Friday, April 19, 2013

Brooklyn Nets: On The Borough's First NBA Regular Season

From the desk of:   THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

49-33 .598
2nd Place - Atlantic Division
BROOKLYN NETS Berth In The NBA Playoffs Punctuates A Triumphant Return Of Professional Sports To Kings County.

On Thursday, March 21, 2013, the Nets Basketball Club clinched the franchise's first playoff berth since the 2006-2007 season when they still played in New Jersey.  This Saturday will mark the first time since 1956, a major league professional sports team from Brooklyn participates in any type of post-season play.


Kings County's first season of NBA basketball is in the books.  So how did ya like it?  Without looking forward into the playoffs, I would say the recently concluded regular season was an unqualified success.  I personally couldn't have been happier.  And why not, the team won forty-nine games which tied for the fifth highest mark in franchise history.  Four times since 1967-68, the ABA/NBA Nets surpassed fifty or more wins in a season.  Three of those came in the ABA.  As an NBA franchise, the Nets have only won fifty games or better once during the 2002-03 season.  Now, for the fourth time in their history, the Nets complete a regular season with a 49-33 record.  Lest we forget, the Nets posted a 22-44 record last season, their last in New Jersey, and they only recorded twelve wins (12-70) during the 2009-10 regular season.  So, to detract from what the team has accomplished in the recent short term just wouldn't be fair.

Today's level of team success has not come without casualties.  Who knows how things would have turned out if GM Rod Thorn had stuck around.  What went down between him and incoming owner Mikhail Prokhorov is academic now.  What turns out being fact, is that Billy King took over a team fresh off losing seventy games, while only winning twelve.  Today, the Nets have improved by thirty-seven wins since then, and by twenty-seven wins over last season.  The Nets might be capped out for the next three seasons, but King still has draft picks he didn't trade away.

Was the decision to fire Coach Avery Johnson the right decision?  The owner might have had in for in from the start.  But to Avery's credit, he was named Coach of the Month of November.  He also put in a lot of work during the overhauling of the roster.  Just when he started enjoying life on the other side of the mountain, a troublesome December got him sacked.  In the snap of a finger, Coach became riddled with perception issues.  Additionally, not only rumors, but body language and productivity perhaps hinted Coach lost his star player's attention.  The team got off to a hot November, but by the time of his firing, the Nets were (14-14) a .500 team.  For the cash Billy King invested into this team, that simply wasn't going to do.  I liked Avery Johnson.  But money changes everything.  However, he may not have been the right guy for the new roster anyway.  Which ever way you slice it, P.J. Carlesimo stepped in and righted the good ship Brooklyn.  The Nets played 35-19 basketball for Carlesimo.  P.J. is a local guy who..., just gets it.  He understands how this place works.

It helps that Deron Williams is now playing his best basketball since becoming a Nets player three years ago.  Many accused him of getting his second coach fired - See Utah.  I tend to focus on the fact he stayed in Brooklyn when it was easier for him to leave.  I also appreciate him coming to the city and avoiding no post-game microphones, and telling it like it is.  This currently assembled roster of slow, plodding, methodical players probably isn't the best group for Deron's style.  But it is what it is, which was good enough for second place in the Atlantic Division.  He finished the season as the team's number two scorer, with 18.9 points per game, and averaged 7.7 assists.

As far as the other half of Brooklyn's much hyped front court, you might say Joe Johnson lived up to his billing.  He's a proven scorer who takes and makes big shots, but also has a tendency to quietly disappear.  He did so this season both on the court, and off, via a foot injury.  In seventy-two games, Joe averaged 16.3 points - his lowest scoring average since the 2003-04 season.  His 36-minute scoring average of 15.9 was even slightly less.  Thus, the max contract Atlanta gave him, and assumed by Billy King will continue to be questioned.

In his fourth full season, and his first season after foot surgery, Brook Lopez averaged 19.4 points per game; his second best mark since his 2010-11 season, and averaged 6.9 boards per game, which is still off from when he averaged over eight rebounds during his first two years in the league.  However, in this season's per-36-minutes stats, Brook averaged twenty-three points and 8.2 boards.  Lopez also had a career best 2.1 blocks per game.

I'm a big Crash fan.  I mean, who isn't?  Yet, there is no getting around the Nets experienced ongoing problems at forward this season; and particularly small forward.  Collectively, I give Gerald Wallace, Andray Blatch, and Reggie Evans favorable mention.  I can not speak for Kris Humphries though.

The Nets finished in second place of the Atlantic Division, five games behind the Knicks.  They enter the playoffs as the Eastern Conference fourth seeded team and will face the Chicago Bulls in the first round.  The question that will now be answered is - were the Brooklyn Nets a paper tiger?  They only recorded a 15-27 record against teams with .500 records or better.  They were 32-6 in all others.  Are they just the best of the rest or fit for the test?

We'll see.  But for now, forget Moses could get his People across the Red Sea faster than a Nets fast break. Until Saturday and Game One roll around, Nets fans and Brooklyn fans should spend at least another day satisfied their team made the playoffs and validated a triumphant return of professional sports to the Borough of Kings.

By defeating the Indiana Pacers last Friday, the Nets earned home court advantage in the first round versus Chicago.  So let Friday be fun.  Gear up for the first playoff game in BroooKlynnn.


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