Two seasons ago, the lowly Nets left their temporary home in Newark, New Jersey for the bustling city of Brooklyn and went through an overhaul of image, talent, and relevance. The Nets went 49-33 last season, good enough for the franchise’s second best record ever, and yet suddenly that type of performance was irrelevant. The Nets boasted premier talent at the Center and Point Guard positions in Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, as well as a deep bench that at times was referred to as the “bench mob.” Yet inconsistent coaching and lack of an identity and toughness led them to a first round exit against a much scrappier Chicago Bulls team that won more with its heart than its skill. Thus, in order to keep team owner and evil genius, Mikhail Prokhorov, satisfied, the team would have to do even more. Sure, its new sleek black uniforms, hip new advertising campaign and state-of-the-art arena made it look nice, but that roster was never going to win a championship.
So, GM Billy King set out with Prokhorov’s seemingly unlimited sum of money and attempted to create the NBA’s next super team. During the offseason he acquired aging superstars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, two Celtics who are sure locks for the Hall of Fame, along with sharpshooter and former sixth man of the year Jason Terry. He then boldly hired New Jersey Nets legend Jason Kidd as Head Coach. A risky decision, the hiring was certainly glitzy and fresh; Kidd is one of the greatest basketball minds in the game today. Then, the Nets caused commotion around the league when they signed veteran Andrei Kirilenko for next to nothing in what was seen as Russian corruption . With 35 all-star appearances between their starters and what seemed like by far the deepest bench in the league, the Nets frankly looked terrifying. Garnett and Pierce would bring not only a championship mentality to the Nets but also a sense of toughness, aggression and cohesion. Deron Williams was supposedly healthy and Brook Lopez keeps getting bigger, stronger and hopefully meaner as well. This would be the team to challenge the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference crown. But then…the season started.
The Nets opened up in Cleveland and lost narrowly, yet this was understandable as they had not yet developed chemistry. Their next game against the Heat was displayed on a national stage and gave the Nets a chance to show the Heat and the rest of the league what they were truly capable of . Things went perfectly. The Nets’ deep, balanced veteran roster consistently held a safe lead over Miami for the majority of the second half and held on to win by one. Critics began calling the Nets legitimate and predicted that they could indeed go all the way this year.
But then the team kept playing. They lost big to the Orlando Magic, a quick, young, athletic team. They narrowly lost to the Pacers, but got blown out by the Sacramento Kings, the worst team in the NBA. To put it kindly, the Nets have been sluggish, lethargic, careless, and complacent. Kevin Garnett is shooting 30 percent from the field and chucking full court baseball passes that are constantly intercepted. Deron Williams still seems off as his ankle injury was a lot worse than he and the team let on. Lopez is soft and struggles against other formidable centers. Jason Terry has not been hitting shots, Andray Blatche looks as if he cares more about throwing behind the back passes than winning games—I could go on and on. Paul Pierce has been somewhat consistent, yet his production is not nearly enough.
Kevin Garnett was expected to help the team just as much off the court with his fiery personality and winning attitude. Yes, while he yells at teammates and seems to have created unity, it does not translate to an increased intensity for anyone on the court. Instead, Coach Kidd literally dumbed down this team of savvy all-star veterans. Welcome back to the iso-basketball Nets. Oh and speaking of Coach Jason Kidd…
His drunk driving incident off the court before last season was detestable, but Kidd’s demeanor on the sideline seems to be even worse. He is emotionless. Kidd seems to have no effect on his players; nothing he says or does fires them up. The Nets go down by 20, Kidd sits in his seat with a blank look on his face. The Nets go up by 20, Kidd sits in his seat with a blank look on his face. I don’t get it.
The Nets are old, the second oldest team in the league. They simply can’t catch up to the majority of the young teams in the league as their age has already caught up with them. Sure their shots will start to fall eventually, but will that be enough? Garnett has been a non-factor on defense and Williams does not look as if he will ever be the same player he was in Utah. Is this team going to flop like last year’s Lakers? It honestly is too early to tell. But the problems they are facing do not seem to be nearly as fixable as they did in theory. The Nets may just be too old and laggy. Kidd was a great leader on the court and is a genius basketball mind, but does he have the fire to ignite this veteran squad? They must play big every night, not just against the Miami Heat.
Knowing these veterans, it seems impossible that they will not do everything in their power to change something and make it work. But did the league’s highest paid team miss their already incredibly short window before it even became tangible?