The Nets acquired Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in the deal, and now look primed for a run at the title in 2013-14.
But, in order to maximize the revamped roster, newly hired head coach Jason Kidd must be able to judiciously oversee the minutes of two aging Hall of Famers, forge an identity on both ends of the floor and find a way to make the new pieces fit while managing a wide array of personalities and egos.
These Brooklyn Nets are built to win now, so Kidd will have a little added pressure on his shoulders in his first year coaching. He’d be wise to lean on lead assistant Lawrence Frank and the veteran players while getting acclimated to his new role.
The Nets now have a maximum two-year window for a shot at the title, so immediately integrating a plan to maximize the new roster will be crucial.
Managing the Minutes of Pierce and Garnett
The Nets’ 2013-14 starting lineup will have an average age of nearly 32.
Garnett is 37, Terry and Pierce are 35, and Joe Johnson just turned 32 last Saturday. Managing the minutes of all these players, including Deron Williams, will be essential if the team plans on making it through a grueling 82-game season and the playoffs.
Particularly close attention must be paid to the playing time of Pierce and KG. Pierce, who has dealt with various knee injuries in the past, averaged 33.4 minutes in 77 games for the Celtics during the 2012-13 regular season, and played 42.5 minutes per game in the postseason.
Fatigue caught up with the 14-year pro during the Celtics’ first-round series against the New York Knicks. Pierce struggled in that series, shooting just 36 percent from the field and a ghastly 26 percent from three-point range, as his team was dispatched in six games.
KG, meanwhile, began playing in the NBA at the age of 18 and is one of the oldest players in the league. He’s logged countless minutes throughout his 17-year career and plays with an unparalleled level of intensity.
Garnett was an absolute beast for Boston least season, averaging 13.6 points and 14.6 rebounds in the playoffs. But the big man missed 14 games during the regular season, and it’s only a matter of time before he begins to show signs of slowing down.
It would be surprising if Kidd, who dealt with his own nagging injuries and fatigue during the ladder stages of his career, were to mismanage the minutes of Pierce and KG. It will also help Kidd to have Frank at his side. Frank served as a head coach for both the Nets and Detroit Pistons, and was an assistant coach with the Celtics.
Forging an Identity
Prior to the trade, Kidd talked about implementing an up-tempo offense that emphasized ball movement and spacing the floor. Ball movement and floor spacing shouldn’t be an issue for the Nets, but getting up and down could prove difficult for a lineup that features Pierce, Garnett and Johnson.
Pierce and KG aren’t getting any younger and Johnson is coming off a year in which he was afflicted by plantar fasciitis. The youngest of the group, Lopez, just underwent surgery to replace a screw in his right foot.
Kidd will need to instill a half-court style offense, with Lopez working in the post, KG operating at the elbow, Johnson and Pierce spotting up and facilitating on the wings and D-Will orchestrating and penetrating.
In Pierce, the Nets will have an excellent secondary facilitator. During Rondo’s absence last season, Pierce averaged 4.8 assists for the regular season and 5.3 assists in the playoffs. Kidd needs to use Pierce in a similar role in Brooklyn.
The addition of KG will do wonders for the Nets defensively. Garnett is long and athletic, and thrives at protecting the rim. His tenacity and leadership is second to none and this should help Lopez. The Nets’ center improved his defense last season, but still has a lot to work to do in that department.
Making the Pieces Fit
For the most part, the new pieces the Nets acquired should fit nicely.
D-Will can use KG in pick-and-pop situations and run the pick-and-roll through Lopez, while Terry will fill the void left by C.J. Watson and provide shooting off the bench.
The issue could be finding a way for Pierce and Johnson to coexist. Both are excellent scorers, but they both love having the ball in their hands and that could stifle the flow of the offense. Then there’s the issue of who will be the go-to guy in crunch time. Johnson was that guy for the Nets last season, but Pierce has been that guy in Boston for over a decade.
For Kidd, this will all come down to managing egos. D-Will was the star with the Utah Jazz, Johnson was the star of the Atlanta Hawks, Pierce was the man in Boston and KG was the alpha dog with the Minnesota Timberwolves for many years.
It will be imperative for Kidd to make sure the players buy into his philosophy and put winning games ahead of personal achievements and statistics.
Realistically, this version of the Nets has a maximum two-year window to win an NBA championship. That at least gives owner Mikhail Prokhorov a chance at fulfilling his goal of winning a title by 2014-15. It also, however, leaves little room for error for Kidd and the rest of his coaching staff.
The team will have high expectations entering next season, and with those expectations will come big challenges. Having an offseason plan for meeting the challenges will be the top priority for Kidd and his staff.
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