The Nets gave up four top draft picks, mortgaging their future for an uncertain but high profile present, and the team was a bust. Writes Bondy:
But the story of that trade isn’t quite so black-and-white. Reaching this point of disproportion required so much to go horribly wrong for the Nets, so many miscalculations and in-fighting before and after the agreement with Boston.Bondy's sources criticize absentee owner Mikhail Prokhorov and his top underling, Dmitry Razumov. an investment banker who "knew nothing about basketball before joining the Nets," who one unnamed source calls a "star chaser," like his boss.
This is really the story of an ownership that reneged on its monetary pledge, a point guard who was the absolute wrong choice, a season of dysfunction and a pattern of sacrificing draft picks by the GM.
"Overeager negotiating had been a problem of GM Billy King," writes Bondy, noting how the Nets gave up four top draft choices to acquire point guard Deron Williams, limited-skills wing Gerald Wallace, and shooting guard Joe Johnson.
"Building slowly for a new arena wasn’t an option," writes Bondy, though others have suggested that maybe it would have been--that the new arena came with its own gloss.
Bondy notes that various people did voice objections to the Boston trade, and fired coach Avery Johnson surely would have done so.
Back then, Bondy says, most people didn't think the trade was a bust (though, I'd note, some did publicly criticize it):
The immediate reaction was that it was a home run for Brooklyn, and unfair to the owners who couldn’t spend like Prokhorov. In the annual survey of NBA GMs, the Nets finished second in the category of ‘Best offseason moves,’ garnering 25% of the votes (In other words, one-quarter of the NBA GMs thought a deal debated as the worst in NBA history was the best of that year). Over 75% picked the Nets to win the Atlantic Division.It sure did help the Nets sell tickets. But the team didn't work out, as Bondy details. Garnett and Pierce were put off by the Nets' lack of intensity, and didn't cooperate with the media. They didn't think much of Williams, no longer close to All-Star talent. And their skills were declining. Coach Jason Kidd had his struggles.
Only the plan was abandoned after just one year. It died following three important developments: 1) the team wasn’t as good as advertised; 2) Kidd left for Milwaukee after he failed to usurp King; 3) ownership gave up and closed the wallet.And now the Nets are building like an expansion team. It's all worth a read.
The latter may have been the most surprising given Prokhorov’s repeated boasts that money will never be an issue. His reversal was never really explained.