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It's been hard for people to figure out how to exactly respond to the first edition of the Brooklyn Nets.
Ownership has worked hard to market them as a brand new team instead of the old Nets playing a new arena, a decision that makes a fair amount of sense given the history of that old team. The fan base, fired up by the return of pro sports to Brooklyn, is more than willing to play along.
It seems the media is also willing to give the Nets owners what they want. The wide reaction to Tuesday night's 117-111 loss to the Thunder is that the Nets fought valiantly before going down against a superior foe featuring Kevin Durant playing very well.
It's a fair enough assessment of the way the game went down as the Nets were behind by as many as 16 before cutting the lead to two several times. The Thunder are the defending Western Conference champs and used that guile to close out the game and the scrappy Nets can feel proud of hanging tough without Brook Lopez in the lineup.
Or so the conventional wisdom about the game seems to go, which is a bit odd since everyone is willing to buy ownership's attempt to recast this team as an expansion franchise while ignoring their constant assertions that they are trying to compete for championships.
Moral victories don't exist for teams that expect to make the playoffs or teams that were leading their division before dropping games to the Heat and Thunder. They don't exist for teams that spent as much as the Nets spent this offseason and teams with the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month on the sideline don't usually get complimented for their inability to win a game that was there for the taking.
Avery Johnson didn't deserve heavy criticism for Tuesday's loss, reserve that for the still-frigid Joe Johnson, but, again, the effort was only good enough against the Thunder if the expectations for this season are that the Nets are a marginal team. Feel free to point out that they missed Lopez's scoring and Reggie Evans' rebounding/flopping to draw fouls, but if the Nets are a real team than Tuesday night is a bad loss and not the moral victory that many are suggesting it is.
They lost two straight to last year's finalists, nothing to feel so terrible about even if the Heat did lose to the Wizards on Tuesday night and nothing that means the team won't improve over time. It's nothing to feel good about either, however, unless you're grading on a pretty massive curve.
If the Nets really want to chisel the New Jersey out of the past, they should be lobbying everyone who covers the team to make sure that curve goes away. Coverage of Tuesday's loss reads like a pat on the head for a kid who got a D after years of F's, which is to say a slightly different version of the same failure.
That's not what the Nets are and it's time to start treating them that way.