*No one north of Jamaica Avenue, west of the Hudson River or having a 22 I.Q. picked the Brooklyn Nets to get to the NBA Finals anytime soon, so enough belly-aching over their unceremonious exit.
All the pomp and splendor of the Brooklyn Nets season has run its course, not unlike the S. Carter sneaker line from Reebok that was once adorned the feet of Jay-Z, the man who comes to mind for many when they think of Brooklyn, NY. His name was once synonymous with the Nets as well prior to selling his stake in the team.
For years the NBA was excited beyond reproach at the prospect of another basketball team in New York City. The pragmatists among us already knew it was all about the money and the fame. Heck, Brooklyn is just a sexier place than the Meadowlands, and I think you’d be hard pressed at finding a Brooklynite who would apologize for that. But I bet some fans are expecting an apology from the Nets for what has amounted to a season that fell short of expectations. Majority stake holder Mikhail Prokhorov is justifiably peeved. Why shouldn’t he be after re-signing Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace, as well trading for Joe Johnson in the off season?
As we all recall, the Nets came out swinging with a 13-4 record. But that fairy tale ended, as fairy tales often do, and reality jumped out and said “Boo.” You see, the reality is that Avery Johnson was not a very good offensive coach. After an early season injury foot injury to eventual All Star center Brook Lopez, the Nets started on a slide that was at first attributed to the loss of their big man, but those losing ways continued even after Lopez returned. Soon the Nets found themselves with a 14-14 record after that blistering start.
There was much chatter about Deron Williams regarding why it was difficult for he and his teammates to score consistently, citing lack of ball movement and too much one on one as the reason why the Nets had begun floundering after such a great start. I am sure the $ 350 million the team spent in the off season was beginning to look like even more of a waste of money than it actually was.
Soon it became clear that Avery Johnson had to go. He was replaced by P.J. Carlesimo. I initially frowned at that hire because of P.J’s perceived inability to coach up young talent and I felt he would clash with Deron Williams. But Williams’ game would finally round into shape after the All-Star break, as he would eventually fight through several injuries that had nagged him throughout the season. The Nets would finish the season with a 35-19 record with Carlesimo at the helm and would set a record for most road wins in Nets franchise history-earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs to face the injury depleted Chicago Bulls.
Piece of cake, right? Well, only if the icing was laced with arsenic. The Nets would face a Bulls team that was devoid of Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, and no Loul Deng for most of the series. You would think that things were aligned for the Nets to slip in the conference semis with relative ease, but the Chicago Bulls had other plans. Things looked swell in the beginning as the Nets won the first two games by an average of 12.5 points per game.
From that point on it was time for true grit as the Bulls would dig deep and sweep the remaining four games. Guard Joe Johnson was suffering from plantar fascistic the entire series and was in visible pain. So, you mean to tell me that half of Joe Johnson is a better option than giving Marshon Brooks, a player who averaged 12.6 ppg last year under the notoriously finicky Avery Johnson, 20 minutes per game?
Again, a hobble Joe Johnson is a better option that a healthy, young, springy MarShon Brooks? Carlesimo thought so, he was clearly wrong. Johnson was visibly laboring on defense for most of Game 6 and all of Game 7, as he was late recovering on three-point shooters time and time again.
Hopefully Johnson comes back next year with something of a chip on his shoulders and free of injury. Will he end up being another in a long line of professional athletes who thrived elsewhere only to flop in the Big Apple? Only time will tell.
Brook Lopez had a solid series after averaging the the most unspectacular 19 points per game that I have witnessed in quite some time. Deron Williams showed that he still has it during the series against the Bulls, averaging a very efficient 20.6 points and 8.4 assists during the series. However, that mammoth effort was for naught. A day after the playoffs P.J. Carlesimo was given his walking papers by the Brooklyn Nets.
Finally, look for MarShon Brooks to have the breakout season everyone expected him to have this year, next year. Rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor needs to be thrown into the mix as early as possible next season.
The franchise needs to know what, if anything, they have in this young man and they need to find out as quickly as possible. I give the Nets a C+ for their season.