Whatever dreams and ambitions the Brooklyn Nets had of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy this year, they are somewhere at the bottom of the Hudson River after they were unceremoniously bounced out of the NBA Playoffs by the Miami Heat.
Brooklyn were thoroughly beaten 4-1 by the Heat and will now enjoy watching the rest of the post season with the rest of us. Meanwhile, Mikhail Prokhorov is probably on some luxury yacht and drowning his anger with an expensive bottle of champagne.
Granted he may be rich beyond our wildest dreams and willing to part with millions like it’s nothing, but the Nets billionaire owner will surely be not be satisfied with a second round exit after spending nearly $200 million to procure an NBA Championship in 2014.
Then again, when you consider the obstacles the team has overcome, maybe that was always the best they could hope for.
Brooklyn had trouble finding their way at the start 2013-14season with wins few and far between. Up until December 31st, they had won just 10 games from 31 games. That was the seventh worst record in the NBA and the blame was bouncing all around the organisation.
Was the coaching staff up to the task? Was the front office doing a disservice to the team with the core group of players? Was the pressure simply too much to overcome? All those questions that were asked and all had some valid reasoning behind them.
Prokhorov paid a lot of money for the Nets to be NBA Champions, therefore there was always going to be an added pressure for all parties involved. Every minor move was going to be put under the microscope and every little thing was going to be made into a huge spectacle. Not exactly the best conditions for a productive force, is it?
The fact that players were dropping like flies didn’t help either. No player reached the 80 games mark and key figures such as Deron Williams missed sizeable chunks of the season - 18 games to be exact. But maybe the injuries shouldn’t have been a surprise.
After all, having such an old core was just playing with fire to start with. Paul Pierce (36) managed to stay healthy and play in 75 games, though the same can’t be said for Kevin Garnett.
KG (37) played in just 54 contests and that forced quite a few adjustments to the team. Andray Blatche found himself in the starting line-up a couple of times but the job eventually went to Miles Plumlee.
The biggest injury casualty though was All-Star Brook Lopez since he played in just 17 games before a foot injury ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.
Providing 20 points per game, he was the leading scorer for the Nets and at 7ft tall, would have been a huge factor in protecting the rim. Without him (and his team leading 1.7 blocks per contest), Brooklyn had no-one to patrol the middle and finished with the third worst blocks per game average (3.8) during the regular season.
Perhaps he could have been a difference maker against Miami and LeBron James. Especially during Game four where he feasted in the paint on his way to 49 points. The coaching was also a huge determining factor because they had a rookie at the helm.
Just over a year ago, Jason Kidd was playing out his last few games as a point guard in the NBA. A position that garners more responsibility than most and is the closest resemblance to coaching on the side-lines because you have to orchestrate the plays, be the on-field general, and Kidd was great it. However, the jump from being the floor general to calling the shots on the sidelines is huge and that is something he quickly learned as the losses kept coming.
Lawrence Frank, the Nets former head coach while Kidd was still a player with the franchise, was brought on board to be his right hand man and bridge that gap. The relationship went sour though and as a result, Frank was demoted to filing reports for the rest of the coaches.
Turns out the move was just what team needed as they posted a 34-17 record since the New Year to the end of the regular season, which was good enough for the sixth best record in the NBA, and the second best in the Eastern Conference during the span to earn a Playoff berth.
All things considered, Jason Kidd has done a great job with this Brooklyn Nets team, particularly when you factor in that he is a rookie coach. Plus, there’s absolutely no shame in losing to the reigning NBA champions.
Then again this was team with championship aspirations and getting pounded by Miami in the manner they did showed that they still have a long way to go. Unfortunately they don’t have much wiggle room in terms of cap space and Pierce, an unrestricted free-agent this summer, was non-committal about his future in Brooklyn.
Good thing they have an owner who doesn’t mind parting with his money. Although, it will be interesting to see how that lasts if he doesn’t get a return on his investment.
At least he had some fun while it lasted, as he released a short statement which read: "I'd like to thank Nets management and players for all their efforts over the course of this crazy season. Despite roster changes, injuries and a difficult start, you clawed us back into contention. It made for a thrilling spring. And to the fans, thank you for your support through thick and thin. Next season, we pick up right where we left off!"
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