This season hasn’t exactly been filled with gumdrops and sugarplums for the Brooklyn Nets.
However, it is the most wonderful time of the year, and that provides for a great opportunity to reflect on the first quarter of the Nets’ season.
Has it been perfect? No—not by a long shot. Injuries have ravished nearly every player on the roster, and Jason Kidd has been less than spectacular in his first year as head coach.
But the Nets still have a loaded roster with stars at point guard and center, and a strong supporting cast that includes two NBA legends.
Perhaps a little holiday magic is all Brooklyn needs to turn its wildly disappointing 2013-14 campaign around.
Back in his playing days, J-Kidd racked up over 12,000 assists and 2,500 steals, driving defenses mad for nearly 20 years.
So with no timeouts and his Nets down against the Los Angeles Lakers back on November 27, Kidd tried to channel the slyness of his heyday.
As Tyshawn Taylor jogged off the court with under 10 seconds remaining, Kidd appeared to mouth the words “hit me” as he collided with the second-year guard, splashing the soda he was holding onto the hardwood. Whistles blew, and a stoppage of play ensued. Basically, Kidd stole a timeout.
You’re a mean one, Mr. Kidd.
The Wish: The hope here is that Kidd comes into his own as BKN’s coach. He’s got a roster that’s overflowing with talent, but injuries have hindered the team’s coherency early on in the season. Kidd definitely has potential to become a quality NBA coach, and hopefully he can actualize that potential throughout the rest of the season.
Brooklyn’s home opener seemed to christen a new era of Nets basketball.
And it was exactly what Nets fans were hoping for.
On that fateful night in early November, the Nets looked like a superteam, one that could go toe-to-toe with the league’s premier squad. Since then, not so much.
After beating Miami, the Nets have gone 8-14 and have had to weather a storm of injuries to the team’s best players.
Brooklyn will host the Heat again on January 10. If the Nets have a healthy roster, fans could be in for a euphoric victory similar to the November 1 win. But if the Nets are still banged up, Miami is going to pummel them.
The Wish: A Nets-Heat Eastern Conference finals showdown. The Nets, like the Indiana Pacers, have the big bodies inside to expose Miami’s lack of size. Plus, Pierce is one of the few players in this universe who seem to be able to defend James.
While making one of those videos that air on the scoreboards during timeouts or breaks in the action, Brook Lopez broke it down.
Emphasis on "broke."
Alongside Andray Blatche, Lopez gave fans the gift equivalent to an ugly sweater sewn by grandma or a coloring book from that aunt you never see. It’s amusing in retrospect, but at the time, you were rendered speechless.
On the season, the sixth-year center has given Brooklyn over 20 points and six boards a night. However, ankle issues have already sidelined the former Stanford big man for as many games as he missed all of last season.
In order to make a run in the new year, the Nets are going to need a healthy Lopez—more for his post prowess than his dance moves.
The Wish: This slide gets two wishes. The first is for Lopez to never dance to a rap song again, and the second is for Brooklyn’s premier big man to stay healthy. He’s got the capability to become an elite post presence, but if the ankle injuries persist throughout the season, it could damage his game in the long run.
But this Christmas, D-Will and the Nets want something that doesn’t have to be bought—health.
Williams, Lopez, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry have combined for 40 absences through the first 24 games of an injury-ravaged season. Plus, Andrei Kirilenko has missed his last 19 with a back problem.
Pierce, KG and Terry weren’t expected to go the length of the NBA season in perfect health, but nagging ankle injuries to Williams and Lopez have thrust the Nets into mediocrity.
At full strength, Brooklyn is a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. But if Williams and Lopez continue to find themselves on the bench with ankle issues, the Nets might as well relocate from New York to the Island of Misfit Toys.
The Wish: Obviously, the wish here is for the injuries to cease. Perhaps the Nets offended the basketball gods with trying to assemble—or buy—a superteam. Whatever the reason is, the Nets have been smashed by injuries, and for the team to win the division, they need a healthy roster.
KG and Pierce didn’t come to Brooklyn for this.
The Truth was able to convince Garnett to waive his no-trade clause with the allure of adding another title to the duo’s already storied history together. The Nets came into the season looking like a bona fide contender, but will head into a Christmas Day showdown with the Chicago Bulls with a sub-.500 record.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov broke the NBA luxury-tax record in funding the roster, which includes 35 combined All-Star appearances, and he isn’t going to sit back and watch his money go to waste.
The Nets have shown flashes of the team they were supposed to be, rattling off a three-game winning streak early on in December. But injuries, inconsistency and Kidd’s lack of experience have resulted in a bumpy ride thus far.
This can’t be one of those “I’m going to start exercising” kind of resolutions, either. Once healthy, the Nets need to start winning.
The Wish: The wish here is for all of the aforementioned wishes to come true. If Kidd can come into his own as head coach while Lopez and the rest of the team get—and stay—healthy, Brooklyn could have a shot at making a run at the Heat in the ECF.
It’s the holidays, so here’s a little gift for no extra charge.
In his second game back after sitting out nine straight, D-Will shook Chris Paul with a pair of ankle-breaking crossovers en route to a Nets victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, 102-93, on December 12.
“It’s great going against [Paul],” Williams said, per Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. “He’s one of the best point guards in this game, one of the best players in this league, and so it’s a challenge every time I step on the court against him.”
The Nets aren’t going to go anywhere with a hobbled D-Will. If the team is going to make any kind of noise in the postseason, Brooklyn will need its electrifying ball-handler at full strength.
But that’s a long ways off. For now, just watch No. 8 work his magic, and enjoy your holidays.