The chants don't stop even as the game ends, even as the fans exit the Barclays Center. "Broooooklyn. Broooooklyn." All down Atlantic Avenue they can be heard. "Broooooklyn. Broooooklyn." Fans clad in stark black and white litter the streets, calling out to each other. "Broooooklyn. Broooooklyn." The Nets have arrived in Brooklyn, and Brooklyn has accepted them. The past is prologue. The future is now. Hello Brooklyn. Are you ready? "Broooooklyn. Broooooklyn."
Head Coach: Much ado has been made about the Nets deciding not to go with a proven coach, instead picking a guy who retired from the NBA a mere nine days before being hired. However, Jason Kidd was the heart and soul of a Nets team that went to back-to-back NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, and he was practically a coach on the floor for last season's New York Knicks. Anyone who has played with Kidd knew he would be a coach some day, and expect him to be great at it. Kidd has also surrounded himself with a fantastic staff, including former Nets' coaches Lawrence Frank and Roy Rogers, both of whom are very well-respected and well-liked within in the organization. Center Brook Lopez played arguably the best basketball of his career when he was working with Rogers before, and Frank was head coach of the team when they won two Atlantic Division titles.
Last Season's Record: Last season, the team's first in Brooklyn, was mostly considered a success. The team went 49-33 and secured the fourth seed in the playoffs, its first berth since 2007. The team's new home accepted them, and the Barclays Center became the most profitable arena in the world. The team was criticized, however, for taking nights off or folding under pressure. One of those nights included game 7 of the opening round of the playoffs, in which the Nets allowed Nate Robinson (206!) to run roughshod over them and resulting in the Chicago Bulls end their season prematurely.
Losses: Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks. In a vacuum, these look like fairly substantial losses. Humphries was the team's starting PF for a long time and is a double-double machine. Wallace is a former All-Star who can fill up the stat sheet on any given night. Brooks is a young, athletic wing who can score at will, but who never found his niche with the team. These all look like they could be fairly key losses until you see...
Additions: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko . Everyone said the Nets were tapped out, capped out, stuck with the team they had for years to come. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov and General Manager Billy King said nay! They went out and shocked the world by acquiring two future hall of famers, a former sixth man of the year and a Swiss army knife of a forward. Garnett and Pierce will bring that Celtic pride to Brooklyn in a way that only they can. While the years are catching up to them, both have proven that they can both contribute in major games and, with the right supporting cast, can still lead a team. Terry won a trophy in Dallas alongside... that's right, Jason Kidd, and the two are hoping they can win another one in Brooklyn. The team pulled off a coup by acquiring Kirilenko, seemingly for peanuts based on his relationships with Prokhorov and point guard Deron Williams, as well as his desire to win a championship. Kirilenko replaces everything Wallace gave the team, potentially even more so. There's very little the Nets didn't add this year.
Best Player: This is a question that could cause some debate. Many would say point guard Deron Williams. He is the team leader and has the ability to take games over. He showed last year, however, that he also has the ability to takes games off. He had a few injuries and seemed to play down to opponents at times. Instead, I'm going to say Brook Lopez here. He's been with the team since the beginning and has stated that he has no desire to go anywhere else. While he seemed to be affected by Dwight Howard trade talks, he came back strong last year, leading the team in scoring and bringing his rebounding and block averages up. He was also named to his first All-Star game. The offense runs through Lopez and he has moves like Jagger (or Olajuwon) in the post. He is still not a strong on-ball defender and you'd like to see rebounds in the double digits for a seven footer, but Lopez is Brooklyn, and Brooklyn loves Lopez.
Worst Player: Tyshawn Taylor. Don't get me wrong, Taylor is not a bad player. He's extremely fast and can get to the rim. However, that speed tends to lead him to play out of control. He's a shoot-first point guard and has a tendency to keep the ball for far too long and force up shots, instead of using his ability to get inside the defense to find open teammates. If he can learn to slow down and improve his court vision, Taylor could still be a valuable contribution to the team.
Player due to breakthrough: Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic is a guy that the Nets front office have a lot of faith in, but he was seemingly under-utilized or misused by former coaches Avery Johnson and PJ Carlesimo. MTV is a guy who can fill it up from almost anywhere in the gym, is a former slam dunk contest champion in EuroBasket, and is a solid rebounder. His defense still needs work and he is a little slow footed, but he can be a major contributor on the offensive end if properly used.
Random Seattle Connection: Reggie Evans first started his career as a member of the Seattle Supersonics. In 2010, while a member of the Toronto Raptors, Evans was quoted as saying "God, I just miss a lot of stuff about Seattle. The nightlife was cool. My teammates were real good. Hell, yeah, I miss Seattle. I've been thinking about that a lot, like damn, I wish Seattle had a team. I hope and pray to God Seattle can get a team." Jason Terry was born in Seattle and attended Franklin High School. He is credited with coining the term "The Town" for Seattle.
Best Case Scenario for the Season: The Nets have their eyes set on a championship and nothing less. The tools are definitely there. Pierce, Garnett, Terry and Kidd all have a championship pedigree. The team's starting five is arguably the best in the league, and their bench is nothing to shake a stick at either. Terry and Kirilenko are both perennial sixth man of the year candidates. Andray Blatche was a candidate for the most improved award last year. Teletovic we discussed above and Tornike Shengelia could be a hidden gem. Rookie Mason Plumlee had a very promising summer league. The tools are there, if they can put them together.
Worst Case Scenario for the Season: The biggest peril for the Nets is Father Time. Four of the five starters are over 30. Pierce is 35 and Garnett is 37. Coach Kidd has said that Garnett will not see the second half of back-to-backs and that Pierce would be monitored closely. Brook Lopez and Deron Williams both have histories with injuries. While their bench is good and losing a player for a few games isn't the catastrophe it could be, losing a major player for a prolonged amount of time is a possibility and if that happens, Brooklyn could potentially miss the playoffs, which would be devastating for the team. While it's a longshot, it is more probable than a team with younger pieces.
Prediction: By showing a willingness to blow more holes in the salary cap than a tommy gun, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has built a team that can challenge the Miami Heat. As we saw in the conference Finals last year, the Heat have a problem with big teams and the addition of Kevin Garnett to the front line gives the Nets just that. Not to mention KG and Paul Pierce have been known to be thorns in the side of LeBron James and the Heat and both give the Nets the biggest thing they seemed to be missing last year, passion. New coach Kidd is a Nets legend and should be able to help in the heart department as well. The Nets mortgaged their future to get where they are and are clearly in "win now" mode. But their chances of winning now are pretty good.
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