In case you didn't get the memo, the New Jersey Nets are no more—at least in terms of their name and location.
Mikhail Prokhorov's franchise is now the Brooklyn Nets, housed at the brand new billion-dollar Barclays Center—with redesigned uniforms to boot. On the heels of a historic rebranding and a busy offseason remodeling, what better time to capture an inside-look into the Nets' season?
That's exactly what NBA TV's The Association (debuting Oct. 16) aims to do as it follows the team through its first season in Brooklyn and gives fans a glimpse into the off-court life of an NBA club. The show airs on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. ET.
In case you haven't been following the Nets especially closely this summer, it's worth catching up on all the goings-on shaping the season ahead and The Association's coverage thereof. A ramped-up rivalry with the cross-town New York Knicks isn't the only story to keep an eye on this season. Here's a primer to get you started.
The 2011-12 Campaign (and Trying to Forget It)
Last season was a transitional one at best for the Nets. The team remained in New Jersey on a lame-duck basis, awaiting the move to Brooklyn and the rebuilt roster that was to come with it.
Finishing with an underwhelming 22-44 record, the Nets ranked 24th league-wide in both scoring and points allowed. That had a lot to do with center Brook Lopez escaping injury for all of five games, and there's little doubt the midseason acquisition of Gerald Wallace will yield more of a payoff now that he's had the opportunity to spend training camp with the team.
Head coach Avery Johnson wasn't working with a fully-operational rotation, and Deron Williams (who shot just under 41 percent for the season) wasn't at his best either.
There were, however, at least a couple of bright spots. MarShon Brooks put together a surprisingly strong rookie season after being selected with the 25th overall pick in the 2011 draft (originally by the Boston Celtics). The 23-year-old shooting guard ended up averaging 12.6 points on 43-percent shooting, and he's poised to make the most of a sixth-man role with the Nets this season.
Meanwhile power forward Kris Humphries bounced back from his Kardashian drama to have a career season, putting up 13.8 points and 11 rebounds a game.
Both players will be looking to build upon their promising seasons now that they're surrounded with a bit more help.
Brooklyn's most momentous adjustment this summer was the acquisition of All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks. The biggest tradeoff in the deal was taking on the remainder of the 31-year-old's contract, worth about $90 million over the course of the next four seasons. Otherwise, the Nets parted ways with some draft picks and expiring contracts, giving up relatively little for the right to pair a top-tier scorer next to Deron Williams.
The Nets also took steps to solidifying a previously weak second unit, adding C.J. Watson, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans and Josh Childress (among others) in an attempt to build some depth on the cheap.
But the most significant offseason move didn't entail any changes. Resigning point guard Deron Williams was the make-or-break move for the organization, and it managed to keep the star away from other suitors—namely the Dallas Mavericks—thanks in large part to bringing Joe Johnson aboard.
The Nets also resigned Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez, locking the latter up for the next four seasons.
Mark Cuban Drama
The Mavericks came awfully close to snatching Deron Williams away from the Nets, leaving the franchise without a star presence and surely spurring an instantaneous rebuilding effort. Needless to say, that didn't happen, and there's been no shortage of subsequent intrigue.
It all started when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggested that things ultimately worked out for the best, a sentiment that could certainly be interpreted as a slight to Williams, albeit a fairly subtle one.
In turn, Williams recently said he might have been more likely to make the move had Cuban himself not been too busy filming for the TV show Shark Tank to meet with the point guard in Dallas. The never-shy owner has thus far had the last word, and a sarcastic one at that (via the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy):
"I’m a big D-Will fan, but I’m kind of surprised that he would throw his front office under the bus like that by saying that I would make a difference,” Cuban said Tuesday before the Mavericks’ exhibition game in Spain. “I would have expected him to say—like I’d expect one of our guys to say—‘Hey I’m so thrilled with the front office and the moves we made and our team that it wouldn’t have mattered what he did.’"
With the war of words having reached a break in action, the real question is which of these teams stands a better chance at winning a title. They're both second-tier contenders eager to prove their new-look rosters are up to the task.