Since the season ended in disappointing fashion, there has been much discussion that the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets’ season was a colossal bust. After all, they did spend an unprecedented amount on payroll only to last five games into the second round. From afar, the end results were inadequate considering the star-studded lineup, but in actuality there was a much to like about the season as a whole.
Raise your hand if this image made you believe at the time that the Nets were going to win the 2014 championship.
Although the payroll figures were astronomical, the salaries of some players didn’t match the level of production nor expectations. Did Deron Williams produce like a max level point guard? Were Kevin Garnett’s averages of 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds worthy of 12 million dollars? Was the 14.6 million allocated for 17 games of Brook Lopez the way Billy King envisioned it?
Yes the final bill was expensive, but in reality the Nets were paying more for what they were actually getting. To assume that spending top dollar for talent is a guarantee for success is foolish. In a bizarre way, the Nets were perhaps the most high-priced, unlikeliest underdog that the game has ever seen. Even though it ended with a bad taste in our mouths, the season could be deemed a success considering how it started.
So what was there to like about it?
The biggest success of this season was that the Nets have found their head coach in Jason Kidd. Of course things didn’t look too promising prior to New Year’s Day, but patience did pay off. How many other head coaches, especially a rookie, could right the ship when the season appeared on the brink of disaster? Ten games under .500, tension in the locker room, and losing your best offensive player would have been the kiss of death for most teams. Just like what he was able to do as a player, Kidd’s innovative personality was able to figure out a winning formula.
In the process, the Nets developed toughness and resiliency, which we all know was sorely lacking from the season prior. Ask yourself, would this team recover from the poor start and Lopez’s injury had Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries been on the roster? Yes, having Pierce and Garnett helped in this department, but don’t discount the impact Kidd had as well.
Some were upset with Kidd’s rotations in the postseason, but from his body of work as a both a player and coach, I expect him to improve from this experience. From his leadership, the team was able to rally to force and win a Game 7 on the road in front of a hostile Toronto crowd. I don’t think last year’s squad would have been up for the challenge. Do you?
Make no mistake, this is now Joe’s team.
Another thing to like about the season was that the Nets have finally appeared to have found their identity. This has been a constant issue dating back to last year, but now it is apparent that this is Joe Johnson’s team. He may not be the vocal leader that people want, but his cool demeanor on the court perfectly aligns with Kidd’s from the sidelines. Even with Lopez’s return next year, the offense should continue to operate through the talented, versatile Johnson.
There’s no denying that player development was certainly a positive that came out of this season. This was most notably seen in Mirza Teletovic, Shaun Livingston, and Mason Plumlee.
Prior to this season Teletovic barely had a role and was viewed as nothing more than a three-point shooter. Unable to crack Avery Johnson and PJ Carlesimo’s rotations, Teletovic was usually inserted into the first minutes of the fourth quarter only to be promptly yanked off the court following a missed shot or two.
Under Kidd’s leadership, Teletovic was given an opportunity and showed the type of impact he could have on a game. Aside from his outstanding shooting, he also proved that there are other facets to his repertoire. Teletovic showed that he can score by putting the ball on the floor and improved his rebounding skills as well. What was most impressive was that he demonstrated a lack of fear of the big stage and relished the opportunity to challenge LeBron James.
Although last season’s offseason was highlighted by the blockbuster trade with Boston and the signing of Andrei Kirilenko, the additions of Livingston and Plumlee proved to be just as valuable. Some will remember Plumlee’s disappointing showing in the postseason; however, he did show tremendous growth during the regular season and should improve with more experience. Both he and Livingston (assuming he resigns) would provide the Nets with quality role players to complement their core.
Mirza’s shooting and passion at times conjures up memories of another beloved Net.
To judge the entire playoffs as a bust is not a fair assessment. After all, Brooklyn won a playoff series without the home court advantage against a team that was evenly matched up against them. To the casual fan, the Toronto Raptors may lack the cachet, but an educated fan would recognize their capabilities.
After sweeping the season series only to lose in five games, many fans were left disappointed with the outcome against the Heat. To me, the experience was frustrating in that the Nets were competitive and in a position to possibly win each game with the exception of the series opener.
If you consider that they were able to go toe-to-toe with the two time champions while getting inconsistent, sub-par production from Williams and Garnett, being competitive was quite an accomplishment. To beat a team like Miami, you need to be firing on all cylinders and unfortunately the Nets weren’t. Perhaps a steadier performance from Williams would have extended the series further.
In the end, the Nets and their fans got the opportunity they wanted all along. One would have to assume that playing close, competitive games against the NBA’s best would be a quality learning experience as well as a good measuring stick for where they currently stand as a team. Yes it was humbling, but maybe a healthy comeback from Lopez, a return from Pierce, and improved play from Williams can be the difference if these teams meet again next year.
There’s no one else who should be leading the Nets.
Was it a bummer that the season had to end? Of course it was, but think about how unsatisfying it would have been had the Nets lost against Indiana and they never got the opportunity to face the team we were supposedly built to dethrone. A championship wasn’t won, but hopefully this experience was a stepping stone for next year and beyond.
At least now they have the right guy leading them into the future.