What’s wrong with the Brooklyn Nets? My short answer to that question: nothing. Can you call a team that’s missing or its star point guard (Deron Williams) and two key bench cogs (Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko) due to injury a failure? Only when that team is playing under the bright lights of New York City. But in the grand scheme of the league, where others have forecasted a storm brewing, we’ve spotted a few silver linings that could predict a great second half of the season.
Still playoff bound
Ignore the Nets 7-14 record and look at where they are in the standings. The Nets currently sit 1.5 games back from claiming the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Not a bad standing for a team that has completely retooled itself in the offseason and is clearly built for the playoffs. With so many pieces still set to return, it’s inevitable that Brooklyn will make a push for a playoff spot. There’s just too much pride within the veteran ranks of this team to bet on them laying a goose egg. As long as the Nets can avoid the seventh or eighth seed and a first round matchup with either the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers, the Nets still have the capacity to make some noise. Even if they happen to be matched up against those East juggernauts, the team’s core still believes it can pull out a victory.
The young guys are gaining experience
If there’s any silver lining that is associated with your star players being out, it’s the fact that the young guys are finally getting some burn on the hardwood. Players like Shaun Livingston, Tyshawn Taylor, Andray Blatche and even a not-so-young player Alan Anderson are all learning how to contribute in the absence of their team veterans. Call us half glass full kinds of guys, but if any of the veterans go down during a playoff series, the minutes they gain now will prove to be fruitful later on.
Paul Pierce’s move to a bench role
In the last year of the Boston Celtics’ Big Three, there was one move that may have disrupted the chance of the Big Three’s successful continuity: Ray Allen’s move to the bench. Or I should say, his refusal to be moved to the bench. In Paul Pierce’s recent return from injury, Pierce was taken off the bench to ease him back into the lineup, which was a move that turned out to be better for the team in general. Pierce would automatically become the number one option on the second unit, and from his perch on the elbow, can become more of a facilitator to his teammates. In the starting five—even with the imminent return of Deron Williams—there just may be too many cooks in the kitchen for Brooklyn to distribute the ball efficiently. The Nets have shown a dominance when they force feed the ball to Brook Lopez inside, while Joe Johnson is much more effective on passes out of the key or in isolation plays. Where does that leave Pierce? Mainly, as a spot up shooter, which is not his forte. If he’s able to dominate off the bench, it gives the Nets the ability to dominate for 48 minutes, rather than when the starting five is on the floor. Will he accept that sacrifice?
Jason Kidd accepting responsibility
Things haven’t gone well in the first quarter of the season for Jason Kidd. First, there was the purposeful drink spilling incident which cost him $100K, and then there was the move to get Lawrence Frank’s influence off the bench. These moves could be seen as signs of fragmentation of the team, but I see them as moves of ownership. Owning up to a problem is the first step to fixing them, and Kidd putting the onus of blame squarely on his shoulders is finally signaling that he is taking the job seriously. Too much deference to other experts is a sign of weakness, and others who have more coaching experience on their resume were squandering Kidd’s voice. But he’s finally starting to lead this team like he would if he were on the floor, directing the team from the driver’s seat and putting the ball in the hands of the players that have the most advantage. No doubt, he has a long way to go. But the drink incident may have finally put him in the position to take his first baby steps as a coach. They may have been wobbly, and he may have fallen, but he’s pushing forward with purpose from here on out.
We have yet to see the actual Nets in action
This may be the only knock on the Brooklyn Nets this season, as there is no guarantee that they will actually field a team when Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko are all active on the roster. But if these guys can ever string a run of at least 20 games played together, the optimism should be high. On paper, that’s a lethal combination of shooting prowess, ball handling and rebounding ability. You can’t call this team a failure when the exact lineup they expected to have on the floor haven’t run together all season. And with so many other hares that have sprinted out the gate, here’s hoping that the Nets are the tortoises in the race to the playoffs.