New coach Jason Kidd, and August-only Deron Williams (Getty Images)
The Brooklyn Nets are a strange team. Their owner doesn’t appear to care about the size of the payroll. Their general manager has a star-crossed record that somehow hasn’t gotten in the way of lending him the ability to deal for star after star. Their coach has never coached an NBA game before, never even seen time as an assistant, and he may not be allowed to coach an NBA game until the third or fourth contest of the Nets’ season. And recently, it was announced that star forward Kevin Garnett may sit out the second half of back-to-backs so as to save his legs for a hoped-for two-month playoff run.
All this for a payroll that will approach $200 million this year, when you count luxury taxes and coaching fees. The team’s short championship window, and those financial implications, are probably why the Nets’ starting lineup, led by Deron Williams, is huddling together now for a series of pre-preseason practices. From the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy:
Williams organized players-only workouts this week in California, with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in attendance. Only five of Brooklyn’s 15 players are unable to attend the workouts that started Sunday and run until Friday.
The entire starting lineup, including Brook Lopez (who only recently shed his walking boot following foot surgery), is expected in California.
Bondy went on to report that various other rotation players – Andrei Kirilenko, Reggie Evans, and Andray Blatche included – cannot take part for “various reasons.”
Lopez and Pierce are Los Angeles natives, Kevin Garnett maintains a home in Malibu during the offseason, while Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson … well, they’ll combine to make nearly $40 million this season, so they can afford a week’s stay in El Lay.
This is significant, because as stated above, the Nets don’t really have much of a championship window to dawdle with. Yes, the franchise did just hire a rookie coach just days after his retirement as a player, someone who needs time to learn on the job, but this team was built to win now. And by “now,” some would snarkily suggest, the Nets mean “2009.”
Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin noted that this is just one more sign that points to the Nets still being “Deron Williams’ team,” and we completely agree. The problem for the Nets is that this isn’t always a good thing.
Lost in the admiration for Chicago’s short-handed work in the 2013 postseason was the fact that Brooklyn completely frittered away its initial playoff run, while using the lame duck status of interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo as a crutch as it lost to the Bulls in the first round. Williams had his moments, but by and large he failed to make a massive impact against a Bulls team that was missing both Derrick Rose and the defensive-minded Kirk Hinrich in Games 6 and 7. Williams’ stats (20.6 points on 42 percent shooting, 8.4 assists) were good enough, but the impact was lacking.
Now, after years in the wilderness between coaching flameouts, a franchise-altering trade, two rebuilding seasons and the eventual hiring of his good pal Jason Kidd as head coach, Deron Williams is all out of excuses. He’s 29, in his prime, and he needs to do something special with the well-compensated cohorts he’s been gifted.
Collecting them in California, some five weeks before training camp begins, is a good start.
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