Wednesday, December 24, 2014

After overspending to make splash in Brooklyn, Nets now ready to deal high-priced players

So--no surprise--it was all about "Hello Brooklyn," about making a splash in the market.

Nets' Willingness to Deal Signals Necessary Course Correction for Plan Gone Awry wrote Howard Beck (ex-NYT) of Bleacher Report yesterday, indicating that high-priced players like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez could be traded for a more stable, organically built franchise of the future:
The Nets—having spent wildly to chase a title only to find themselves stuck on a gold-plated treadmill—are now working to break the cycle of mediocrity...
In truth, there never was much to love or respect about the Williams-Lopez-Johnson union, perhaps the least intimidating "Big Three" facsimile we have ever seen. Their statistics and salaries projected strength. Their play inspired shrugs, a collective "meh" from the masses.
...The Nets never set out to be the costliest mediocre team in NBA history. It just sort of happened that way, through a series of miscalculations, near misses and simple misfortune, all compounded by an owner's unbridled ambition.
Beck notes that Williams, when he was acquired, was more of an elite player, and the Nets tried but failed to get stars like Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. That was the bad luck.

Prokhorov's push

The bad planning, however, can be attributed to the front office and ownership. Writes Beck:
With the Nets moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn in 2012, the business and marketing folks ruled the agenda. [Russian billionaire Mikhail] Prokhorov needed a name to put on the Barclays Center marquee and a means to bump the Knicks off the back pages of the tabloids.
(It wasn't just that, I'd add; the Nets needed to justify big increases in ticket prices.)

So the battle for publicity meant costly trades, which mortgaged future draft choices, for Gerald Wallace and Johnson and the Boston Celtics trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. (ESPN's Chad Ford phrased things similarly: "Very few teams are willing to blatantly mortgage their future the way the Nets have been.")

Now, after the Nets have established themselves in Brooklyn, the dealing begins, with a "sounder agenda... ruled by basketball instead of marketing."

NetsDaily's Net Income (aka Bob Windrem) acknowledges the team has fallen short but suggests a bigger picture, in which Prokhorov revamped the franchise after the undermining by the previous (unmentioned) owner, Bruce Ratner:
Beck doesn't mention that Prokhorov also provided the seed money for the Nets move to Brooklyn as well as barrels of cash to replenish what was a barren basketball operations staff, with three assistant coaches and as few scouts when he arrived. Not to mention money to improve team amenities which before he came on the scene were at rock bottom of the league.
The irony is that the Knicks have followed a similar agenda, with even worse results and little (as of now) flexibility. Hindsight is 20/20, but had the Nets proceeded in more sober fashion, they might be truly New York's team. Then again, they might have had trouble filling the newly expensive seats in their new Brooklyn home. 

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