Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
Before the Nets completely revamped their identity, complete with more than $330 million in guaranteed contracts this past offseason, the franchise was very much a punchline and a win circled on the schedule of most opponents.
Now, it has become clear that those days have come to an end.
The Nets, somewhat surprising co-leaders in the Atlantic Division after 14 games, walked into TD Garden on Wednesday evening and ran all over the Celtics for the better part of a 95-83 victory. They showed plenty of fight, literally.
With the Nets up 16 points with 29 seconds to play in the second quarter, Kevin Garnett was fouled by Kris Humphries in a non-shooting situation at the basket. After the whistle had blown, Garnett went up looking for a continuation before Humphries hit him as he appeared to follow through. Garnett hit the deck and Rajon Rondo took exception to the extra activity.
What ensued was Rondo attacking Humphries in what turned into a multiple-person brawl that spilled into the first two rows of seats along the baseline.
The outskirts of the brawl saw Wallace and Garnett go at it, while several other players from both sides got involved in trying to break it up.
The result was Rondo, Humphries and Wallace all getting ejected. Rondo, who saw his streak of 37 straight games with at least 10 assists end, instigated the fight, which led to his ejection. Humprhies picked up technical fouls on the initial Garnett foul and another in the ensuing fight and Wallace picked up his second technical foul during the fight after picking up his first a short time earlier while arguing a call with an official."We got some guys that just aren’t gonna back down," Nets head coach Avery Johnson told reporters after the game. "It’s in the hands of the league right now. I thought the referees did a good job of getting the game back under control."
The league office is likely to act quickly here, with an announcement on fines and suspensions to come on Thursday. Johnson isn't expecting any of his players to get suspended as he doesn't feel any of them did anything to earn that punishment.
The underlying point in Wednesday's mess is simple. After years of getting pushed around and treated as a doormat, the Nets aren't going to take it anymore.
The roster is now chock-full of players that one may refer to as 'tough guys.' Players like Wallace, Reggie Evans, Jerry Stackhouse and Keith Bogans have been around the block in the NBA. Players like those last three were brought in as cheap help off the bench, but also to help provide a heavy dose of veteran leadership and a little grittiness to a roster that in previous years had none of either.
"There were a lot of swings going on down there and I think guys were going in to rescue their teammates," Johnson said. "That’s the kind of guys we have. They tossed the guys. I think they’ll take a look at it and I think we’ll have an idea of what’s going on tomorrow. Whatever happens will happen."
Wednesday can be viewed as a a good character win for the Nets, especially after losing two-thirds of their starting frontcourt after the fight. The Celtics had won four straight and nine of the previous 10 at home against the Nets.