From the desk of: THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH
BROOKLYN NETS: There Are Several Reasons For The Successful Turnaround, And General Manager Billy King Is At The Heart Of Them All.
How do you like me now bitches? For an older team who many thought were better suited for the playoffs rather than a long haul, the Nets are showing they're a pretty good regular season team after all - not to mention resilient. In fact, Brooklyn is playing their best ball of the season, and are the hottest team in the NBA. They own a 25-10 record in the new year, and an 8-2 mark in March.
This team was thought to be done way back when they started the first two months of the season with a troubling 5-12 record. In the 2013 portion of the schedule, the Nets endured losing streaks of five and four games respectively, and lost back to back games on four other occasions. They finished the old year with a worrisome 10-21 record.
At the height of these troubled times, Billy King never hid. He was front and center, fielding any and all questions regarding the team he put together, and the coach he put in place.
In the more successful 2014 portion of their season, the Nets have endured just one three game losing streak, and instead have twice posted winning streaks of five games, one four game streak, and in Friday's game against the Boston Celtics, they will be attempting their second three game streak.
Billy King has been very quiet lately. Right now, his team is doing the talking for him. The Nets can point at several reasons for their successful turnaround, and Billy King is at the heart of them all.
First, the GM's choice of head coach is now justifying a rather inspired selection. Jason Kidd was always accused of having a brilliant mind on the floor. Now we're seeing it at work on the bench.
In what will ultimately go down as a defining moment of the season, Jason Kidd stood his ground against an old friend, and removed a source of conflict from his bench. In hindsight, the Lawrence Frank incident was perhaps very beneficial, as it got the players focused on one person - their head coach.
With that out of the way, Jason Kidd was left to coach. He altered the playing system twice, when a faltering situation demanded his attention. He initially revised the plan while Deron Williams struggled with his ankles, and began moving the ball through Brook Lopez. Brook's injury then made Coach Kidd readjust. That's when Paul Pierce was re-positioned. Perhaps hardest of all things to inspire, Jason Kidd also got his men to play defense. The Nets have been on a three month rally since.
As such, Billy King's big ticket item, Deron Williams, is finally performing like the big ticket player the GM thought he signed. Lately, he's been playing with a chip on his shoulder, and that's a good thing. His ankle troubles (knock on the hardwood floor) are seemingly a thing of the past. His step is confident, and getting increasingly stronger. In fact, he just registered his first dunk of the season.
The bench depth Billy King assembled, is prevailing in their efforts to minimize numerous team injuries, like losing Brook Lopez for the season, DWill's earlier ankle troubles, Kevin Garnett's unforgiving back situation, and nagging issues affecting Andrei Kirilenko.
On that note - big man on campus - Mason Plumlee's on the job training is coming along just fine. He is getting quality minutes, and putting up representative rebounding numbers. In the back court, Billy King's off season signing of Shaun Livingston is paying huge dividends. In fact, Shaun has become indispensable. I do not know how - because his potential price tag would become virtually untouchable under the Nets projected salary cap - but Mr. King needs to figure a way to retain him. I'd say he is a strong 6th Man Award candidate.
Rounding out the top reasons for the Nets turnaround, Billy King's big trade for Paul Pierce (and KG) has provided this team its backbone. It is my observation, Paul Pierce has been the answer man, who responds when needed. When opponents threaten, or begin to sway momentum away from the Nets, Paul Pierce answers back with buckets.
Neither least , nor last - Mr. Big Shot - Joe Johnson has hung in to grind out damn near every game this season, lest we forget, the harshest criticism previously levied against him, was that he used to disappear for games at a time. Not so this season. In Brook Lopez's absence, Joe Johnson leads the team in scoring. He has been a more consistent scorer, and active participant without the ball this season.
Remember how last season such a big deal was made over the Nets beating up on scrubs, and posting a losing record against teams with records above the .500 mark? This season, the Nets currently have a 9-12 record against the other top seven teams in the Eastern Conference. Against the top nine Western Conference teams, the Nets own a 10-6 record. Combined, that's a 19-18 mark.
The Indiana Pacers, by the way, swept the four game series over the Nets, and Washington so far has taken three games from the Nets with one left to play. Meanwhile, in three meetings the Heat are yet defeat Brooklyn.
At a minimum, the Nets need to win a second round playoff series, if they want to improve upon last year's results. Last year, they couldn't get by a depleted Chicago Bulls team. The Nets had their chances, but in most cases, lacked a knockout punch. Despite defeating the Miami Heat three times this season, the biggest question still facing Billy King is, can his Nets defeat the Heat in a seven games series?
Although there is another year remaining in owner's mandate to win a title within five years of his purchase date, Billy King, however, expedited the process, putting his cards on the table this season. That was pretty bold of him - but then, everything he's done since becoming general manager of the Nets has been bold.
Billy King may yet have his day in the sun.