The Miami Heat had a fairly easy time with the Brooklyn Nets last season winning the season series 3-0. Brooklyn had no match for LeBron James or Dwyane Wade as they were blown out by 30 points in two of the three contests. It was like the Heat had some added motivation to play this team or it could have been because they were on a different stage in the Big Apple to showcase their championship style of play. With the Nets looking to put its disappointing end to last season behind them, they have come in 2013-14 filled with new, yet familiar weapons and a rookie head coach poised to make a statement. It's obvious the team is in a win now mode because they have sacrificed finances and multiple draft picks in order to be the last team standing.
After parting ways with coach Avery Johnson after 28 games in 2012, Brooklyn felt they needed a new voice and they handed the reigns to P.J. Carlesimo who coached the team's remaining games. He led the team to its first playoff berth since 2006-07 while riding a hot second half from All-Stars, guard Deron Williams and center Brook Lopez. The team had home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs but failed to seal the deal. Brooklyn lost Game 7 against to the Chicago Bulls in an elimination game on the their home floor at Barclays Center.
Changes were sure to come to a team that is in the process of building a championship image while trying to gain a larger fan base in the league's largest market.
Carlesimo was the team's first change of the offseason. That led to the Nets going a different route in searching for their next head coach. Just one week after hanging up his sneakers as a player, former Nets star and one of the best point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd was hired as the new head coach. This moved happened two weeks prior to the NBA Draft. Kidd added former Nets head coach Lawrence Frank to the staff to serve as a mentor to help him get acclimated to the new position.
When the draft came around, Nets GM Billy King was not shy about letting the city know they had a plan to not just settle with the current lineup and they would challenge the Knicks for supremacy in New York City and to take it a step further, become a huge threat to the world champions.
King first drafted center Mason Plumlee from Duke in the first round. He followed that by orchestrating a blockbuster trade that brought Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn in exchange for Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and at least three future first round picks. The Nets now have a starting lineup comprised of former and current All-Stars in Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Lopez.
The Nets were also able to add Andrei Kirilenko for a bargain price to come off the bench. Journeyman Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston were also added to the team for depth. Brooklyn ended up with a league-high payroll of $102 million, in addition to having to pay luxury tax payments totaling $86 million after reaching deep into their pockets to build a championship contender.
They are set to challenge any team in the East but may elect to rev up their motors down the stretch in order to be ready for the postseason. Garnett, Pierce and Terry already come to the team with plenty of playoff experience, an area where the Nets had struggles in 2012-13. Despite their age, those three veterans bring an identity of toughness, passion and willingness to be unselfish. Having experienced players on the team will indeed lighten the load on Williams and should up his assist numbers while allowing him to become more efficient from the field. The motivation of Williams has been questioned but with head coach Kidd entering the fold, it gives the All-Star guard one more chance to coexist with his third coach in the last two seasons.
Brooklyn's spending bonanza allowed them to add some players that Miami is used to playing against. The likes of Pierce and Garnett have been itching to get revenge against the Heat after losing Game 7 of the 2012 playoffs. The Nets are filled with options in the starting lineup and even have a few players who can contribute off the bench to make this team as good as any team in the East. The one factor that could make or break this team is how the team is led by a first year head coach. Still, this team only looks good on paper which puts them as the #3 contender to dethrone the Heat in the Eastern Conference.
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