The Whiteboard

Remembering the 2003 Nets and the perfect fastbreak


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The 2002-03 New Jersey Nets are one of those fascinating teams, lost to time and history. They made the Finals as a 49-win team and were summarily thrashed by the Spurs. They have become an exemplar of how bad the top of the East was during this period and reference point for how boring and uninteresting this era was.

I always find that last idea weird, because those Nets were one of the most exciting teams I can remember. They weren’t dominant but in an era of defense and slowing things down, they ran like crazy. The Nets scored 19.6 percent of their points on the fastbreak that season, one of the highest marks of the past three decades and a three percentage points higher than any other team that season. What I remember most were the dunks.

This was before the 3-pointer had really taken hold and fastbreaks weren’t really run with staggered changes-of-pace, some guys running to the rim and other backing off to pull-up behind the arc. A shot went up. If Jason Kidd didn’t get the rebound (he averaged 4.9 defensive rebounds per game that season) the big who did got it into Kidd’s hands in the blink of an eye. From there it was just a full out footrace between Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin and the poor hapless defenders trying to stop a poster.

Jefferson and Martin combined for 281 dunks that season, a pace of nearly four per game. As dunkers, they made for an incredible pairing both in frequency and their contrasting styles. Jefferson was acrobatic, more from the Michael Jordan school of dunking. He’d fly in for the reverse, yam on you from strange angles with elevation and extension. Martin was raw power and explosion. His best dunks were two-handers, followed by an aggressive stress test on the integrity of the rim. His catch radius was absurd, everything was in play.

In the modern era, with Twitter and instant highlights, the Nets would have been a darling. With a modern style of play in the halfcourt, some more shooting to space things out for Kidd’s drives and Martin and Jefferson cutting to the rim, they might have been a champion.

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