My Brooklyn Nets, a team seen by many as a title contender, are now the laughingstock of the entire NBA. My friends who are New York Knicks and Boston Celtics fans have already started making fun of my pathetic team. In related news, the Knicks are 3-9 and the Boston Celtics are 5-10.
For those who haven’t watched the NBA this season, here are a couple of bullet points to get you up to speed about the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets season.
• The Nets are 3-10 and currently sit dead last in the most pathetic division in the NBA. The hapless New York Knicks, the tanking Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics, and the mediocre Toronto Raptors have all found ways to be better than Brooklyn.
•13 games in, the Nets have lost to the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets, Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, and now after Sunday’s debacle, the Detroit Pistons.
• The Nets have systematically sucked the fun out of watching basketball. They’re slow, they’re boring, they’re old, and awful.
• The Nets have the highest payroll in the NBA and are paying over $80 million in luxury taxes this season.
• In the offseason, the Nets traded their first round picks in 2014, 2016, 2018, and possibly 2017 to the Boston Celtics for 36-year old Paul Pierce, 36-year old Jason Terry, and a 37-year old Kevin Garnett for the slight chance to compete for an NBA championship this year, and this year only.
Alright. Now that we’ve gotten those grim details out of the way let’s take a look at why the Nets have started out so poorly.
For starters, health has been a major problem. With the second-oldest roster in the league, it’s imperative that core players stayed healthy. That hasn’t been the case. Point guard Deron Williams has missed four games and his ankles are continuing to bother him. All-Star center Brook Lopez has now sat out five games. The versatile Russian forward Andrei Kirilenko has only played four games this season.
Another problem has been the team’s inefficiency on both ends of the floor. The team is 26th in offensive efficiency and 29th in defensive efficiency. Shooting guard Joe Johnson is averaging a meager 15.5 PPG. By no stretch is this a horrible figure but it definitely doesn’t justify the $21,466,715 Johnson is being paid. The hired guns from Boston also haven’t produced up to par. Paul Pierce has shot 37.9% from the field and is only shooting 27.0% from 3-point range. Jason Terry is averaging 5.3 PPG and is shooting under 40%. Kevin Garnett, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year and anchor of many great Celtic defenses, has yet to put his imprint on the Nets defense.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the Nets debacle without mentioning rookie head coach Jason Kidd. Remember Jason Kidd had no prior coaching experience coming into this season. I don’t have any idea how well or poor a job head coach Kidd has done so far but it’s never good a good sign when a NBA scout tells a journalist that Jason Kidd “doesn’t do anything.”
Then again, did it ever make sense to hire someone with no prior experience to coach a team that was in win now mode?
Amazingly, the Nets are far from out of it. What works in the Nets favor is the Eastern Conference is so bad they still might get a high seed. Derrick Rose is out for the entire year, the Knicks are…well still the Knicks, Atlanta is destined to be a five seed, and the Raptors should not under any circumstances have home court advantage in the playoffs.
BEST-case scenario, the Nets turn it around, get a 3 or 4-seed, and win a first-round series against a team that had no right to make the playoffs.
Then they will go on to lose to the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers in the conference semi-finals. That’s the Nets ceiling at this point. And for that you can thank Nets General Manager Billy King.
The Billy King era has been confusing. On the surface, King’s tenure as GM looks like a success. He took control of the team in 2010, after they finished 12-70. Through many different roster changes, King built a team that won 49 wins last year. It’s not like he’s David Kahn.
Yet when you think about all of his moves, none of them were executed with a plan. Essentially all he’s done is thrown money at players to build a second round playoff team.
He traded for Joe Johnson and his horrific contract in the 2012 offseason only to try to persuade Deron Williams to resign with the Nets. It worked, but it shouldn’t mirror the fact that Williams himself has proven to be an overpaid point-guard who at age 29 might now be past his prime. The big trade between the Celtics and the Nets last offseason only further proves that all King does is react.
So instead of building a culture that could sustain a period of long-term success, King threw as much money as humanly possible at old players for the slight chance of competing for a championship within a one-year window. I’m sure he didn’t expect everyone to be injured or for KG and Pierce be so awful, but for so many reasons this plan was flawed from the get-go. But perhaps the biggest flaw of all was that even if everything had gone the Nets way they’d still be the third best team in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat still have LeBron, Wade, and Bosh. The Indiana Pacers are 12-1 and have a bona fide starting five starring one of the league’s best players in Paul George. Even if Nets turn into the Dodgers, go on a mid-season tear, and get a 3 or 4-seed, they’ll STILL need to catch another break. Unfortunately LeBron and Paul George don’t have D-Rose type knees.
This season was supposed to be as good as it gets for Nets fans. At 3-10, that is one sad reality.