Sixth Place Eastern Conference
New arena, new uniforms, new crowd, in a new town - a new owner knew the Nets couldn't just quietly tip-toe into Brooklyn. At least that's the way incoming tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov viewed things. Lest we forget his stated goal of winning a championship within five years. We're now seven years away from Prokhorov's rather bold mandate which former general manager Billy King failed to satisfy.
Insofar as delivering a title: there's really no one person to blame for the way those initial years played out. They made an organizational decision meant to ignite a new Nets economy in Brooklyn. That's just the nature of doing business when one capitalist invades the territory of another.
It can be argued both teams during that time operated and transacted rather erratically. However, none more crippling than the exorbitant price in draft picks Billy King paid to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston. Blame as I may, the owner signed off on it.
And while the trade got Brooklyn this far ...
... by 2015-2016 the win-now plan had proven itself overwhelmingly futile. On the heels of another January loss at Detroit which saw the Nets record fall to 10-24, Billy King's tenure as general manager ends.
On Sunday, January 10, 2016, Mikhail Prokhorov orders a rebuild:
"By making this decision now it enables our organization to use the rest of the season to diligently evaluate candidates with proven track records. It's clear from our current state of affairs that we need new leadership. With the right basketball management and coach in place we are going to create a winning culture and identity and give Brooklyn a team that it can be proud of and enjoy watching." Ryan Bort, Newsday
The Nets hire Sean Marks on Feb. 18, 2016, as new general manager. In April, the team ends the regular season with a 21-61 record. Before the month is through, Sean Marks offers Kenny Atkinson his first head coaching position.
- Season One (2016-2017): Oct. 28, 2016, the Nets boast a 1-1 record; it marks their lone moment playing at or above the .500 mark. On April 8, 2017 they win their 20th game of the season; a 107-106 victory over the Bulls at Barclays Center. They finish the season with a 20-62 record.
- Season Two (2017-2018): Oct. 27, 2017, the Nets are 3-3, but never again reach .500 for the rest of the season. This time, however, they win their 20th game of the season by Feb. 26, 2018; coincidentally, another 104-87 victory over the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center. The Nets would finish the season with a slightly improved 28-54 record.
This is Kenny Atkinson's third season. After 210 games, he owns an 71-139 (.338) overall record as Nets coach. As recently as a month ago - with the Nets in the midst of an eight game losing streak - fans and faux experts across social media were calling for Atkinson's termination.
What say you?
That was a kneejerk and not very well thought out reaction. Truth be told, one-third of all Kenny Atkinson's victories as Nets coach have come in the first three months of this season alone.
They won their 20th game of the season on Jan. 5, 2019, against none other than the Bulls; another 117-100 victory at Chicago, no less. They're now 15-5 (.750) over their last 20 games, and are within five victories of surpassing last year's entire win total. And with a 23-23 record, they presently occupy sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Despite this relative success, injuries to key players (Caris Levert; Allen Crabbe; Jared Dudley) should not go under spoken. Yet, adversity seems to have revealed within these Nets an endearing Brooklyn-like resiliency.
Is reaching .500 in January important?
Alas, consecutive benchmark victories against Boston and Houston transpired without Kyrie Irving on the floor, and James Harden essentially playing by himself. However, where it concerns the Nets I would argue the answer is indubitably, yes. Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson somehow adapted and overcame the great mistake left behind by Billy King. Over the last 2 1/2 years, they've methodically engineered steady improvement to the point where the Nets are now experiencing upwards climb. The added ability to effectively impact the team through the draft is also back in their control, not to mention their
Cycle back to the 2016 mission statement ...
At this point, I believe it safe to say a new basketball culture is indeed growing in Brooklyn; an earnest grassroots effort to build an NBA contender, involving many wonderful and individual player stories, to be sure. The plan put in place back in 2016 is working. This year's play bears that out. As a result, the Nets are becoming increasingly more enjoyable to watch, as promised by Mikhail Prokhorov, and reaffirmed by incoming partner, Joseph Tsai.
Just don't wait for an apathetic local media to start shaking their pom-poms.