(SportsNetwork.com) - Memo to the NBA - if the Brooklyn Nets underachieve,
owner Mikhail Prokhorov will make changes.
It started early with the canning of Avery Johnson on Dec. 27 after he was
named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October and November.
P.J. Carlesimo took over, earned Brooklyn the fourth seed in the east, then
lost to a Chicago Bulls team with a traveling MASH unit in Game 7 in Brooklyn.
Changes were needed and Prokhorov authorized GM Billy King to make them.
And boy did he.
The Nets brought in future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from
the Boston Celtics. The C's wanted to rebuild and jettisoned these two, and
reserve guard Jason Terry, for a slew of salary dumps and oodles of draft
The story went that if Pierce opted out of his contract with Boston, Garnett
would retire. Pierce had to convince Garnett to give it one more go for a ring
"I'm no longer a Boston Celtic. I'm a Brooklyn Net, and that's what it is
right now," a still shocked Pierce said at his introductory press conference
back in July. "It's a business, and at some point we all have to move on. And
I'm here to try to create some kind of legacy here in Brooklyn."
The next big change came when Jason Kidd, who retired after the season with
the New York Knicks, decided he would like to become the Nets head coach. King
interviewed him and agreed.
"Championship teams are built on being prepared, playing unselfishly and being
held accountable, and that's how I expect to coach this basketball team," Kidd
said. "I am truly excited about this next phase of my basketball career."
Kidd is a Hall of Fame lock as a point guard, but what kind of coach will he
be? Who on earth knows, but he took a great first step in hiring former Nets
coach, Lawrence Frank, who got canned by the Detroit Pistons at the end of the
season, as an assistant.
Next up for the Brooklyn Summer of Love, came Andrei Kirilenko, the uber-
versatile forward who played with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season. The
rumor was that the San Antonio Spurs badly wanted AK-47, but he signed for
less money than was offered to go with his comrade, Prokhorov. That in turn
led to rumors that Prokhorov and Kirilenko authored some backroom, back end
deal, which is a no-no.
Three massive talents (four, maybe with Terry) were brought in during one
offseason. A coach, who went 35-19 was fired in favor of a former Nets star
with zero coaching experience. At least management kept three All-Stars in
the starting lineup with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.
Safe to say Mikhail doesn't tolerate underachieving. He'll be spending an
awful lot in luxury tax to prove so.
2012-13 Results: 49-33, 2nd in Atlantic. Lost in East Quarterfinals
ADDITIONS: HC Jason Kidd, F Paul Pierce, F/C Kevin Garnett, G Jason Terry, F
Andrei Kirilenko, G Shaun Livingston, F Alan Anderson, F Mason Plumlee
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Deron Williams
SG- Joe Johnson
SF- Paul Pierce
PF- Kevin Garnett
C- Brook Lopez
KEY RESERVES: F Andrei Kirilenko, F/C Andray Blatche, G Jason Terry, F Reggie
Evans, G Shaun Livingston, F Alan Anderson, F Mason Plumlee
FRONTCOURT: Reggie Evans had a great season, averaging 11.1 rpg and agitating
every opposing player. But he and Gerald Wallace were not enough to lead
Brooklyn to anything meaningful.
That's where Pierce and Garnett figure in.
"I'm going to lead by example," Garnett told the team's website. "We all have
to sacrifice. I'm going to voice that."
Statistically, Pierce, 36, and Garnett, 37, didn't miss a beat last season.
Pierce (18.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.8 apg) and Garnett (14.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) can still
influence games at both ends, especially on defense where Brooklyn ranked
23rd in opponents' field goal percentage. And, with proper rest, they both can
help an offense that came in 17th in field-goal percentage.
But, Pierce and Garnett were brought to Brooklyn to instill a winning
attitude. They have combined for 267 playoff games in their careers. The nine-
man rotation Carlesimo used in last season's first-round playoff exit combined
for 271. You can't ask for better playoff tutors than that.
Lopez emerged as an All-Star center last season. He averaged 19.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
and 2.1 bpg. That rebounding number is low, but Evans did the heavy lifting on
the glass. Lopez is an incredibly skilled big man and is one of the top five
centers in the league. He was the offensive focal point for Brooklyn and that
shouldn't change, until the fourth quarter when Pierce and Williams take over.
BACKCOURT: Williams and Johnson combined for nine All-Star appearances before
hitting Brooklyn. They never truly clicked in the backcourt last season, but
Johnson battled a foot injury and Williams appeared to conflict with Avery
Williams is still an elite point guard, although his scoring and assists
numbers were down from the previous season. His shooting numbers were up and
the scoring should've gone down with the emergence of Lopez.
"Personally, I just want to get back playing the way I'm capable of playing,"
Williams said on media day.
Johnson's stats were down across the board. He had the most trouble fitting
into Brooklyn's new structure. What will it be like this season with two more
All-Star starters and two stud bench players in Terry and Kirilenko?
BENCH: Speaking of those two, Kirilenko will probably head into the season as
the favorite for Sixth Man of the Year. In Minnesota, he averaged 12.4 ppg,
5.7 rpg, 1.5 spg and 1.9 bpg. That's incredible production. It'll go down with
less minutes, but to have such a valuable, versatile player off the bench is
Terry had trouble fitting in with Boston, but he'll be fine spelling Williams
Evans is best suited for the second unit and his toughness will mean the Nets
lose nothing in defense and rebounding from him when he takes Garnett's
Blatche was re-signed and was a great bench asset. He averaged double
figures in both the regular season and the playoffs and even saw time with
Lopez in a monster frontcourt.
Livingston is a capable backup for Williams and even Anderson scored double
figures for the Toronto Raptors last season. He's a great shooter.
This unit is loaded.
COACHING: Kidd is the biggest wild-card in Brooklyn's title aspirations. Can
he coach? Who knows, but, again, the Frank hiring was a shrewd first step.
Kidd will have the respect of his players and that's important. This is a
veteran team that can police itself, especially Garnett, who will resume his
role as enforcer.
Perhaps Kidd's tallest task will be to manage the personalities. All five
starters and Kirilenko are former All-Stars. Terry can be a handful, same for
Evans and Blatche. Again, Kidd will have to rely on these veterans to keep
things on course.
The strategy will most likely come from Frank. Kidd will provide the presence.
He's a champion and a Hall of Famer in wait. He will add to the aura of the
Nets as legitimate contenders, although that won't happen until game three as
he was suspended the first two for a DWI incident.
OUTLOOK: One of the first things Pierce did as a Net was to fan the flame of
the rivalry with the New York Knicks. New York supremacy is not the only thing
on the line - so is the Atlantic Division title.
The Eastern Conference is strong. The Heat are two-time NBA champions. The
Pacers are going to be in the title mix and if Derrick Rose comes back to his
old form, the Chicago Bulls will be terrors.
Brooklyn is part of that conversation now. Pierce and Garnett won't be around
forever. In fact, this season could be the only one together at the Barclays
This is an interesting blend of talent. It's littered with Hall of Famers and
that has not traditionally worked. (See Lakers, Los Angeles, 2012-13 for
But Garnett and Pierce won't let ego rule. They went through a super team in
Boston and won a title. They were the perfect two players to bring to a great
team to make it elite.
The Atlantic Division title is a reasonable goal. Making the NBA Finals is
possible, as well.
Prokhorov's huge financial gamble could really pay dividends.
The Sports Network