2013-14 Brooklyn Nets Preview

(SportsNetwork.com) - Memo to the NBA - if the Brooklyn Nets underachieve, owner Mikhail Prokhorov will make changes.

It started early with the canning of Avery Johnson on Dec. 27 after he was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October and November.

P.J. Carlesimo took over, earned Brooklyn the fourth seed in the east, then lost to a Chicago Bulls team with a traveling MASH unit in Game 7 in Brooklyn.

Changes were needed and Prokhorov authorized GM Billy King to make them.

And boy did he.

The Nets brought in future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics. The C's wanted to rebuild and jettisoned these two, and reserve guard Jason Terry, for a slew of salary dumps and oodles of draft picks.

The story went that if Pierce opted out of his contract with Boston, Garnett would retire. Pierce had to convince Garnett to give it one more go for a ring and succeeded.

"I'm no longer a Boston Celtic. I'm a Brooklyn Net, and that's what it is right now," a still shocked Pierce said at his introductory press conference back in July. "It's a business, and at some point we all have to move on. And I'm here to try to create some kind of legacy here in Brooklyn."

The next big change came when Jason Kidd, who retired after the season with the New York Knicks, decided he would like to become the Nets head coach. King interviewed him and agreed.

"Championship teams are built on being prepared, playing unselfishly and being held accountable, and that's how I expect to coach this basketball team," Kidd said. "I am truly excited about this next phase of my basketball career."

Kidd is a Hall of Fame lock as a point guard, but what kind of coach will he be? Who on earth knows, but he took a great first step in hiring former Nets coach, Lawrence Frank, who got canned by the Detroit Pistons at the end of the season, as an assistant.

Next up for the Brooklyn Summer of Love, came Andrei Kirilenko, the uber- versatile forward who played with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season. The rumor was that the San Antonio Spurs badly wanted AK-47, but he signed for less money than was offered to go with his comrade, Prokhorov. That in turn led to rumors that Prokhorov and Kirilenko authored some backroom, back end deal, which is a no-no.

Three massive talents (four, maybe with Terry) were brought in during one offseason. A coach, who went 35-19 was fired in favor of a former Nets star with zero coaching experience. At least management kept three All-Stars in the starting lineup with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.

Safe to say Mikhail doesn't tolerate underachieving. He'll be spending an awful lot in luxury tax to prove so.

2012-13 Results: 49-33, 2nd in Atlantic. Lost in East Quarterfinals

ADDITIONS: HC Jason Kidd, F Paul Pierce, F/C Kevin Garnett, G Jason Terry, F Andrei Kirilenko, G Shaun Livingston, F Alan Anderson, F Mason Plumlee


PG- Deron Williams SG- Joe Johnson SF- Paul Pierce PF- Kevin Garnett C- Brook Lopez

KEY RESERVES: F Andrei Kirilenko, F/C Andray Blatche, G Jason Terry, F Reggie Evans, G Shaun Livingston, F Alan Anderson, F Mason Plumlee

FRONTCOURT: Reggie Evans had a great season, averaging 11.1 rpg and agitating every opposing player. But he and Gerald Wallace were not enough to lead Brooklyn to anything meaningful.

That's where Pierce and Garnett figure in.

"I'm going to lead by example," Garnett told the team's website. "We all have to sacrifice. I'm going to voice that."

Statistically, Pierce, 36, and Garnett, 37, didn't miss a beat last season. Pierce (18.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.8 apg) and Garnett (14.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg) can still influence games at both ends, especially on defense where Brooklyn ranked 23rd in opponents' field goal percentage. And, with proper rest, they both can help an offense that came in 17th in field-goal percentage.

But, Pierce and Garnett were brought to Brooklyn to instill a winning attitude. They have combined for 267 playoff games in their careers. The nine- man rotation Carlesimo used in last season's first-round playoff exit combined for 271. You can't ask for better playoff tutors than that.

Lopez emerged as an All-Star center last season. He averaged 19.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 2.1 bpg. That rebounding number is low, but Evans did the heavy lifting on the glass. Lopez is an incredibly skilled big man and is one of the top five centers in the league. He was the offensive focal point for Brooklyn and that shouldn't change, until the fourth quarter when Pierce and Williams take over.

BACKCOURT: Williams and Johnson combined for nine All-Star appearances before hitting Brooklyn. They never truly clicked in the backcourt last season, but Johnson battled a foot injury and Williams appeared to conflict with Avery Johnson.

Williams is still an elite point guard, although his scoring and assists numbers were down from the previous season. His shooting numbers were up and the scoring should've gone down with the emergence of Lopez.

"Personally, I just want to get back playing the way I'm capable of playing," Williams said on media day.

Johnson's stats were down across the board. He had the most trouble fitting into Brooklyn's new structure. What will it be like this season with two more All-Star starters and two stud bench players in Terry and Kirilenko?

BENCH: Speaking of those two, Kirilenko will probably head into the season as the favorite for Sixth Man of the Year. In Minnesota, he averaged 12.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.5 spg and 1.9 bpg. That's incredible production. It'll go down with less minutes, but to have such a valuable, versatile player off the bench is huge.

Terry had trouble fitting in with Boston, but he'll be fine spelling Williams and Johnson.

Evans is best suited for the second unit and his toughness will mean the Nets lose nothing in defense and rebounding from him when he takes Garnett's minutes.

Blatche was re-signed and was a great bench asset. He averaged double figures in both the regular season and the playoffs and even saw time with Lopez in a monster frontcourt.

Livingston is a capable backup for Williams and even Anderson scored double figures for the Toronto Raptors last season. He's a great shooter.

This unit is loaded.

COACHING: Kidd is the biggest wild-card in Brooklyn's title aspirations. Can he coach? Who knows, but, again, the Frank hiring was a shrewd first step.

Kidd will have the respect of his players and that's important. This is a veteran team that can police itself, especially Garnett, who will resume his role as enforcer.

Perhaps Kidd's tallest task will be to manage the personalities. All five starters and Kirilenko are former All-Stars. Terry can be a handful, same for Evans and Blatche. Again, Kidd will have to rely on these veterans to keep things on course.

The strategy will most likely come from Frank. Kidd will provide the presence. He's a champion and a Hall of Famer in wait. He will add to the aura of the Nets as legitimate contenders, although that won't happen until game three as he was suspended the first two for a DWI incident.

OUTLOOK: One of the first things Pierce did as a Net was to fan the flame of the rivalry with the New York Knicks. New York supremacy is not the only thing on the line - so is the Atlantic Division title.

The Eastern Conference is strong. The Heat are two-time NBA champions. The Pacers are going to be in the title mix and if Derrick Rose comes back to his old form, the Chicago Bulls will be terrors.

Brooklyn is part of that conversation now. Pierce and Garnett won't be around forever. In fact, this season could be the only one together at the Barclays Center.

This is an interesting blend of talent. It's littered with Hall of Famers and that has not traditionally worked. (See Lakers, Los Angeles, 2012-13 for proof.)

But Garnett and Pierce won't let ego rule. They went through a super team in Boston and won a title. They were the perfect two players to bring to a great team to make it elite.

The Atlantic Division title is a reasonable goal. Making the NBA Finals is possible, as well.

Prokhorov's huge financial gamble could really pay dividends.