Brooklyn, like Los Angeles a year before, made the move of the off-season, trading for veterans and high-level talent to immediately become a title contender ... they thought. The basketball world has seen one fail, and it looks like the other could fail as well.
One similarity both teams had and now have are aging players and bad luck when it comes to health. The Lakers had to deal with injuries to Dwight Howard, who was recovering from back surgery through the offseason, and a torn shoulder labrum during the season, and Steve Nash, who had leg and hip injuries throughout the year. Laker players ultimately missed 176 games to injury. The Nets are on a pace to match or surpass that.
The Nets have a laundry list of injuries. Friday will make it two weeks since Brook Lopez has played, while Deron Williams has only played once since that date, both dealing with ankle injuries. Andrei Kirilenko, thought to be the steal of this summer's free agency has played in just four games due to his recurring back spasms.
Injuries aren't the only thing that make these two similar; defensive woes are part of the problem. The Nets are currently last in defensive rating, allowing 109.1 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers, by season's end, were ranked 22nd in the league, having a mark of 106.6 points per 100 possessions. Last season, the Lakers ranked 29th in steals. Currently, the Nets rank 24th overall. Although, if one were to average the Nets current forced turnover number over an 82-game season, they will finish with a little bit more than 100 more forced turnovers. That's not a particularly huge difference.
The eerie comparisons get worse. The Lakers started 1-4 last season and couldn't put up with Mike Brown, firing him. General Manager Mitch Kupchak said, "We're not looking five or 10 years down the road. This team was built to contend this year." That's weird, Billy King mentioned the same thing in October when he said, "Now, this is the window (to win a championship) -- this season."
The Lakers had chemistry issues that were well-documented and far more extreme than the Nets have experienced. Kobe Bryant needed the ball in his hands at all times, but which left franchise center Dwight Howard as the odd man out. Pau Gasol had trouble meshing with Howard and was relegated to the bench for a portion of the season.
Brooklyn hasn't looked good early on, dealing with what would seem to be early on-the-court issues with trying to get everyone comfortable in the offense. Their biggest fears may be coming to fruition with the decline of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Deron Williams balky ankles have flared up once again, which has made his minutes, when healthy, regress. They've had trouble spacing the floor and getting back on defense. And, of course, the third quarter woes.
The Nets have been embarrassed a few times this season. Whether it be their losses to the Kings or Bobcats, or Jason Kidd's head coaching becoming a story itself, after playing for the Knicks less than a year ago. Last night may have hit a new low, though.
So what ultimately happened in the end of the 2012-13? The Lakers became a better story than basketball team. They never really were a threat to the elite of the Western Conference, and the fear of the following off-season loomed over the whole season. And that's something Nets' fans absolutely don't want to happen to this 2013-14 Brooklyn team.
How does the Nets' story end? No one knows yet, but the early reports are abysmal. They have been beaten by teams that shouldn't be on the same floor as the talent the Nets have. "It's a process," Jason Kidd has said constantly through nearly a month of basketball, but when does the process end and it becomes real? As King said, the Nets window is this year. Injuries, chemistry, and the decline of their core players have placed the Nets at 4-11, flirting with last place in the East. The 2012-13 Lakers? Well, they were 7-8 at the 15-game mark.
Luckily for the Nets, they are in arguably the worst conference in NBA history. Their Western Conference counterparts have 11 teams at .500 or better; the East has just two above the mediocre mark. Furthermore, the Nets are in the worst division in basketball, one that has the Raptors in the lead with a record of 6-8. It's amazing to think, despite being embarrassingly poor through 15 percent of the season, the Nets are in striking distance of a top four spot in the East.
Facts are fact, though. And the Nets are on pace to not only become the Lakers of last year, but even worse. Thankfully, the season is a long one, and there is still plenty of time for the Nets to turn this around. Because as we saw wit the 2012-13 Lakers, headlines aren't exactly what fans are looking for. They don't carry the same weight and satisfy fans as, say, championship rings do.
- Jason Kidd and the Tyshawn Taylor "Hit Me" incident
- Crafty Coach Kidd and the Case of the Crashing Coke
- Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson lead comeback, but it wasn't enough as the Lakers beat the Nets, 99-94
- Nets injury report: Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry OUT vs. Lakers
- In Russian interview, Kirilenko critical of Nets execution