1. First, what is the reason for the Nets early season struggles?
Net Income: The Nets are suffering from a perfect storm of injuries (on a pace to miss 200 games, which is a top three number nearly every season); poor chemistry, which is in part a function of the injuries (too many early injuries denied team opportunity to meld); a roster that is mostly devoid of athleticism which hurts a lot on defense (thus the experimentation with zone); and no doubt inexperienced coaching.
Tom Lorenzo: How much time do you have? Look, the reason the Nets are struggling early on this season is because they have had to deal with a ton of injuries (Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko have all missed significant time) and they have also been poorly coached. Jason Kidd has not done a very good job at coaching this team, and while he doesn't deserve all the blame -- no one coach would have been able to coach this team missing anywhere from 4-5 key players at a time to a highly respectable record -- he does deserve much of it. So, if you're pointing the finger, point at Kidd and the injuries.
Reed Wallach: Injuries. As bad as the Nets have looked so far, a lot of that could be attributed to the fact that they have been forced to start the likes of Tyshawn Taylor, Alan Anderson, and Reggie Evans at times. For perspective, the Nets starting five has played just 78 minutes together through 20 games. Once the Nets get healthy, I think they can get themselves out of the hole they have dug.
Dennis Velasco: Easily, we have not sacrificed enough lambs to the basketball gods who are punishing us for our hubris. If not that, it has to be injuries. As noted by Net Income in various spots, the Brooklyn Nets core five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez haven't even played 80 minutes together this season. That's not even two games worth of minutes! What's been derivative of this, and is in more of the spotlight is how badly Jason Kidd is doing as an NBA head coach. It absolutely reeks. The calls for Kidd's firing are getting more voluminous in every way. However, the most fair thing to do is to get the aforementioned core five (and Andrei Kirilenko) healthy and playing together, build some chemistry and then re-assess Kidd's performance. Health first is the key.
Brian Fleurantin: I think the lack of coordination has been the biggest reason for their early struggles this year. The injuries certainly hurt, but going into the year I thought there was enough depth to be competitive in case of injuries. The coaching has been poor, there have been way too many lapses on defense, and the offense has been extremely stagnant. I think that when the starting five is whole again and they actually get to play extended minutes together, I think they'll be on their way back to respectability.
Dexter Henry: The Nets early season struggles have do with two things age and injuries. These are two things I was concerned about with this team at the start of this season and it has reared its ugly head early. Brooklyn struggles immensley with younger and more athletic teams and they simply just haven't been able to stay healthy and keep their star players on the court.
Ghoti: - There are two All-Star level players on the team. One of them is MIA and the other one has missed 7 of the team's 19 games and is on his 5th coach in five seasons.
- The team has not played one game together.
- They have an inexperienced coach who under the best circumstances would have had to endure a learning curve and so far this is the complete opposite of the best circumstances.
- Veteran role players seem to be unmotivated in games once it's clear they have little to no chance of winning them.
- Mediocre and inexperienced players are being asked to play too large a role.
- The team has no backup PG, and players like Pierce and Kirilenko who have successfully had offenses run through them in the past have either been awful, not playing or both.
- The conference is so bad that even these putrid performances are not enough to put the team into a big hole and it seems like there is no urgency because of that.
- Even with an iconic presence like Jason Kidd and the importing of guys who played (and coached) championship caliber defense, the team still lacks an offensive or defensive identity of any kind.
GMJigga: A perfect storm of injuries, coaching changes (sorry, "reassignment"), and new acquisitions have completely derailed the team from acquiring an identity. It's amazing how bad this team looks compared to how they looked in pre-season. The offense is more stagnant, but that will at least give me hope that their performance will improve once we get our starting PG, SF, and 6th man back. Of course, don't look for that improvement to happen immediately, as their return will force players to settle on different roles once more.
Romy Nehme: ALL OF THE ABOVE. Cue everyone nodding vigorously without needing to know what the above options are. Injuries aside, there were just too many contradictions to reconcile that the off-season euphoria did a good job of obscuring. The "learning on the job" mandate for Kidd was simply at odds with the narrow "win now" window of contention, and plans for KG to fortify the defense while playing the 4 -- where he’s been ineffective for years now -- are only two of them.
2. Somehow the Nets stand three games out of first in the Atlantic Division and two out of last in the East, which spot is more likely the Nets finish in?
NI: Sadly, the latter. The hole is very deep and getting deeper.
TL: They'll likely make the playoffs, maybe finish second, possibly first in the Division. Look, it's been a disaster thus far, but there is no one team in the Atlantic that is really any good. With Toronto dumping Rudy Gay, the 76ers and Celtics still young, and the Knicks in no better shape than the Nets, there is a shot that Brooklyn will win the Atlantic.
RW: They will win the Atlantic Division, and I think by a fair margin. Like I said before, the team has rarely played at full strength and is yet to develop chemistry. The fact that they stand three games out of first place in the division with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett declining far greater than anyone expected is a miracle in itself. I think once the Nets get healthy and begin to put together some wins, they will become dangerous. Once it all clicks, the two former Celtics will find their role on the team and buy in to Jason Kidd's system.
DV: Honestly, it doesn't matter. Just get in the playoffs because, essentially, this team is built for the playoffs where the pace is slowed down and the veteran presence and savvy of Pierce, KG, Jason Terry - all three wearers of championship rings - should make a difference.
BF: It's way more likely they end up first in the Atlantic Division. Even with how awful they've been, there are a lot of really, really bad teams in this Conference. Boston, Philadelphia, and Toronto are still deeply flawed, and in the cases of Philadelphia & Boston, don't want to be winning this season. It's gonna be an ugly trip getting there, but I see the Nets being the least awful of an awful bunch down the road & competing for the Division.
DH: Its very likely if the Nets get healthy and start to get some chemistry that they will be closer to first in the Atlantic Division and make the playoffs (which I still think they will). The East is just so awful right now and I do think they can string some wins together and overcome this bad start to make the playoffs.
GJ: If this is rock-bottom, then we can make the playoffs by getting some of our core guys back. The only way I see us not making the playoffs is if Kidd's coaching ability is nothing without his training wheels. To that end, I don't think Lawrence Frank was the only mind keeping the team together. Hey, Prunty beat the Heat!
RN: As it stands, placing tops in the Atlantic Division or last in the Eastern Conference are almost interchangeable in terms of draft positioning because of the rule that guarantees the winner of every division a spot in the top 4. The best case scenario for the Neltics is a second round vamoosing, in the former case, or a dignity-crushing first round shellacking at the hands of a true contender, in the latter. While other teams have the option of looking at themselves in the mirror -- all beaten up and disfigured -- and making a call as to whether they should continue fighting or pull their horse from the race, the Nets forwent that option when they sent all their picks packing for the promise of a sunny immediate future.
3. Do the Nets need to fire Jason Kidd to succeed?
NI: Nah. Kidd may have issues, but his issues aren't as big an issue as the injuries, the resultant lack of chemistry and the flaws in the roster. And the Nets aren't going to fire their fourth coach in four years. Also, he deserves some credit for the development of Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic and keeping things together. As for Lawrence Frank, I don't see a lot of coaches or players, current or former, taking Frank's side. There are always two sides to every story.
TL: No. They need much more than simply firing the coach to succeed. Just by getting rid of Kidd won't do the trick. They still won't be a healthy team and they'll still have plenty of issues to deal with. Not saying Kidd must stay, but I don't think it's the "one move" that turns this thing around.
RW: No, it would actually make matters worse. The Nets have been made fools at every corner over the past month, and if they were to ditch the Kidd experiment before it even got started it would be their biggest failure to date. And the team's issues go farther than Kidd.
DV: It's a short and direct question, but to answer it completely would be long and with tangents. So, I'll stick with keeping it concise and say, maybe. Again, health is going to be the key to getting back on that road to, hopefully, success. However, if the team does get healthy, but still performs abominably, I hope the front office has Stan Van Gundy's number set in their Contacts list.
BF: No, no, no, no, they don't need to fire Jason Kidd. I don't think it's fair to throw Kidd out without giving him some time with this roster at (or as close to) full strength. Management made a commitment when they hired Kidd and they should stay with him for as long as reasonably possible. You could fire Jason Kidd today & it won't spark this team. If you fire Jason Kidd, does that guarantee this roster regains its health? If you fire Kidd, does that ensure Kevin Garnett returns to the level of play he had last year? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then Kidd is the least of this team's worries right now.
DH: Right now my answer would be no but it is getting late early. Kidd's reassignment of Lawrence Frank did not look good for the organization at all. However, now turning this around is going to have a lot to do with how Kidd can motivate the team despite their standing to play better. I think the bigger question is how patient will the ownership be if the Nets are 10 games plus below .500 after Christmas? Fans are already impatient with the head coach and you can't really blame them.
GJ: If I answer in the affirmative, I preclude any other scenario of improvement. I'm no longer convinced that Kidd is going to be a dynamite coach, but there's no way to definitively say that he can't get a healthy Nets team playing together.
RN: Please refer to #1. The bigger question is: Is it worth the public shaming the organization would face given the fact that they retired Kidd's jersey only a few months ago? Is this year's team's ceiling high enough to make such a crass move from a human cost point of view? I wish I had a plug for an upcoming radio show where NetsDaily was going to layout a 3-step plan to solve this riddle but I don’t. All I have is sadness and consternation and a chorus of whyyyyyyyyys. Oh, blarghed fate.
4. Which player do the Nets need back the most?
NI: Obviously, Deron Williams is critical ... although having Andrei Kirilenko would be nice. Sadly neither Shaun Livingston nor Tyshawn Taylor is a starting PG in the NBA. Deron Williams is a great outside shooter. Livingston hasn't made a three in two years. Taylor shows flashes, but they are rare and he is young and inconsistent. D-Will missing training camp and preseason, then missing three weeks early in the season is the biggest issue in the lack of chemistry. Lets remember this: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are transitioning from "the man" or "the men" to "glorified role players." It would help to have a smart PG running the show, figuring that out.
TL: Deron Williams, easily. A part of me wants to say Kirilenko, but Williams is the team's supposed leader and he is their super star point guard, arguably the most important position in a Kidd supposed system. They need a healthy Williams to make a run.
RW: Deron Williams is the player that was supposed to be the team's leader and best player. However, if he plays the way during the first half of last season and the way he has played this season, then I would say Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko is supposed to bring the energy that the Nets have been lacking, but he hasn't been healthy enough to show it. Kirilenko can also improve the Nets 29 ranked defensive efficiency.
DV: Deron Williams. He's been the touchstone for this whole thing, especially in regards to him learning to lead from the former Celtics players on this team. Plus, when he's on, he's really, really good. First-tier point guard good. Can he make a difference for this team? Sure, but only if he's 100 percent healthy.
BF: It's Deron Williams, but with one big caveat. Brooklyn needs him back, but they need him playing at the level he was during the second half of last season. For large parts of his tenure here, he's been dealing with injuries which have adversely affected his play. If he's healthy and playing at a high level, a lot of the issues on offense can be hidden. I'm just worried that he won't actually be healthy long enough for Brooklyn to overcome their wretched start to the season.
DH: Deron Williams needs to get back on the court ASAP. He is pivotal to Brooklyn having any chance of turning things around this season. Quite frankly it is time for him to step up, lead this team and play like the franchise player he was paid to be. If he plays to his potential he will make things easier on offense for everyone and the Nets will get back to playing good basketball once again (at least on the offensive side).
G: Is this question a joke?
GJ: Deron, of course; we need more shooting, more ball movement, and more beards, personally. Hey, I'm all for whatever keeps Tyshawn Marbury off the court. Any generation feeling puzzled by "YOLO" need only to see him in the second half of the Knicks game to learn that definition.
RN: Deron Williams is still the Nets’ linchpin, even though AK brings, or as with everything Nets-related this year, was supposed to bring, more of the two-way do-everything-ness that the Nets so desperately ache for. My fear is that if you squint at the right aperture, Deron Williams starts to look a lot like 2012-2013 Dwight Howard, and the frenzied Nets don’t have the luxury to shut him down for another month to get his ankles right. Remove the explosiveness from DWill’s game and you still get a loosening up of the Nets’ claustrophobic spacing, but only marginal improvements in WARP (using a healthy Livingston as the "replacement player" in that equation).
5. What will need to happen for the Nets to salvage their season?
NI: The Nets have to make the playoffs. Lowered expectations of course, but a failure to make the playoffs would cause so much angst the night of the Draft Lottery that I'm not sure we could take it. The Nets do have very experienced playoff roster. Hopefully by then the wave of injuries will have subsided.
TL: A deep run in the playoffs needs to happen. Anything short of that, it's a disaster. Look, we were sold a championship team this summer and the expectations need to be just that in order for this season to be "salvaged." There's no backtracking now!
RW: The season was a failure if they didn't at least go to the Eastern Conference Finals at the beginning of the season—and even that was pushing it—so it will likely be a failure no matter what. To salvage it, they must win the division and lose to either the Heat or Pacers in the postseason. If they lose to anybody but those two in the playoffs, this will be one of the biggest failures in recent memory.
DV: An advantage to the Nets not fulfilling expectations this early in the season is that they've actually been lowered and should be more manageable for the rest of the season. Making the playoffs should be all that matters, and in the Eastern Conference, it should be highly probable. The dreams of a title before the season have been diluted/shattered into a more realistic need to make the postseason, which is essentially what it's always been. Get in and see what happens.
BF: In order for them to salvage this season, I think they need to win the Atlantic. Even though they've been terrible, they can still win this Division. They haven't been playing up to the standards we all expected going into the season, but the goal is still winning the Atlantic. After the offseason they had & the moves they made, anything less than capturing the Division is unacceptable.
DH: For the Nets to salvage their season they need to play with much more effort and pride than they have shown in the past few weeks. Getting blown out consistently especially at home just isn't acceptable for a team that had championship aspirations. That effort and pride especially needs to be show on the defensive end where Brooklyn has struggled to defend the three point shot. If and when the Nets get healthy the fan base can only hope that team shows pride and effort because if not the season will continue to be a disaster.
G: Before the season, we did a roundtable like this one and one of the questions was "Who will be the Nets' MVP?". My answer was simple - If it isn't Deron Williams, then it doesn't matter. Obviously, nothing has changed in my mind. If the Nets want go anywhere, it will be Deron Williams that takes them there.
GJ: The team mortgaged their future to win a ring, and anything less than reaching the Conference Finals remains a failure. We're in Brooklyn now, and it's time to act like the top-flight program we hyped ourselves up to be. The days of moral victories and concessions are over.
RN: A quarter of the way through my experiment of split loyalties between two teams who sleep in the same division, I’ve come to realize that it’s a lot easier on the psyche to root for the team everyone has pegged as a blatant tanker. Proof: every Nets loss unleashes a vicious avalanche of twitter rants, contentious player-only meetings, front office personnel demotions and new snarky subreddits (well, posts); conversely, every Celtics win earns them a lavishing of praise. A sampling from Sunday afternoon’s trouncing at MSG: "BRAD STEVENS FOR PRESIDENT IN 2016", and "He’s not to win the award .. but DAinge deserves some EoY votes when you add up the picks he’s stockpiled and the coach he boldly hired". Oxycontin for all! So how do you salvage a shipwreck? Win the Atlantic Division AND, as a consolation after last year’s moderate Damian Lillard Debacle, end up with a better record than the Hawks.