It’s frustrating to watch outside parties casually rip on your team through the boilerplate parlance of Internet snark, but more frustrating when you suspect they might be right. Around the time the Brooklyn Nets were putting up a laughably deficient front against the broken, battered Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, I read dozens of Tweets and articles slamming the Nets for their lack of heart, their corny presentation, the corporate sheen they’d been given through their big budget relocation which, for all its photo ops and well-choreographed stadium soundtrack selection, led to a seven-game bummer of an exit to a team missing half its starters.
There wasn’t much to say about it, either. A billion dollars and a borough away from New Jersey, the Nets were capped out, coachless, and staring at a few years of the middle pending some magical improvement from its double digit salaries on the wrong side of 30, the grasping of some collective purpose for a team haphazardly slapped together so that the Barclays Center wouldn’t be broken in with a startting lineup of Johan Petro + Jordan Farmar + Sadness. They’d make the playoffs, sure, because this team had won 49 games and even looked fearsome at times when Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson were simultaneously clicking—for the rare occasions it happened—but there was no way to say with a straight face that they’d be positioned to even sniff at a championship.
Here’s the rap on Plumlee from my Duke alum friend: “Super athletic. Tiny little girl hands. Needs to be fed. Literally cannot score outside the restricted area. He hit two jumpers last year. TWO. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Unclear if literal.] He mostly played the 5 in college and I imagine he would if his jumper can’t improve.” An athletic tryhard who runs the floor? Sounds like a better fit for the post-trade Nets—if that happens—than any of the backup big men on the roster. We’ll have more on it tomorrow, but watch this on loop until then. God, it’s so good.
There are lots of questions about this one: the level of interest on both sides, whether Kevin Garnett would be willing to waive his no-trade clause, whether the inclusion of Gerald Wallace’s onerous contract would be a deal-breaker (if Boston is trying to clear cap space, this is a funny way to do it)—beyond that, how KG and Pierce would fit into Jason Kidd’s intent to play uptempo, how Deron Williams would react to having his leadership role essentially split into thirds, whether KG would murder Andray Blatche if left alone with him for more than twenty minutes, whether the Nets should close off their future growth for the chance to open this championship window.
But beyond that? Yes, of course you do this. Deron-Joe-Pierce-KG-Lopez, if healthy and congealed and running—and these aren’t players who’ve typically clashed with their teammates in the past—is an ECF-ready lineup that could seriously challenge the Heat if filled out with the right bench. Best case scenario is that everything comes together and they get to that championship level; worst case, they don’t and KG/Pierce come off the books next year. On the other hand, Boston is betting that Brooklyn would totally drop off after that window closes, meaning those three first round picks would become hugely valuable in the future—and it would definitely be the future, since a team can’t trade first round picks in consecutive years. That would probably suck, to watch a depleted, pickless roster scamper about. On the other hand, KG and Pierce! Fun fun fun. Dibs on being the first one to take KG to a DIY space.
Even before Brook Lopez underwent a third surgery on his troublesome foot, the Nets were in need of another big man on the roster. Lopez and Andray Blatche were the only two legitimate options the team had at center, and Blatche, should he stay in Brooklyn, may be required to fill the gaping hole at power forward. Given those variables, adding a backup center via the draft or free agency is a must for Billy King this offseason.
Reports circulated Tuesday that the Nets wouldn’t let Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng slip past them at 22. Whether Dieng is still on the board when the Nets pick remains to be seen, but he’s only one of several options available to the team in the first round. If this draft has a strength, it could be the proliferation of big men in the 15-35 range. Will the Nets go big Thursday night? Here are some candidates if they do:
I like MarShon Brooks, because he has randomly capitalized letters in his first name and his game is worth at least a bench position on the All-NBA “What, No, Alright Sure” Shot Selection All-Stars. It was fun to watch him heat up over the last two years, whenever it happened. But here’s a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chad Ford saying that the Nets might be trying to shovel off Brooks to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for what would be the No. 26 pick. Unless you’re bullish on Alexey Shved, the T’Wolves need a shooting guard and Brooks sort of fits that position even though he can’t really shoot from farther than the restricted area. With Joe Johnson locked into the starting lineup, Brooks was firmly relegated to backup status, even falling behind Keith Bogans in the rotation because Bogans had a firmer grip on how to fit in and not cause too much trouble. Bogans is presumably off to another team, which means the Nets would essentially be resetting the position, maybe drafting a replacement with one of their latter round picks. (The prudent move given their tight cap situation.)
That rings a little circular, but if the trade is consummated it’ll smell of a classic New Coach move, which is to institute new guys to replace the guys you can live without. Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that in four games against the Knicks this season—games in which Jason Kidd was also on the court—Brooks played more than ten minutes in just one of them, and didn’t even see any action in the other. I will read way too much into this, but what’s a better scouting report than playing against someone and seeing how he’s treated by his coach/teammates? From which Kidd might have deduced, “This guy is like junior J.R.” We’ll wait and see, but here’s a highlight video from our buddies at The Brooklyn Game to remind us of all that off-kilter magic.
Based on need alone, it would seem obvious for the Nets to look for a power forward in the draft. Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries and Mirza Teletovic all got a crack at the job last season, and while they all bring something unique to the table, they all also have gaping flaws in their games. Fans and analysts alike have called for the team to give Andray Blatche an opportunity to prove himself next to Brook, although we have yet to see how successful that duo would be for long stretches. (Defense is still half of the game.) There’s also the small matter of resigning Blatche, even if all signs are pointing in that direction.
Given their need and the limited flexibility with which they can otherwise acquire a starting caliber power forward, will the Nets draft a develop a player who can become the long-term solution? The outlook seems a bit bleak. The power forward crop isn’t deep where the Nets are picking; in fact, their best bet might be to try and turn one of the many centers on the board into a four. Here’s how the natural power forward group shakes out:
Wear two-piece attire and non-marking sneakers. Midriff and legs must be exposed; no tights. Tumbling skills are a plus. These are not prerequisites for a spot on Jason Kidd’s coaching staff next season, much as we think a somersault-driven isolation play could really spice things up. Rather, they were among the requirements to attend the open auditions for the 2013-14 Brooklynettes, which took place on Saturday at LIU Brooklyn.
Upon entering the gym, home to the LIU-Brooklyn Blackbirds, I was greeted by 300 aspiring Brooklynettes pacing the hardwood, stretching, and making final hair and makeup adjustments. I took a seat next to the members of Team Hype (sans t-shirt cannons), and after some short words from Kimberlee Garris, Director of Entertainment Marketing for the Nets, Brooklynettes choreographer Adar Wellington led the attendees through a series of light warmups before teaching them a short routine to Beyonce’s “Grown Woman.”
Though Bojan Bogdanovic’s contract situation hasn’t been resolved—he still has a year left on his European deal—it’s expected that the Nets would bring him over as their backup small forward if they’re able to. That would work out well, since this year’s SF crop seems a little uninspiring outside of Georgetown’s Otto Porter and they lack a natural reserve to spot Gerald Wallace outside of shifting Joe Johnson down a spot.
It remains to be seen how Bogdanovic fits into Coach Kidd’s vision for the team. Heading into last week’s press conference, we knew only that Billy King wanted to add shooting—Bogdanovic helps—and athleticism to the roster. Kidd, however, brought the small forward position to the forefront, singling out Gerald Wallace as someone he’d like to see play some point forward. Can the Nets find a small forward in the draft who can fill the team’s evolving needs? Here are some options:
With Joe Johnson soaking up 36 minutes a night, MarShon Brooks entering a make or break third season and the potential arrival of Bojan Bogdanovich from Europe, just how much room do the Nets have for another young shooting guard? Depends on how Jason Kidd views positionality. Both Johnson and Gerald Wallace have enough size for the Nets to move them over to small forward and power forward, respectively. Three of the Nets’ five most commonly used lineups featured Johnson as Brooklyn’s third biggest player (if not technically a small forward), and Wallace spent a lesser but still considerable amount of time as a small ball four.
The Nets will also need to find shooters to replace the presumably departing Keith Bogans, C.J. Watson and Jerry Stackhouse, so it’s possible that need could encourage quantity at shooting guard. Here’s a few of them we like.
The first thing I can tell you about the press conference announcing Jason Kidd as the new Nets head coach is that I missed most of it, thanks to a ruthless New York City transit system that had no problem breaking down on a bridge and taking 40 minutes to make 3 stops from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I can’t tell you what was said in those fifteen minutes lost to time, though I can tell you about the old Chinese man whose frustration at the train was so whole that he exited by flipping off the ceiling and slamming his umbrella against the intercom as the conductor bleated that the train would now be running express, because of course it would.
I did eventually get to the newly redesigned Barclays Center, and I did stand in the back of the entrance listening to Kidd and Billy King talk about their vision for the team/franchise, most of which amounted to the kind of platitude you’d expect from a guy who’s been on the job for less than 24 hours and a guy whose job depends on how this goes. Because all of the media’s questions were probing for answers that haven’t been reached yet—the type of offense he’d like to run, how he sees Gerald Wallace’s place, how he’ll prepare to beat the Knicks, and so on. All of that will take time to deduce; Kidd, for his part, looked composed and calm as he fielded each question, though his cadence was kind of stilted and hesitant and definitely super soft, as though he was being especially careful not to give anything away. Toward the end of the conference, he said something about how Greg Popovich is the best coach who gives the best interviews, which means myself and the rest of the media have a lot of fun to look forward to.