As I have previously stated, I try to avoid getting involved in Israeli politics since I live in America. However, I want to make a comment concerning Shmuel Sackett’s column last week about how he would like Israel to expel those who cheer on people who murder Jews because they are Jews. Or as he put it, “Arabs who support acts of terror in Eretz Yisrael must immediately and permanently removed from the land.” If Mr. Sackett wants the government to take strong action against individuals who support those who engage in deadly violent conduct, I expect that he would take the same position concerning Jews who support other Jews killing Arabs. One name comes to mind: Baruch Goldstein, who on February 25, 1994, Purim morning, killed 29 Muslims praying at Maarat HaMachpelah in Hebron. He has become a hero to some on the far right and was a member of the organization represented on the t-shirt Mr. Sackett was proud to wear.
Now to my main topic. This past week we saw the dismantling of the team that was destined to win many championships. Instead, they won only one playoff series. The Brooklyn Nets had three of the best players on the same team. James Harden, after being with the team for a year, was traded last year, and the other two, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, were traded this past week.
This debacle should be a warning to Mets fans who think that if you spend a lot of money on a bunch of well-known and highly-skilled players, you will find success. The Rangers have tried that approach many times and have had only one Stanley Cup in 82 years. There is a well-known expression that there is no “I” in team. The Nets showed that when you have three players on a team whose approach is what is best for them (“I”), the team is going nowhere.
It should not have come as a surprise. Their “me first” mentality was well known when the Nets obtained the players. The club thought that if the players had the same goal of winning championships it would work out.
Also, they gave the players too much say in the basketball operations, which backfired. Before all this craziness started, the Nets had a dynamic coach, Kenny Atkinson, who was doing a masterful job of developing young players. The team over performed expectations. In the two years that he was coach, the team won twenty-two more games the third year than the first year, making the playoffs. The problem was that the Nets were a no-name team. In New York City, it’s important to have the biggest stars, whether in sports or in other fields. The Knicks have always been the number one basketball team in New York City. Here was the Nets’ chance to change the dynamic.
So ownership went out and signed two of the biggest stars - Irving on July 6, 2019, and Durant the next day. The problem was that Durant wanted his old teammate Steve Nash to become coach. Nash had no coaching experience. The Nets gave in to Durant’s request and forced Atkinson to resign in the middle of his first season with them. Nash’s time as coach was a disaster and he was fired. Then they were convinced that getting Harden in January 2021 would be the final piece in the puzzle to form the dream team.
The owners could not have anticipated that Covid would happen and that Irving would refuse to be vaccinated or that he would support anti-Semitic tropes in the borough with the largest Jewish population outside of Israel. However, Irving had the reputation of being a malcontent while in Boston and Cleveland. Management also didn’t help the situation by first not allowing him to play at all and then switching to allowing him to play in away games. That was the time to send the message and trade him.
The Nets have come full circle with a no-name team and a no-name coach. It may take a while for the team to gel, but they will end up being more successful than the dream team. A team that works together is better than the sum of each individual. A team that is made up of individuals whose focus is on themselves will underachieve, as the Nets have.
What happened to the Nets is something that we can learn from. A community is more effective when everyone works together. In contrast, if there are self-promotors in leadership positions, even if they are more well known, their effectiveness will be less. Good leadership requires one to look at what is best for the community and not for personal interest.