Monday, December 23, 2013

With Lopez injury compounding bad start, some second-guessing on the Brooklyn Nets' win-now strategy

Now that Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez, the team's only All-Star last season, is out of the season with a broken foot, the 9-17 team--plagued by injuries and unforeseen weaknesses--is not close to the contender it was expected to be, even if the lousy Eastern Conference should give them a playoff spot.

But some are rethinking thier cheers for the win-now strategy. Writes New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton, in Nets, Built to Win Now, May Need to Cut Losses:
[E]verything the Nets have done, all the No. 1 picks they have traded for a 9-17 team, can be traced to [majority owner Mikhail] Prokhorov’s introductory promise to produce a championship in relatively short order, or at least to arrive in Brooklyn with a team to be reckoned with.
The alternative path would have been to recognize that the novelty of Barclays Center would have given the Nets a two- to three-year window to build from the ground up. They might have let the Knicks continue to overspend, mortgage their future and deflate their fan base.
But Prokhorov gave [GM Billy] King the green light and the cash to out-Knick the Knicks. The acquisition of [Deron] Williams was presumably a response to the Knicks’ trade for Carmelo Anthony. The sacrifice of their 2012 draft position to Portland (hello, Damian Lillard) for Gerald Wallace was done to persuade Williams to re-sign, as was the deal for Joe Johnson. If you are scoring and second-guessing at home, forget [aging Boston imports Paul] Pierce and [Kevin] Garnett — go back to the beginning.
Whatever King does from here, the odds are that there will come a time when he or his successor will have to turn the Nets from buyers into sellers and start all over again.
One question is whether rookie coach Jason Kidd will survive.

Another--obviously more speculative--is whether the new arena gave the Nets more than one year as a novelty. Nets CEO Brett Yormark framed it as one year, especially since the Nets increased ticket prices sharply in the wake of the new acquisitions.

Maybe they would've had two years, but three is more of a question mark; Brooklyn is not Oklahoma City, where the NBA team is the only game in town.

"An expensive luxury car with a transmission problem"

Wrote ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk:
The Nets will surely explore trade options. But they have an interesting dilemma: Do the Nets try to make a deal to still contend and chase the Heat and Pacers this season? Or does Brooklyn start the break up, see what it can get for its veterans and try to gain cap flexibility, collect some future assets and somehow maintain a somewhat competitive roster to keep fans coming to Barclays Center?

According to a league source, the Rockets had preliminary talks with the Nets last week about Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. Talks never gained any steam, but the source said the Rockets were doing their due diligence and Williams' name came up. The Nets balked because one of the main reasons Pierce and Garnett agreed to a trade to Brooklyn was to play with Williams, according to the source. Williams, who signed a five-year, $98 million extension in 2012, was playing well upon returning from an ankle injury, and the Nets were looking better.

Should the Nets revisit talks with the Rockets or another contending team and consider trading a key piece like Williams, Garnett or Pierce now that Lopez is out for the season? It might be worth contemplating because this $190 million roster that was supposed to be a Rolls-Royce now is an expensive luxury car with a transmission problem.

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