Once the calendar hits December of any year ending in a 9, it is time for the masses to declare the top 10 of whatever the previous 10 years provided us. I have seen numerous lists recounting the best of film, television, music, sports, etc. But, where is the New Jersey Net love? As always, Slippery When Nets is hear to provide a voice for the little man! And now, I proudly present:
The Top 10 Nets Of The Zeros!
10. Jason Collins
Towards the end of his Nets tenure, Jason Collins became a divisive figure amongst Nets fans. Many argued he was too slow, and shot too poorly (as his below 50% free throw percentage can attest to). However, I don't want to spend too much time picking him apart, because there are so many forgotten positives.
First, if one looks at his numbers in his first four seasons, you will see a solid NBA center. I remember his free throw shooting was so good that he would often take the technical shots. But, the first word when talking about Jason Collins' career is one word: DEFENSE. He was an immense defensive presence on the Nets for six and a half season. He anchored the defense on and off the court. His defining moment has to be in the 2007 playoffs, where he absolutely owned Chris Bosh. It is no surprise that as soon as he was traded, the Nets' defense has steadily declined.
So yes, he will have his critics. However, as a Net, he brought everything he could to the game. He left nothing on the table. And for that, I am giving him the 10-spot.
9. Lucious Harris
Lucious gets the nod partially based on him sticking with the team through the worst of times in the 90s. When Jason Kidd arrived, Harris stepped up his game and became the most integral member of a solid Nets bench. In the middle of the 2002-2003 season, he started 25 games in place of an injured Kerry Kittles, and filled in admirably. He also shined in the famous triple-overtime game versus Detroit in the 2004 playoffs, hitting many clutch 3s. There are probably more talented Nets players than the first two I've listed, but there aren't many with more heart.
8. Brook Lopez
This is a complete potential pick. He has had only a season and a half so far, but I have high hopes for him. He is easily the most talented big-man the Nets have had this decade. He looks like he will be a future All-Star and a perennial 20/10 player. Will the Nets management get its act together and have a roster of decent players he can work with? That is the the question. It is a shame to watch him this season busting his ass and playing 40 minutes a night while the Simmons and Alstons of the world chuck up ugly 3-pointers.
7. Keith Van Horn
I already slobbered all over Mr. Van Horn in a previous blog post, so no need to go over the basics. Although, to be honest, I think it is time to rethink he career again. In the 2000 season, Keith was the second best player on the Nets, behind Stephon Marbury. The rest of the starters were Jim McIlvaine, Kendall Gill, and Kerry Kittles. How many games did they win? 31. This current team, whose two best players are Lopez and Devin Harris, are on pace to win 6. Perhaps the players on that team are better than we remember them.
6. Devin Harris
Well, I'm going to make this quick, before my rage takes over and I remove him from this list. He came in, and filled in admirably for the Captain. In the 2008 season, he helped the Nets get off to a good start, and made the All-Star team. However, this season, he has been abysmal - showing no leadership, playing no defense, and possibly undermining Lawrence Frank. However, he is still young and talented, but I fear I'll look back on at this list next decade and just shake my head.
5. Kerry Kittles
Like Lucious Harris, this is a longevity award. Kerry Kittles is perhaps the one player of the decade you can definitively call a "True Net". People forget, but the 2001-02 season not only marked the Nets' best season, but Kerry Kittles playing every game after missing the entire 2000-01 season due to injury. A starter for the two NBA Finals teams, Kittles made the most out of his injury-shortened career, and will be appearing a surprising number of times on ESPN Classic in the future.
4. Richard Jefferson
Like Kerry Kittles, a "True Net" through-and-through. He gets the nod over Kittles for three reasons:
1. He was better than Kittles in his prime
2. He played more seasons than Kittles in this decade.
3. When he was traded from the Nets, he said he wanted to remain a Net.
What? Read point #3 again. That has never happened in my recollection. EVER. And it may never happen again.
3. Vince Carter
I have made no secret of the fact that I am not a fan of Vince Carter. I eviscerated his game in this embarrassingly optimistic column this summer. But, you cannot ignore his contributions to the Nets from 2005 to 2009. He may not be the best player on a championship team, or on conference finalist team, or even on a 50-win team. But, you can count on VC for being the best player on a 30-to-40 win team. With the way this season has gone, I miss Vince more and more.
2. Kenyon Martin
1. Jason Kidd
Could it be any others in the top two? Kenyon Martin was the heart of the operation, while Jason Kidd provided the brains and the willpower. Kidd was more important, but neither has found the same sort of success in their careers that they had from 2001 to 2004.
Unfortunately, these teams have been forgotten and occasionally disrespected as the decade has worn on. "They were boring." "The East was weak." "There were no fans in New Jersey." All of this is, of course, bullshit. I will leave you with my favorite YouTube clip of the past month. Keep in mind these factors: This was the second round. This was Game 5. The Nets were up 3-1. Basically, it was a pretty mediocre set of circumstances. However, listen to the crowd. We loved it (and I say "we", as I was at this game). Even when the Nets made the second round in 2006 and 2007, the intensity did not match this. Listen to the announcers' voices crack as Kidd and Martin put on a defensive clinic on the lowly Hornets. Savor these moments, Nets fans. Perhaps, next decade, we'll be lucky enough to enjoy them again.