Don't Be Surprised If Nets Stumble in First Half of NBA Season

David MurphyFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2013

Oct 12, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; From left Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce and Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Garnett and Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams look on against the Detroit Pistons during the second half of the preseason game at Barclays Center. The Pistons won the game 99-88 Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov dumped a bundle on the Barclay Center, and his team is carrying the largest payroll in the NBA.

This is a man who wants results. Still, don't be surprised if the Brooklyn Nets stumble during the first half of the NBA season.

Poor Prokhorov. It's not always easy being Forbes 69th-richest man in the world. If his Nets don't win a championship soon, he may have to find a wife.

The Nets have had something of a revolving door in recent years. This summer, they went through another major change. Three future Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce came to Brooklyn from the Celtics as part of a blockbuster trade. Jason Kidd is trading in his Peak kicks for a seat on the sideline as the Nets' new head coach.

There will be adjustments, of course, as new lineups can take some time. The problem is that the Nets don't have a lot of time on their hands. As big of a name as Kidd is in the NBA, the carousel moves fast for rookie coaches these days. It may help Kidd that he recently bought a slice of the Barclay/Nets pie.

Garnett is entering his 19th season in the NBA. His longtime teammate, Pierce, is just one year younger and is starting his 17th. Jason Terry, who also came over from the Celtics in the trade, will be entering his 15th season in the league. These guys aren't part of any long-term rebuild. It's win this season.

 The Nets' new graybeards are no exceptions to the rule. Also in their second decade of NBA service are Joe Johnston, Reggie Evans and Andrew Kirilenko.

Entering his ninth season, Deron Williams is a spring chicken by comparison. He's learning a new NBA language. Garnett has never been shy with his words. His tough talk is shaping a new Nets' culture, according to Mike Masseo of ESPN New York:

I've always tried to be loud. I've always tried to be prepared. I feel the better prepared you are on the court, the easier or more simplified things can be. And now I got some of the young guys doing those things.

Nobody ever accused Garnett of lacking intensity. Still, he and his fellow veterans know about the long NBA season, where a player can be passionate and still play smart. Sometimes, players lay in the weeds until it counts or sometimes they talk to TNT and TBS sideline reporter Craig Sager about bar fights after a comeback win.

 Sometimes it does count early, of course. Pierce delivered a message the other night against the Heat with a hard foul on LeBron James in what could well be the preview of a running rivalry this season. Check out Pierce's forearm shiver below:

The new-look Nets have plenty of potential. That said, it could take time for them to figure out their roles. Garnett says it's all about defense. That may be true, but the first, second and third options still have to be figured out. The Nets will also be on the road for 11 of their first 17 games.

During the preseason, Brook Lopez led the way for Brooklyn with 13.3 points per game and Andre Blatche was a close second, averaging 12.7 points.

You know that won't last.

Deron Williams, who's coming back from a sore ankle, saw his first 10 minutes of action when the Nets romped over the Heat on Friday night. As for Pierce and Garnett, they have lingered toward the back of the pack in scoring for the Nets in the preseason while playing light minutes. The start to the regular season could be slow and tentative at times, so does that mean they stumble early?

There's a point/counterpoint to every argument. The Brooklyn Nets will lose some games in the early months, and they might lose a boatload, but I doubt that Prokhorov will panic. Garnett, Pierce, Terry and Kidd have been in the NBA grind for a long time. They've all won rings and they all want another. Deron and the other Nets want one too.

The Nets open their regular season on Wednesday night, Oct. 20, against the Cavaliers in Cleveland. It might be a bit of a warm-up for the Nets' nationally televised game against the Heat on Friday night.

Win, lose, stumble or rumble in the early months, the Nets will ultimately look toward the spring. That's when it counts, and that's when it will be for all of the money—Prokhorov's included.