The Nets Now Know That "There is No Tomorrow"

Updated: April 14, 2014


So they say that life imitates art.


In the next few weeks, the Brooklyn Nets will be returning to the postseason for a second consecutive year, and although seedings are still being determined, they seem destined to face the Chicago Bulls once again. For many Nets fans, this potential match up is unsettling, especially with Chicago owning the home court advantage. Many would prefer a series with the Toronto Raptors, foolishly expecting them to be a “deer in the headlights” with their lack of postseason experience. The reality is, either of these opponents will be a formidable challenge for the Nets to overcome.

The Nets recent success, or lack thereof, against the Bulls has created anxiety that they will once again be eliminated by their arch nemesis. The popular opinion by many is that a first round exit would be the mark of a disappointing season, considering the hype and expectations entering it.

Hopefully after the thrilling victory in Miami, which saw a shorthanded Nets team sweep the defending champions, confidence amongst fans should be very high. After all, the Heat were playing extremely motivated with the East’s top seed still at stake and payback still owed for the Nets’ previous three wins. Some will downplay the victory by mentioning that Miami was without Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, but keep in mind that the Nets were playing without the services of Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche.

This isn’t 2013 anymore and it hasn’t been for over three months. Any data you have from the first 31 games of the season should be thrown out, shredded, burned, flushed down the toilet, etc. Those non-competitive, uninspiring efforts which resulted in a booing Barclays Center and road blowouts are irrelevant at this point in time. There’s no reason to cite those moments anymore.

Losing was never easy for a former champion.

Losing was never easy for a former champion.

So as the Nets and Bulls are on a collision course with each other, there’s only one thing that comes to my mind – Rocky III. Yes, the third installment of the boxing movie franchise which featured classic roles for both Hulk Hogan and Mr. T.

For those of you that need a refresher or brief synopsis of the film, the champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is faced with defending his title against Clubber Lang (Mr. T), the trash-talking, number one contender. Lang shows no respect for Balboa and in the process intimidates him. When they finally do face each other in the ring, The Italian Stallion is dealt a demoralizing knockout defeat.

In the ensuing months after, Rocky struggles to regain his confidence. His longtime rival, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) offers to train Rocky and help him avenge his loss to Lang. The process is painfully frustrating as Creed, a former champion himself, cannot help Rocky regain his swagger or “the eye of the tiger” as it was referred to back in the 1980s. All seems hopeless as lethargic training sessions lead to screaming matches, Apollo’s doubt, and Rocky’s admission that he is afraid.

Like any other feel-good Hollywood picture, Rocky finally comes around and momentum builds in the weeks leading up to the highly anticipated rematch with Lang. Through Apollo’s influence, he is able to change Rocky’s style from a brawler to a dancer. Rocky recaptures his confidence and ultimately reclaims his title in a three round knockout.

Both Rocky and the Nets were clearly intimidated

Both Rocky and the Nets were clearly intimidated

So back to those Nets – when they played against the Bulls in last year’s postseason, it was revealed by Chicago beat writer, Joe Cowley, that they wanted the Nets all along. They viewed Brooklyn as “heartless and gutless” and felt that they could expose them in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. They viewed Deron Williams as a player that they could frustrate.

The Nets in that playoff series,  just like Balboa, came out swinging in Game 1. The Bulls took their best punch and then countered. Throughout the series, players like Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson physically and mentally intimidated the Nets. Perhaps you recall Robinson slamming CJ Watson into the scorers’ table.

It didn’t even matter that Chicago was playing without the likes of Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, and Derrick Rose. When the chips were on the table in Game 7, the Nets found themselves down 17 at the half.  Unfortunately, there was no Apollo to remind them that “there was no tomorrow”. They eventually lost 99-93.

Although no title was lost then and no title will be on the line this go around, this Nets-Bulls rivalry seems to be playing out like Rocky and Clubber. Chicago saw a weakness in Williams, Brook Lopez, and company and exploited it. This even carried into this season, and even though they’d never admit it, the Nets always appeared like a team without confidence and perhaps fearful when facing their bullies.

Bringing in former champions Paul Pierce and Garnett was the equivalent of Apollo taking Rocky under his wing. Aside from their on-the-court contributions, their experience and leadership has helped the Nets develop confidence, toughness, and heart.

Like Apollo, Pierce has elevated the Nets.

Like Apollo, Pierce has elevated the Nets.

A frustrating beginning to this process, which seemed hopeless at the time, is finally paying off. The Nets no longer back down from opponents. They take a punch and come right back at you.

If this year’s final regular season meeting versus Chicago is any indication, then the Nets should feel good about their chances going into the playoffs.

So no matter who they play or where, these Nets led by Apollo Pierce and Garnett will be ready for the challenge. The bright lights, big stage, and strength of their opponent won’t intimidate this group. It’s a new year and this is a new team.

They finally have the eye of the tiger!