The most expensive team in the history of the NBA when you count in luxury tax, and the Brooklyn Nets are slowly decaying. Maybe it’s just a phase, but it seems like more of a slippery slope to irrelevance, without putting on the kind of basketball shows that make people feel happy that they’re watching.
There has never been anything too fun about the Brooklyn Nets, even though they’ve made the playoffs twice since relocating across the river. It’s simply their style and current roster of players. Seeing Paul Pierce depart and making Kevin Garnett less and less part of the business makes things a bit livelier and younger on the court, but this isn’t a team that’s going to win games by blowing teams away with 110-120 points.
Don’t take this preseason game against the Kings as sign of things to come. A 129-117 overtime win isn’t something that’s going to be typical of this season. Lionel Hollins isn’t that type of head coach to prefer seeing his teams try to run-and-gun their way through games. Deron Williams isn’t that kind of point guard. He wasn’t that type even before getting older and the ankle problems that followed him from Utah to the East Coast.
So what will we be seeing? The further decline of Joe Johnson, who scored just two points in the win over the Kings, while the Nets focus on their inside players. Brook Lopez, if he doesn’t get injured, will be the focal point of this offense when Williams doesn’t have the ball. Mason Plumlee is going to see more minutes and become a more important part of everything. Mirza Teletovic, who started against Sacramento and scored 22 points, is going to be a bigger factor in everything as well.
Kevin Garnett didn’t play, and he isn’t going to be spending a lot of time on the court this season. He’s staying because of the money, nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in terms of what he has to give on the floor? Except for small and short moments in which the defense of old kicks in, Garnett is pretty much washed up. Last season he averaged 20.5 minutes a night in the regular season. He won’t even reach that mark this year.
So what is there for the Nets and their fans to expect? Maybe making the playoffs in the East again, maybe. This roster is expensive and weirdly built. Maybe there’s a bright future somewhere among the younger players, including the Europeans like Bojan Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev, but not something franchise-changing. The peak of the thing they were trying to build is behind them, and now all that’s left is watching it slowly wither away while hoping it doesn’t reach embarrassing lows at some point.
Maybe this is a case of the whole being bigger than the sum of its parts kinda thing. Hollins did a good job in Memphis before leaving when it seemed like his direction and that of the franchise weren’t the same. But he doesn’t have a lot to work with in Brooklyn except try to make a defensive juggernaut out of this team. Is it possible? Some players fit the part, most don’t. Just making the postseason will be a huge success considering the starting point.