief that Favre was the missing piece was validated as the Vikings established themselves as one of the NFL’s elite.  This was the most complete Viking team that I have ever witnessed: a high powered offense, a disruptive defense, and a clutch, reliable kicker.  The stars appeared to have finally aligned!

With Jared Allen and company, the defense was actually a strength.

With Jared Allen and company, the defense was actually a strength.

Heartbreak:

Do I really need to go here?  Twelve men in the huddle, the horrible interception at the end of regulation, and an overtime field goal to end our season.  Once again we go into the off season knowing that the best team didn’t represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Favre picked the absolute worst time to break the heart of Viking fans.

Favre picked the absolute worst time to break the hearts of Viking fans.

Humiliation:

The following season can be summarized by the following events: Favre’s retirement soap opera and sexting drama, the firing of Brad Childress after a 3-7 start, and trading a 3rd rounder for 4 weeks of Randy Moss.  The roof literally caved in before our very own eyes.

A symbol of the organizational dysfunction?

A symbol of the organization’s dysfunction?

Hell:

A  disappointing 6-10 season was followed up with a dismal 3-13 encore.  Just when it appeared that we were about to secure our positioning to draft either Andrew Luck or RGIII, we screwed it up by winning a meaningless game late in the season at Washington.  Fast forward to the present day and we still don’t have a quarterback!

Now do you believe me that the 5 H’s are real or do you need more proof?

  • Remember the heartbreak from Josh McCown’s touchdown pass with no time left to end our playoff hopes during the 2003 season? By the way, we started 6-0 that season.
  •  How about the hype of an unstoppable offense featuring Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Jake Reed, Robert Smith, and Randall Cunningham during the 1998 season?
  • Does the 41-0 humiliation from the 2000 NFC Championship Game ever creep back into your memory?
  • Certainly you recall the aura of hope surrounding the franchise when Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson fell into our laps on draft day.

I have come to accept the reality that we are a snake bitten organization.  Jinxed franchises lose four Super Bowls.  Jinxed franchises are ones that establish themselves as the league’s best during a season only to NOT make the Super Bowl.  Jinxed franchises would have a general manager that would trade away every future asset for a running back who would play three years in Minnesota and gain a paltry 825 yards in his most productive season there.

cowboys

Oh by the way, the other team involved in that trade only went on to win 3 Super Bowls.

Did I mention that our timing sucks too?  In the 1990’s, an era when defense and ball-control offense won championships, we were the ones reliant on our aerial attack and looking to outscore teams.  Luck would have it, as the NFL rules changed to create a “pass-centric” league, our offensive identity morphed itself into something out of the 1960’s.  It’s as if the rest of the NFL is currently running on high-speed WiFi and we are operating on a dial-up connection,

It’s just too bad I didn’t see the warning signs as a kid whenever I saw the highlight of longest run from scrimmage on the Metrodome turf.

Tony Dorsett’s 99-yard touchdown

Freaky things just happen to cursed franchises.  How else can you explain this play?

If you are a true Vikings fan then you are used to embarrassing highlights which feature the Viking defense slipping, tripping, and running into each other.

Well we are currently 1-5 on this train wreck of a season and the Leslie Frazier era is sure to expire in ten weeks.  We are certainly going through hell, but with a new coach and a high draft pick will come hope.  Whenever we take that next step forward and have a real chance, I will be prepared for that guaranteed heartbreak (I am clearly lying here).  After all, I am a fan of the Minnesota Vikings.  What other life as a fan is there?  I just wish to this purple pain would end already.