In an interview with NetsDaily Monday, Ian Eagle said the Nets dramatic change over the off-season can best be summarized this way: they've gone from being part of the "buzz" around the league to part of the championship "conversation."
"Last year, they were part of the buzz," said the Nets' broadcaster, now in his 20th year with the team. "This year, they're not just part of the buzz. They're part of the conversation."
in the hour-long conversation, the YES announcer talked about how the team's Russian ownership has not just talked the talk, but walked the walk; how the supposed risk in hiring Jason Kidd is more conventional wisdom than reality; who he thinks will be the big surprise on the team when the smoke clears, the guy who wears No. 8; the differing but complementary styles of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and why the team's confidence level is critical to its success.
On Mikhail Prokhorov as owner:
"I think there are a lot of talented coaches and general managers who were never given the tools to be successful," said Eagle. "Whenever you're in that role, you just want the opportunity to be the best. That comes with the potential provided by an owner who's willing to make the financial commitment and also to internally back up the philosophy of a change of culture. A lot of owners say it, because they think that it's something you say when you buy a team, but there are very few that can actually pull it off and put it into motion.
"Everything that Mikhail Prokhorov has said, he's lived up to. As a sports fan, you can't take that for granted anymore,." he added. "Initially, there were a lot of people who thought he did it to create headlines and generate some buzz but the reality is that everything this ownership has done has pointed toward winning a championship."
"As any Net fan that has followed this organization for a long period of time, it's a bit surreal. Even when they made their back-to-back runs to the NBA Finals, I'm not sure that anyone took away from that, 'Now, the franchise has made it, now the franchise will be taken seriously.' It felt as if it was this two-year dream sequence. Then, it was over.
On Jason Kidd's hiring:
"I think it was a calculated risk. His personality is such that he is a wiling pupil as much as he is a coach that's ready for the challenge. I think that you have to look at who he is and what he's been able to accomplish and put that in the equation before you take the 'he just retired as a player, how can you expect him to make this transition' theory. That's a little too simplistic because of who we're talking about ... I think he brings with him a certain gravitas and respect level and I think also, in the last few years of his career, his persona was now seen in a different light. Now, we talk about a coach on the floor and most point guards are thought of that way, but because he was such a tremendous leader that I believe that teammates already started to see him as someone they lean on.
"So, look, you can put together the kind of playing career that he has, and it means very little unless you prove to your players that you're capable of the day-to-day responsibilities of being a head coach I don't think there's going to any problem with the x's and o's. He has a tremendous staff around him. The Lawrence Frank hire was such a big key in Jason being comfortable and the organization being comfortable with the idea that Jason could step into the role.
"His biggest challenge is going to come in January, February, March and beyond, when he is managing egos, taking the temperature of the team on a daily basis and figuring our how much he can get out of the veterans on this squad without jeopardizing an extended post-season run. Ultimately, he is going to be judged on how well he can juggle all of that.
"The successful head coaches see into the future. They don't get caught up in the minutiae of a moment in a game here or how one practice went on a morning in December and what made Jason such an incredible player was not just his vision on the court but also, his ability to manage situations ... a lot of his strengths the fans never saw. Behind the scenes, his ability to get the message across, his sense of timing -- when to speak out, when to hold back. It's just not something that would out there for public consumption."
"He's not someone who does anything in a half-hearted manner."
On who will be more appreciated in April than he is now:
(Long pause) "Because Deron hasn't really been a part of it, he's almost been a forgotten man in many ways. The identity of last year's team was a little bit vanilla. It was such a huge step forward from the team that they had that you had to accept the improvement and the fact that they became relevant again.
"I think that Deron might sneak up on some people this season because of the support on the team and also raising his level to match what's around him.
"My sense is that he sees this as an opportunity, not as a negative. All teams take on personalities and last year's team was a very likeable group and they played to their potential when you look back on it but the expectations weren't what they are now and I believe he wants to be great. He's in the prime of his career. He's 29 years old. The window of opportunity is now. The team has leadership on it. The team has toughness. The team has personality. All the pieces are in place. They've brought in a head coach that played the same position at the highest level, at the championship level.
"The stars are aligned for Deron Williams to have a career year. And I believe it's been pushed into the background a bit because he just hasn't been a part of this preseason. If you look back on what he was brought here to do, Deron certainly didnt ask for this specific trade for now, it makes sense. To me, this was the team he needed to be on in order to take this team to the next level.
"I think he has the personality that needs to be pulled out of him sometimes and Kidd, Pierce, Garnett all bring a little something different, but I think when the smoke clears, Deron will be a better player because of it."
The underestimation of Paul Pierce:
"At the press conference, Paul Pierce was very raw and was still warming to the idea of all this. We often ask our athletes to be honest and he was brutally honest during that session. Yet the reaction was lukewarm. There were a lot of Nets fans and media members who immediately thought, 'I'm not sure Paul wants to be a part of this.' You can't have it both ways.I thought it was one of the most genuine reactions to a trade and a change in an athlete's life and in each passing interview and public appearance, you've seen an evolution for him.
"Initially, I think the reaction may have been what you were alluding to, an underestimation of how Pierce fit into the overall puzzle, based on the fact that the team already had Joe Johnson. The thought process was, 'well, I'm not sure they needed to address that particular spot. Kevin Garnett filled a specific need. They acquired a player that brings a different energy that stirs up the group.
"But Pierce's competitive nature is at the same level as Garnett. He just shows it in a different form. The acquisition works because it's both of them. The comfort level they have with one another, combined with the experience the two bring alongside one another in big games that you can't replace. You can't simulate it. You can practice hard. You can play in a double overtime thriller in January. It still does not match the big game experience that Garnett, Pierce, Terry have been a part of."
How realistic is championship talk?
"If the Nets 'go for it,' then in this day and age, it doesn't feel that you're doing everything in your power to be a part of the championship race. I fully understand their thought process. I think it's important to put that out there because it's the world we live in now. In a perfect world, your judgment would be wait to see how the chemistry develops, you have a couple of barometers over the course of the season to see where you stack up. But that's not how it works anymore. We live in a world of immediate, instant gratification.
"I think once Pierce and Garnett entered the picture, they're not hanging on for dear life. They believe they have another run left in them. I don't think they're empty promises. I think there is a belief. I can tell you just being around the team, there is a completely different feeling. I've never seen it in my 19 previous years covering the team. There is a business-like approach and a sense of urgency. I've never been around a championship team over the course of a season. My assumption is that's one of the characteristics that you need to have in order to achieve greatness."