In his full-length debut, veteran NBA reporter Appleman chronicles the Nets’ first season following the franchise’s move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
Since their 1967 inception as the New Jersey Americans, the Nets have always lived in the shadow of the Manhattan-based Knicks, bouncing around different home arenas in New Jersey and Long Island. Despite winning two titles in the ABA and reaching the NBA finals twice in the early 2000s, they are perhaps remembered most as the team that traded away Julius “Dr. J” Erving. But with a brand-new arena, the Barclays Center, in ultrahip downtown Brooklyn, native son and superstar rapper Jay-Z in the owners’ box (next to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who bought the team in 2009), and a talented cast of players led by star point guard Deron Williams, the franchise is ready to turn the page on its history of disappointments. The author was there every step of the way through an up-and-down season that included a coaching change and a seven-game first-round playoff loss to the Chicago Bulls. Despite his access, however, Appleman fails to deliver a coherent story, with disorienting leaps backward and forward in time, awkward gonzo-esque riffs and attempts at self-deprecating humor that feel strained. At times, the book has the feel of a beat writer’s hurried postgame dispatch at the deadline, stretched to the length of an NBA season. The author successfully conveys the feeling of futility that seems to follow the team but often leaves out basic details, as if forgetting that readers were not there as well. He ends with an account of the 2013 acquisition of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry.
Hard-core Nets fans—if they exist—might appreciate the behind-the-scenes scoop on their team, but other readers may find the disorganized narrative frustrating.