Maybe the Nets should avoid afternoon games…

carter_011709.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Maybe the Nets should avoid afternoon games against the Celtics. The results usually are not good for them, their coach, their fans, the organization – anyone affiliated with the Nets.
 
Add today’s 105-85 disaster to the growing number of humbling or humiliating matinee meetings with the Celtics.
 
This one was over in the first period when the Nets were down 16 points less than seven minutes in. When they fell behind by 30 in the second the only drama seemed to be whether they would lose by 50. Then coach Lawrence Frank threw a curve, and produced an angle if you will.
 
The second half started and the Nets’ two best players, Vince Carter and Devin Harris, were on the bench, replaced by Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling. Ryan Anderson also started the third period on the bench, but that paled in comparison.
 
Beside, Anderson returned. Carter and Harris were benched for the second half. Carter and Harris, the same guys Frank said he hoped would be All-Stars before the Nets and Celtics prior game, weren’t good enough to play for their coach’s team in the second half.
 
“First of all, I was just totally embarrassed about our performance,” Frank said. “It starts with me and it going on down to our main players. I think it was just an embarrassing start to the game and I decided to go in another direction for today.”
 
The message seemed to be clear, especially since he chose his two best players. If he sat Bobby Simmons and Anderson or Eduardo Najera and Hayes it wouldn’t have been a big deal in the media or in the locker room. This had to get everyone’s attention.
 
The locker room was quiet afterward and no one was questioning the coach. They couldn’t. They were down 30 after being beaten by 32 by Boston.
 
The Celtics are the defending champs, and the Nets aren’t in their league, but Boston had lost recently to the Knicks and Bobcats. The Nets are better than those two and in these two games they were outclassed.
 
Frank had to do something and it was gutsy. You’re talking about a perennial All-Star and your captain and someone else who is the cornerstone player of your franchise right now.
 
Carter, who didn’t seem upset at all, wouldn’t say the last time he was benched. But it hasn’t happened in his Nets’ lifetime before this. Yet he said, “I’m okay with it.” He seemed to be as he cheered his teammates on in the second half.
 
Harris said it hadn’t happened to him since high school and he seemed more bothered by it than Carter.
 
“I’m not too worried about it,” said Harris, who really didn’t have much to say.
 
The Nets can take a lot of things out of this game, but one that they should is stop playing the Celtics at home in the afternoon. Nothing good comes of it.
 
They could have Saturday or Sunday afternoon games against any team and it would draw a crowd. Why did they have to choose the Celtics?
 
Nearly five years ago, the Nets beat the Celtics in an afternoon game that wound up being Byron Scott’s final as Nets’ coach. He was ejected for arguing, Frank finished the game and Scott was fired the next night.
 
Two years ago, the last time the Nets had an afternoon game, the Celtics won in OT after New Jersey yielded a nine-point lead with 1:24 left in regulation, capped by a Delone West three.
 
Now this.
 
This was the worst of all of them for many reasons. The interesting thing will be how the Nets respond, collectively, and how the two singled-out stars come back from this public display of humiliation.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County)

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