It all started off with the Nets’ hiring of former franchise player Jason Kidd as their new head coach. Kidd played six full seasons with the Nets that were arguably the best years of his career leading them to two consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. They then struck gold with the additions of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics. Most recently, the Nets have also signed veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko to a two year deal.
Last season, Kirilenko averaged 12.4 PPG, 2.8 APG, 5.7 RPG and shot a career high .507 from the field. Kirilenko decided to opt out of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he was set to earn $10 million next season to instead join the Nets for the veterans minimum. This shows that players are willing to take a pay cut for a run at a championship. With these elite additions, is it championship or bust in Brooklyn?
Despite the Nets reconstructing their roster, they are facing almost $70 million in luxury taxes. That’s essentially a whopping $170 million committed to team salary, showing that the Nets have no indication of looking far off into the future and are built elementally and financially to win right now.
After a disappointing season last year to say the least, the Nets found themselves finishing second in their division behind the rival New York Knicks with a 49-33 record and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Though they had a great regular season, they struggled in the postseason as they were booted out of the first round of the playoffs by the Chicago Bulls. In a 2012 offseason that included trading for star Joe Johnson and re-signing stars Deron Williams to a five-year, $98 million deal and big man Brook Lopez to a four-year, $60 million deal, the Nets came to the harsh realization that money alone does not buy championships.
Last season, Deron Williams averaged 18.9 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.0 RPG and shot .440 from the field. Though these are still great numbers, they weren’t the kind that were worthy of a max contract. The same applies to Joe Johnson. Last year, Johnson averaged 16.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.0 RPG and shot .423 from the field. These were all career lows for Johnson as a starter proving that he was no where close to being worth the $124 million that he was being paid. Big man Brook Lopez seemed to be one of the only bright spots, averaging 19.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, a career high 2.1 BLKPG and shot .521 from the field, proving that he was quite worthy of the max contract that he received.
With the team built around a strong core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, the Nets will hope that their new additions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will make a positive impact not only on the court, but in the locker room as well. Last season, Pierce averaged 18.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, 6.3 RPG and shot .436 from the field.
The 35 year-old won’t have to carry the offensive load in Brooklyn as he has done for most, if not all of his career in Boston. The same applies to Garnett. Last season the 37 year-old averaged 14.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 0.9 BLKPG and shot .496 from the field. His field goal percentage was the lowest it has been since his years with the Timberwolves. The Nets don’t expect Pierce and Garnett to lead the team on the court, but they are expected to lead the team with their veteran presence and leadership skills. They know what it’s like to win a championship, and the Nets hope that they can bring that mentality to Brooklyn in a championship or bust season.