Believe it or not, the Brooklyn Nets were optimistic back in mid-December. Spencer Dinwiddie was playing like an All-Star, the defense was coming along and there was hope that they could coalesce into something cohesive. They just had to get healthy.
Kevin Durant was out for the season, but the severity of Kyrie Irving's shoulder injury wasn't clear. It might be tricky for Irving, Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert to find on-court harmony, but there are worse problems than figuring out how to maximize such a talented trio. In the playoffs, the thinking went, opponents wouldn't be able to stop all of them.
"You need multiple people that can score, multiple people that can do different things," Garrett Temple told me after a comfortable home win that put Brooklyn a couple of games over .500. "And that's why it's great that we are going to have eventually three guys that can really create off the dribble whenever we need 'em to. And guys that can spot up and shoot it and then obviously two bigs that can dominate the paint."
This sentiment seems laughable now. Well before the March 11 NBA shutdown, the Nets' high hopes had been dashed. If there are no more games in 2019-20, no team will get a satisfying ending. For Brooklyn, though, there would be something fitting about a season of false starts coming to an abrupt stop.
On Sep. 24, the Nets held their first media availability, with general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson scheduled to speak. Atkinson missed it, though, to go see a doctor with Irving. The star guard had been hit with an elbow in a pickup game and fractured his face. Their next six months had as much rhythm as that appalling "Imagine" cover, and they were just as easy to mock after Atkinson's exit: Some culture, huh?