The Nets played the San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 NBA Finals. They faced Tim Duncan, David Robinson and a Gregg Popovich-led San Antonio Spurs.
They’d lose, but the Nets had a legitimate chance to win.
Kenyon Martin thinks so too!
“Yes,” he told me on Scoop B Radio.
“If we go home and win because we split in San Antonio. So we came home and they went up two games to one and we tied it up so it was 2-2. And we lost game five.”
“So that put us behind the eight ball having to go back to San Antonio to win a game. They had a good team, Tim Duncan played his ass off. He made plays, he blocked; that is why he was the finals MVP. He played his ass off. I have to take my hat off to him, he played well. He put them on his back and they followed him. Guys made open shots when they had to and Stephen Jackson made threes in game six. It was a collective effort, but Tim [Duncan] definitely led them. But we definitely had an opportunity to win that.”
After the 2003 NBA Finals, things would change for the Nets. Jason Kidd would sign a 6-year, $99 million deal to stay with the New Jersey. The Nets acquired Alonzo who’d missed the season before due to his worsening kidney condition and after a 22–20 start to the season, Byron Scott was fired as head coach and was replaced with lead assistant Lawrence Frank. “We had a target on our back,” said Martin.
“People wanted to beat us and teams weren’t going to let us keep running through the east. So teams got better. “I don’t think we made enough moves to better our team, but we were right there. We still proved we were one of the better teams in the east. So it was one of those things, Indiana came in first and they came in first in the east. It was just one of those things man. Teams got better and I think we stayed the same.”
New Jersey would salvage their season after going on a 14-game winning streak at the midpoint of that season and would finish with a 47–35 record and a Division Championship and number 2 spot in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
The Nets would sweep Hudson River rivals New York Knicks in round one of the 2004 NBA playoffs. They’d lose in round two of the NBA Playoffs to the Detroit Pistons, the eventual NBA Champions in seven games. The only constant thing in life is change. The Nets didn’t and the east got better. “Yeah that is what it is,” Martin said. “You gotta make moves man. You can’t stay the same. You have to make moves to get what you need and what you are missing. You’ve got to make moves.”
Following the season, Martin was traded to the Denver Nuggets. When asked if he could turn back the hands of time, K-Mart was honest. “Yeah it wasn’t up to me man,” he said.