Brooklyn Nets: 5 Reasons to Look Forward to 2012-13
Everyone’s favorite hapless little brother, the New Jersey Nets, are no more. Enter the Brooklyn installment and their fresh, hip persona. Forget the failures of yester-decade.
In an offseason that has seen the Olympics, Los Angeles’ front office hard at work and the end of Linsanity, Brooklyn has managed to remain relevant on the national stage. The acquisition of Joe Johnson brought good, though not unanimously positive, reactions. For an NBA-blink-of-the-eye, it looked like Princess Howard finally got her sought-after concession and there was much rejoicing.
But, of course, the saga went on for another month and left Brooklyn without the game’s best center.
Whether Brooklyn’s summer transactions—or lack there of—have brought about future success remains to be seen. If Brooklyn can take one lesson from their cross-city rivals, it is that no amount of perceived talent accumulation can actually guarantee success. On the contrary, the notion of expectation only serves to make the imminent failure sting just a little more.
What is firmly established, however, is that the 2012-2013 season has an entirely different feel about it and the Nets organization and fanbase (whoever it may consist of) have reason to be excited.
It’s funny you should ask.
No. 1: A Roster That Makes Sense
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The Nets have been as active a player as anyone in the NBA game of "Superstar Monopoly" over the last few seasons. While teams like Miami and Los Angeles have invested their money in Boardwalk and Park Place, the Nets have been content on bringing in the Marvin Gardens of NBA talent—which is not necessarily a losing strategy.
Owning the highest echelon of superstars will usually lead to success, but fitting together pieces that are not natural fits can be challenging. For all of Brooklyn’s roster shuffling, they are left with a product that has everyone playing in positions where they can thrive.
Starting in the backcourt, this season offers career-year opportunities for Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Like the game’s best point guards, Williams can control games with both his facilitating and his scoring; he is at his best when both are equally viable options.
From the 2007-08 season to 2009-10, Williams had a line of 19.0 PPG 10.6 APG 3.3 RPG. Compare that with last season’s performance of 21.0 PPG 8.7 APG 3.3 RPG. It's a slight fall-off, but things get worse.
His final three years in Utah, he shot 48.3 percent compared with his 40.7 percent a year ago. Those three years also came with a combined 155 wins. Not only was Williams less efficient in 2012, he was also more careless with the ball, averaging 0.6 more turnovers per game with the Nets than with the Jazz.
With Johnson in town, Williams can take a step back and do what he does best—play the point. He has never had someone in the backcourt as capable as is Johnson. For that matter, Johnson has never played with an elite point guard that allows him to focus his efforts on scoring. His mere 18.8 PPG in the 2011-2012 season should see a considerable increase.
Brooklyn may struggle to fill some bench spots with meaningful contributors given the cash they’ve shelled out to the starting five, but the guard positions have some real depth. MarShon Brooks was an adequate rookie. His familiarity with the offense and 12.6 PPG make him an ideal backup.
Brooklyn also, rather quietly, brought in C.J. Watson. Chicago’s Watson knows what it means to play behind an All-Star point guard. He showed poise last season in the many instances he needed to step up in Derrick Rose’s absence.
The members of the starting frontcourt will have an equal opportunity at career seasons. Brook Lopez is back from his injury $61 million richer. Kris Humphries, who averaged a double-double each of the last two years, should maintain a similar role. Having Lopez back will give him some much needed assistance under the rim.
In January of 2011, Gerald Wallace told the Charlotte Observer, “As far as labeling me a 4, I’m done with those days.’’ In the year-and-a-half since then, Wallace has seen the small forward position become his prominent role and this will continue in Brooklyn.
Everyone loves the dark blue Monopoly properties, but my strategy has always been to grab the yellow and orange ones.
No. 2: A Fresh Start
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This is a pretty easy one to understand and one of the main reasons teams relocate in the first place. The New Jersey Nets have had ups and downs, but since dropping two consecutive Finals in ’02 and ’03, they’ve been almost exclusively down.
But that’s history. Somebody else’s history.
Brooklyn’s players need only look at everybody’s second favorite team, the Thunder, to recognize the potential love and support that awaits them. Saying, “The Thunder have great fans” is stating the obvious. With their game-day giveaways and standing fans, there are few if any stadiums that can match the excitement in Oklahoma. The fans of Brooklyn will provide more of the same.
No. 3: Hey, They’re Not the Knicks
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Until they establish themselves as a legitimate NBA Finals contender, the Knicks will always get the first wave of NYC disdain. If nothing else, the Nets will provide some much needed refreshment to a city that has been parched for as seemingly long as time itself.
There has been some questioning as to whether any of the Knicks faithful will swap allegiances. As a Knicks fan, I am being wishful when I say such a cardinal sports sin will fail to be committed. But who knows? Maybe a hot start or another "Insert-name-here-sanity" is all it will take to redirect the flow of traffic in the city.
The Nets will open their new stadium on November 1 against the Knickerbockers. An opening night victory would be all it takes to get Brooklyn roaring for the next month.
No. 4: Resolution to the Dwight Howard Situation
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Have you ever read Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot? Let me summarize it for you (Spoiler Alert!): Vladimir and Estragon wait for Godot and, wait for it…he never comes. The end.
Such absurdity works in plays. It does not in basketball.
Rather than sit under a tree from now until the end of time, waiting for Dwight, the Nets’ front office said something that never occurred to Beckett’s main characters: “Forget it.” They resigned Lopez and moved on.
Would Dwight at the center of the attack have made Brooklyn better than they are now? Maybe.
But all is not lost. Aside from the fact that this team looks capable of making a postseason run as is, Brooklyn should take these points to heart before they waste all of our time for two acts.
- Howard’s health remains an uncertainty. He should be ready to go come November, but do I really need to make a list of the number of centers who failed to return to form after sustaining a serious injury? Gambling $60 million on Brook Lopez looks like penny-ante compared to what Dwight would have cost them.
- He’s out of the Eastern Conference.
- ESPN’s Marc Stein has made it very clear that Dwight will not discuss his contract until next offseason.
Now, any logical NBA superstar in Howard’s position would recognize that he has an opportunity to win multiple championships in a huge market. Furthermore, said superstar would also understand that he is by far the youngest part of this mega-team and will eventually have it all to himself.
But who could possibly classify Dwight as such a superstar?
His Orlando departure was one of clunkiest, I-want-what-I-want events I have ever witnessed. Can you really count on the person at the forefront of that travesty to remain loyal? And who’s to say that, deep down, he still doesn’t want to play in Brooklyn? Even with a moderately successful season in L.A., a Brooklyn playoff birth and overall organizational pulse would leave Howard with a difficult decision come next June.
Brooklyn shouldn’t view this season as just another waiting period. Rather, the 2012-2013 campaign is the opportunity to prove Howard is not required to succeed. They have certainly tried the pretty-please-we-will-give-you-anything approach and it failed. Exhibit strength and maybe then the one they call Superman will see the Nets as a team worth saving.
No. 5: Why Not?
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Seriously, what was so great about New Jersey? I’m from New Jersey and I don’t know of one thing that could possibly make the Brooklyn Nets not thrilled.
The roster is improving. The fans are already preparing themselves for the sure-to-happen musical explosion of "Empire State of Mind" on opening night. This citywide excitement grows with every mention of the Mets usual summer-time plummet, the Jets bottomless pit of team drama and/or the Giants predicted failure to make the playoffs.
If Brooklyn wants to establish a new identity, the first step will be to let go of everything that happened in New Jersey. Forget the past and the missed opportunities. “This is our team and we wouldn’t want it any other way,” must become the mantra.