When Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets, promises were made as the Nets moved on from New Jersey to Brooklyn -- to this day some seem like a foggy mirage of things that weren’t meant to be. Money can’t always buy success and promises can’t always be fulfilled. While the first two years in Brooklyn were good ones, the drive to a championship has been cut short due to some unfortunate decisions.
Let’s take a look at some of the actions in the past that haunt the team:
The hiring of Avery Johnson and PJ Carlesimo: The Nets were looking to model their ‘brand’ on the San Antonio Spurs. Avery Johnson earned a trip to the NBA Championship just two seasons prior to being hired with the Nets. He had been a Spur himself, which made him even more enticing to the Nets. The idea of the Nets having the same winning identity while representing themselves in a classy manner was the quintessential model for Brooklyn.
Needless to say, things with Avery Johnson didn’t go as planned. He was axed just 30 games into the 2012-13 season after a disappointing start to the inaugural year in Brooklyn. Deron Williams even threw a jab at Johnson by stating he liked Jerry Sloan’s offensive system back in Utah. Take note: Every decision the Nets made was for Deron Williams, the face of their franchise.
It’s tough to blame the Nets for not hiring a new coach after that. Why start over in the middle of the season? They decided to stick with somebody already in the coaching staff, so they promoted PJ Carlesimo to interim head coach to finish out the year. The Nets finished with an impressive record of 35-19 with Carlesimo at the helm, and an overall 49-33 record, their best since the 2005-2006 season.
So what was the problem? Carlesimo didn’t change much up. The team seemed to rally off their talent, rather than an actual system change. He stuck with an isolation savvy offense, and failed to make the necessary adjustments in round one against the Chicago Bulls. As we know, the Nets lost that round and went home disappointed. Good-bye PJ.
Trade-then-sign Gerald Wallace: This move was a desperate attempt from Billy King to bring in some talent for Deron Williams. When Wallace arrived, the Nets were four games out of the playoffs. But that wasn't the main reason for the trade. King and the Nets wanted to show the soon-to-be free agent Williams that they were committed to getting him the supporting cast he needed. In 16 games, Wallace became a fan favorite, averaging 15, 7 and 3 while shooting nearly 40 percent from the arc.
This was fine until the pick traded for Wallace blossomed into a young star and rookie of the year in Damian Lillard.The Nets would’ve taken Cody Zeller or John Henson, but of course King takes the blame since the Trail Blazers completely won the trade in grabbing Lillard.
King wanted to prove to Williams that he would have veteran talent heading into Brooklyn. So, Wallace was signed to a notorious four year – $40 million deal. Wallace averaged 30 minutes per game and scored only eight points and pulled down six rebounds .in the first year of the contract and it looked untradeable.
Ultimately it turned into a talent fail. Wallace’s poor play and hefty contract were moved for Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce, but three first-round draft picks went in the process. This is where we stand today.
Trade for Paul Pierce & Kevin Garnett: At the time of the trade, Nets nation was filled with excitement following a disappointing first-round exit to the Chicago Bulls. It was said the Nets lacked heart. That led to Billy King unloading the three first-round picks, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Gerald Wallace, and MarShon Brooks. Unloading their contracts was a big upside to the trade, but losing three picks for Pierce & Garnett was detrimental to the Nets future.
Is the trade a failure with Paul Pierce leaving after one year? He gave Brooklyn the veteran leadership and heart they so badly needed, but, in hindsight, had Billy King known Pierce would only be a one-year rental, you have to think he probably would not have made the trade. It could very well toss a wrench in the Nets game plan this upcoming season and beyond.
Hiring Jason Kidd: The ‘sexy’ hire of the 2013 offseason, Kidd had the potential to be a Nets legend as both a player and coach, but his hubris was his downfall. The Nets can’t be blamed too much for this, as nobody could’ve predicted what happened with Kidd after just one year as a head coach. Maybe it’s better of he’s gone, as they seem to be in good hands with Lionel Hollins leading the way. Still, expect more will come about the circumstances of Kidd's departure.
Ultimately, in moving to Brooklyn, things were supposed to be different. The Nets were supposed to be a championship-caliber team these past two years. This part of the process isn't what they had "envisioned" when leaving New Jersey for Brooklyn, appeasing their franchise player, making a trade for two future Hall of Famers and hiring one of the franchise all-time greats to coach the team. Yes, they've dug a bit of a hole, one in which they still owe out draft picks and can't afford to add any talent via free agency, but management has added some young talent through trades and buying draft picks and they've reset the course without actually, well, resetting it.
All is not lost, but there is still plenty of work to be done to get this team to where they want to be: in the discussion as a serious championship contender.