Finding value in the Swamp: Thoughts from Nets-Thunder

Battle of Titans: Hassell and Battie hassle Collison. Brook Lopez looks on in horror

When I got a call from a friend asking if I wanted to get in on tickets for the Nets’ game last night against the Thunder, I jumped at the opportunity, despite New Jersey’s 2-28 record (now 2-29), and it was totally worth it. (Note: Some official SA photos are on the way)

Here are some reasons:

Good seats for a decent price. Nobody who bought season tickets this year actually wants to see the team. Which, I mean, I sort of understand: They’re 2-29. Companies that own corporate seats, or fans that got taken in on one of the worst-conceived ticket packages ever, would have a tough time not alienating clients or friends by offering them seats to see literally one of the worst teams in recent NBA history.

Our tickets came from my friend’s mother’s company, and they constituted $5 vouchers. When you show up at Will Call, you pay five dollars and they give you whatever’s available. Parking ended up costing over twice what the tickets did. Obviously, a lot of quality seats were available, as they gave us tickets for Section 2, about eight rows behind the basket. It’s the first time I’ve ever gone to an NBA game and not sat in a section with three digits in it.

Corporate logo, ya'llIf you go on StubHub, you can get tickets for virtually nothing if you don’t really care where you sit (and for this team, you probably shouldn’t). You want to go see an NBA game? This is the way to do it. Celtics for $9, LeBron for $16. You can find a reason to go to virtually any game, actually. Want to see my man Young Money? Two bucks. Want to boo Tyler Hansbrough? Two bucks. I may go back for that one.

And for a family of four – that’s what they always say when comparing ticket prices, a family of four – you can’t beat it. Sure, you’ll get killed on the food prices and souvenirs, but at least you can potentially get four tickets for under $10, unlike a Yankees game, where you have to take out a third mortgage. And kids love those Thunder Stix that I despise.

Yoga Flame, word to Lupe Fiasco

Kevin Durant. I remember going to a Nets-Heat game back in 2004 and realizing how much better Dwyane Wade was than Vince Carter, who at that point was still in his prime. Similarly, I knew Durant was good, but until you see a guy play live, you don’t really know just how good. And Durant is great

He has a free-flowing style that’s truly fantastic to watch. Toward the end of the first half, Durant ended up with it with time running down. He coasted into the lane and flipped in an eight-footer as if he had all the time in the world. He’s built like Dhalsim from Street Fighter, but I don’t think it matters when someone has that much athletic talent and court presence.

Late in the game, Durant had 38 points, made a steal at halftime and flew in for a sensational dunk to get to 40. He then glared at our section for about five seconds – unnecessary, as nobody was really giving Durant a hard time.

But I like his killer instinct. Durant strikes me as a player that will absolutely rip out your heart once he has a better team around him. With Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green and James Harden (who shot an abysmal 0-for-10 and sports a ridiculous Abe Lincoln beard, but who will be a major player at some point), Durant is maybe a year or two and one or two more pieces from being ready to be a major threat, especially with the Spurs and Mavs aging.

The stars were out. Okay, so Jay-Z doesn’t come any longer now that Vince and Kidd are long gone. So what do we get? Fresh off their inspirational victory over the Colts’ practice squad, New York Jets stars Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas made the trek across the Meadowlands foot-bridge. We couldn’t even get Revis.

Regardless… at least it’s something, a show of solidarity for their brethren across the parking lot. Or maybe they were hoping to get a reception much like the Yankees got as returning conquerors at the Knicks-LeBron game. Instead, they got an ovation slightly greater than the one I got when I walked in. I’m sure public opinion will swing more in their direction this week after they beat another good team with nothing to play for.

The Nets are sort of lovable. As a fan of teams that historically break my heart – though that is ALL ending with the Mets’ signing of Jason Bay, damn it all – I have a soft spot in my heart for people, especially kids, who root for bad teams.

Thunder Nets BasketballSidebar: I do like some of the Nets’ players. Brook Lopez is carrying my fantasy team, and Devin Harris is a terrific improvisational player. Yi Jianlian has a soft jumper and notched 29 points, thrilling the extensive contingent of Chinese media directly to my right. I think Chris Douglas-Roberts – who didn’t play – and Courtney Lee can be solid role players. I’m not sure who they’re going to use all their cap space on (LeBron ain’t playing in Jersey) but you have to think there’s at least some hope for a better time, when they won’t have to give major minutes to Trenton Hassell and, of all people, Tony Battie.

For now, fans show up to root for the Nets to up their one-win-a-month average. Kids don’t know how bad they are. They don’t know that some rich Russian guy is going to move them to Brooklyn. They just want to come and cheer for the Nets.

The friends I was there with aren’t hardcore basketball fans, though they were old enough to know the Nets are horrible. But they had an absolute blast cheering on the hometown team in their attempt to score win No. 3. (I still can’t endorse their usage of Thunder Stix, which are abominable)

Sometimes, it’s good to just put aside all the salary caps, the cynicism, all of the nonsense that takes all the wonderment of sports away as we get older, and just enjoy a game. We all get to be so bottom-line about things all the time. I can’t do this all the time, but why not just go, drink a beer, have some fun?

With all that said… about this Jason Bay vesting option…

Esoteric

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