Pray for the poor sap that has to run the Brooklyn Nets now

Brook Lopez looks forward to a brighter future. (Getty Images)
Brook Lopez looks forward to a brighter future. (Getty Images)

As NBA general manager regimes go, Brooklyn Nets’ el jefe Billy King’s was probably the most disastrous in recent history. Given the mercurial nature of the team’s owner, however, most around the league wondered if the guy would ever be given a pink slip in reaction to his series of terrible moves.

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That owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, finally decided to click the red button on Sunday. The Nets announced that King has been re-assigned, and that coach Lionel Hollins has been fired. From the team’s press release:

“After careful consideration, I’ve concluded that it’s time for a fresh start and a new vision for the direction of the team. By making this decision now, it enables our organization to use the rest of the season to diligently evaluate candidates with proven track records. It’s clear from our current state of affairs that we need new leadership. With the right basketball management and coach in place, we are going to create a winning culture and identity and give Brooklyn a team that it can be proud of and enjoy watching. We have learned a great deal during the past six years and our experiences will guide us for the future. Following the consolidation of team ownership last month, I can assure you that I’m more determined and committed than ever to build a winner.”

How one goes about building a winner with this franchise remains to be seen.

We’re well past the idea that the Nets are somehow unable to construct a champion due to the team’s underwhelming history. The embarrassment-rich Golden State Warriors franhise are defending a championship and well on their way toward beating Michael Jordan’s Bulls for team wins in a season. The formerly hapless Cleveland Cavaliers are due to represent the East in the Finals again, and the team that Jay Leno once trod upon (the Los Angeles Clippers) are rolling.

The Nets don’t have to dig out of a hole because of the team’s franchise history. The Nets are going to have to dig out of a hole – perhaps the biggest hole we’ve seen in the modern era – due to the work of Billy King and, by extension, Prokhorov.

The owner giddily clapped his hands as King basically worked as he had in Philadelphia, yet with a Brooklyn-sized payroll. First round picks (like, the one that turned into Damian Lillard) turned into the superfluous Gerald Wallace. Other first round picks turned into the uninspiring Joe Johnson – some two years after we started making fun of the guy’s contract. The franchise was hitched upon Deron Williams’ back bumper. It lost in the playoffs to a team whose second-best player was Nate Robinson, in a seventh game at home.

Worse, following that embarrassment, Prokhorov signed off as Billy King decided to pin the team’s entire future on a Boston Celtics core that had just been eliminated from the first round of the playoffs. A hoped-for championship core that hadn’t won a championship in five years, at that point. In 2013 King dealt an unending stream of first round picks and draft night swap rights to the Celtics for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry.

The group made a (regionally-based) Sports Illustrated cover, and that was the extent of its accomplishments. Pierce would leave the following summer. Garnett was dealt to Minnesota for the average-as-they-come Thaddeus Young in 2015. Williams was paid to go away a few months later.

Meanwhile, if you count interim head many Tony Brown, the Nets are on their eighth coach in six and a half years of Prokhorov rule.

The timing of these moves, with the NBA’s trade deadline a month away, is telling. Someone with basketball instinct got in the owner’s ear, and convinced him that King wasn’t the man to spearhead a rebuilding process. Or any process related to basketball, really. It’s far too late, but a start is a start.

The team is 10-27, working in an improved East, and 9.5 games out of the playoff bracket. It re-signed both Young and center Brook Lopez, for whatever reason, over the summer. In some ways it was understandable to want to field a palatable lineup in 2015-16 given the franchise’s clearly miserable future, but Lopez and Young weren’t ever going to bring in the fans that yawned at Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

That stab at mediocrity, as was the case with the stab at a championship, failed. Trusting Billy King to spearhead a rebuilding process would seem as foolish as trusting him to put together a contender, thus the move to re-assign.

The problem from here, though, is what to do with this salted soil.

The team will not have a first round draft pick this June, despite its woes, due to the Celtics trade. The second pick is also due to be swapped toward the Los Angeles Clippers. Brooklyn’s 2017 first round pick will also fall into the laps of the Celtics, via a King-negotiated swap, with BKN keeping a middling selection only by the grace of decades-old NBA bylaws. The second round pick is all Atlanta’s.

The 2018 pick? Unprotected and headed to Boston. The second rounder goes to Charlotte. Same with the team’s second-rounder in 2019, and the 2020 second round selection is earmarked for Philadelphia.

Luckily for the team’s next GM, the group will have a first round pick, with no Billy King-enforced stipulations, in 2019. You know, when the next Presidential news election cycle is in full swing.

This is what King’s replacement is facing.

The next GM can’t really embrace a tank job, because it will only add ping-pong odds to Boston’s lottery chances. Johnson, Young, Lopez and such will be on the trade block, but the new GM will hardly be bargaining from a position of strength. If left untouched, the roster will probably have around $31 million in cap space this summer, but who is going to want to come to a moribund franchise to act as the savior machine?

The only reason Deron Williams wanted as much was because the team dealt for him, and they could pay him more than any other team in free agency once his contract expired. All the other big names and even the smaller names had to be acquired via deals. The Prokhorov-inspired idea that a sparkling new arena (well, kinda) and new borough would encourage big stars to come to Brooklyn was a massive, massive whiff. Not because Brooklyn and the team’s arena aren’t fantastic – this ideally should still be a destination franchise – but because of the team that Billy King and Mikhail Prokhorov built.

Now the team’s front office and coaching sideline are in flux, mainly because nobody trusts Billy King to make the desperate moves. Like, potentially dealing Joe Johnson’s contract for Nikola Pekovic and the $23.7 million he’s owed following this season. Or Brook Lopez for someone coming off of an Achilles tear. Or Thaddeus Young for Kevin Garnett wait scratch that one KG has a no-trade clause.

Mark this day. Even with Mikhail Prokhorov writing the checks, this will be the beginning of the toughest rebuilding job in modern NBA history.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!