Saturday, April 19, 2014

Brooklyn Nets: The Borough's 2nd NBA Regular Season Is In The Books

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Season One; 49-33
Season Two; 44-38

BROOKLYN NETS: That's A Wrap On The Second NBA Regular Season In Kings County.

The second NBA regular season of Kings County basketball is complete.  The Brooklyn Nets ended up with a 44-38 regular season record, which, considering their awful start, was quite an impressive achievement.

The early season Nets hardly lived up to the pre-season hype.  They lost their first game of the season to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and things just got worse from there.  In the month of November, the club posted a 5-11 record, and endured a pair of losing streaks, three and five games long.

Another poor 5-9 record in December seemed to be the least of the club's troubles.  Inner turmoil threatened to sabotage Jason Kidd's inaugural season as head coach.  He and assistant coach Lawrence Frank engaged in a heated exchange over philosophy, roles, and matters of control.  In effect, Coach Kidd was forced to seize his own team, and stripped Lawrence Frank of his bench role, and relieved him of his overall coaching duties.  Kidd then reassigned Frank to crunching numbers behind the scenes, and compiling scouting reports.

Compounding problems, on December 20th, center Brook Lopez played his final game of the season.  He first rolled his ankle in November.  Then, after a total of just 17 games, Lopez was ultimately felled by yet another season ending foot/ankle injury.  At the time, he was the team's leading scorer, averaging 20.7 points per game, with 6.0 rebounds.

Deron Williams also missed considerable time early in the season, as ankle issues continued to dog the point guard.  He missed 19 calender days from late November through early December, and another 2 weeks in January.  Once Deron Williams returned, he was back for good.

After Coach Kidd adjusted the starting line-up by shifting Paul Pierce to the four, and inserting Shaun Livingston into the starting line-up, the Nets started turning their season around.

Flatbush posted a 10-3 record in January, highlighted by a pair of five-game winning streaks.  In February, they came down to earth somewhat, but still posted a strong 7-5 record.  In their final game of the month, they closed within two games of .500, with a victory over Denver.

In March, they finally busted through.  On the 3rd of the month, they achieved .500 for the first time of the season with a victory over the Bulls.  In their very next game, they went over .500, with victory over the Timberwolves.  Brooklyn went on to post a pair of three game winning streaks, and one four game streak, and finished the month with a stellar 12-5 record.

Between January and March, the club posted a 29-12 record, and improved their season record to 39-33, which was a 17 game swing from their record at the end of December.

Flatbush ended the April portion of the regular season with a 5-5 record - their worst mark of the new year.  They wound up losing four of their last five games, and their last two in a row.  They additionally finished five victories shy of last year's mark.  However, most would agree, this team is far better equipped for a playoff run than last year's edition.  While many in the media accused Jason Kidd and the team of tanking their last 5 games, in order to align a first round series against Toronto, Jason Kidd merely says he was resting players, and trying to get them healthy for a playoff run.

Just be careful of the soda on the court please.

When the NBA playoffs begin this weekend, the Brooklyn Nets will be the only local team representing New York City.  Their opponent will be the Atlantic Division champs, Toronto Raptors.  Back in October, no one would have thought that.   The Knicks and Nets were pre-season favorites to win the division.  Of course, with a losing record, the Knicks failed to even qualify for the playoffs, while the Nets finished 2nd in the division standings.

At 15.8 points per game, Joe Johnson posted his lowest scoring average since his rookie season. However, his .454 shooting percentage was his 4th best mark.  Make no mistake, Joe Johnson was money this season.  He did not take those confounding nights off, that pockmark his career.  He's been present, and nothing short of clutch this season.

Deron Williams was limited to 64 games this season.  He averaged 14.3 points, and 6.1 assists per game.  Like Joe Johnson, those were Deron Williams' worst averages since his rookie season.  In his final 23 games however, Williams averaged 16 points per game, and 7 rebounds.

Shaun Livingston's play this season presents one of Billy King's largest off-season dilemmas. Somehow, the GM must find a way to retain Livingston, who, after signing for the veterans minimum, will become an unrestricted free agent.  Any player debate regarding team MVP must include him.  He played 76 games, but after Coach Kidd inserted him into the line-up, Shaun started 54 games.  In his 36-minutes per, he averaged 11.5 points, and 4.5 assists.

Paul Pierce averaged less than 30-minutes for the first time in his career.  In fact, he averaged a full 8-minutes below his career 36-minute average.  At 36-years of age, he still impacts games.  Per his 36-minute averages, he gave the Nets 17.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.  This season, he became only the 18th player in NBA history, to achieve 25,000 points in a career.  Paul is presently the 4th leading active scorer in the league.

Heading into the post-season, the Nets are well positioned at center with the emergence of Mason Plumlee, the return of Kevin Garnett, and with Andray Blatche leading a very strong cast off the bench, which also features Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson.

Billy King's 2013-14 acquisitions should not go under spoken.  As noted, Shaun Livingston became invaluable to the Nets this season.  The signing of Andrei Kirilenko, who has played steady minutes lately, is showing how effectively smart he is on the floor.  Marcus Thornton has been flat-out huge since his trade deadline acquisition, and will be coming off the bench launching back-breakers.

Perhaps more so this season than last, the Nets enjoyed a distinct home court advantage.  Arena attendance was strong, and the crowds were Brooklyn loyal and loud.  Barclays Center averaged over 17,000 per home game.   The Nets rewarded their fans with a 28-13 record, and at one point, won 15 consecutive games at home.

With a 44-38 record for the season, that means the Nets struggled on the road.  Indeed, they posted a troublesome 16-25 record away from Flatbush.

Brooklyn's second ever NBA post-season starts Saturday.


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