When Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov bought the franchise in 2010 he would promise a championship within five years. He was able to secure a star to build a franchise caliber team around in Deron Williams. The Nets would then acquire Joe Johnson to assist Brooklyn in the championship hunt. With the acquisition of the former Atlanta Hawks star the Nets were able to make the playoffs only to narrowly lose to the Chicago Bulls. Prokhorov’s five year plan is still in sight and he looks to better his team’s chances heading into the 2012-2013 season.
The franchise would make the blockbuster trade of the offseason acquiring established players Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, formerly of the Boston Celtics. With this trade many of the top experts in the NBA believed the Nets to be a championship caliber team. Brooklyn had been struggling to find an identity as a team in recent years even when they had success. Not only known for the leadership on the court but in the locker room as well, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett looked to bring an ego to the borough.
The season started off well with a healthy Nets team and an early win over the defending champion Miami Heat. With a team full of veterans, things took a turn for the worst as injuries began to plague the newly assembled Brooklyn Nets. Though it wasn’t the “Dinosaurs” ,Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who was dragging the team down with injuries, it was the two youngest starters on the team Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Deron Williams’s ankle has been a nagging issue ever since being traded to the franchise. Brook Lopez’s foot has also been a lingering issue for Brooklyn’s big man who had endured multiple injuries in his career involving the foot. One of which caused him to miss more than 75 games in the ’11-’12 season.
The question remains, how can Jason Kidd keep his team in the playoff hunt until D-Will and Brook return?
There are multiple issues Coach Jason Kidd faces with this injury rattled Brooklyn Team. The issue that must be resolved first is on the defensive side of the ball. Though Brook Lopez is not a great rebounder he has learned to patrol the paint leading the Nets in blocks in 4 of the last 5 seasons. Without their star center, someone else needs to step up. That man is former Defensive Player of the Year, Kevin Garnett. Right now he is trying to help the struggling Nets offensively but it is clear that at his age his offensive game is dwindling. Kevin Garnett must now turn his focus to blocking shots and getting rebounds instead of wasting possessions thinking he is the same Kevin Garnett he was in 2005. In the five games Brook Lopez has been out with an injury the Nets have allowed more than 100 points to the opposing team in 4 games during that span. In those four games, Garnett had 3 blocked shots in total and shot only 41% from the field.
The closest the Nets came to winning was November 20th against the Charlotte Bobcats (This is the 5th game, not included in previous sentence) where they allowed only 95 points, and came up only 4 points short in the loss. In this game Garnett would concentrate on his defense and block 3 shots (Equal to his total in the last 4 games combined) and shoot only 2 jump shots which both were spot on. Even though the Nets would go on to lose that game it was by far the most productive game Garnett and the Nets have had since losing Brook Lopez. Kevin Garnett’s days as a go to scorer are over. Now the best way he can help the Nets is to focus on blocking shots and to avoid trying to create his own shots and instead look to be an outlet pass jump shooter.
One thing is for sure, if you want to be an elite team in this league, great chemistry and ball movement is crucial. With the Nets star point guard out of the equation, Jason Kidd has some work to do. Shaun Livingston was signed during the offseason to serve as Brooklyn’s backup point guard. In the 6 games Deron has been out Livingston had shown some offensive prowess but has not showcased his ability to distribute the basketball. Coach Kidd needs to look at other options in order to increase ball movement. The best option is Paul Pierce. Pierce still has plenty left in the tank and since coming to Brooklyn he hasn’t been given a long enough leash from Kidd to be more of a ball handler. When with the Boston Celtics last season Pierce was the primary ball handler after Rajon Rondo tore his ACL and was out for the second half of the season. He would lead the Celtics into the playoffs yet again as Pierce lead the team averaging 6 assists a game. With opposing teams knowing of the offensive capabilities that Paul Pierce possesses, this allows other players like Kevin Garnett to get wide open looks and the Nets offense will run more fluently.
Whatever Jason Kidd decides to do, he better decide quickly as the once touted championship caliber Nets are now 3-9 and cannot afford to let games slide. The sense of urgency cannot be any higher right now in Brooklyn. The Nets head north of the border tonight to take on Rudy Gay and the division leading Toronto Raptors (6-7). It will be interesting to see how Jason Kidd shakes things up tonight in hope to end Brooklyn’s struggles.