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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
The interesting offseason in Brooklyn
Jason Kidd Jason Kidd could be the biggest wild-card in the upcoming Nets season.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - You have to give Mikhail Prokhorov, Billy King and the Brooklyn Nets this much - there hasn't been a dull moment in a summer season usually mired in boredom.

Whether it was the coaching hire, the massive trade, or the hilarious disregard for the luxury tax. The Brooklyn Nets made some spectacularly bold moves to try to contend with the Miami Heat.

After canning the relatively successful, albeit, interim P.J. Carlesimo, the Nets veered outside the box and hired Jason Kidd, a former Net, who retired about a half hour before he got the Brooklyn job.

Then, King, who signatured some of the most ludicrous contracts these eyeballs have seen as general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, pilfered the rebuilding Boston Celtics of future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce along with Jason Terry. The cost of said deal was movable parts and the seemingly unmovable contract of Gerald Wallace.

But the question remains - did the Brooklyn Nets improve enough to be considered legitimate contenders for an NBA title?

First, the Kidd hiring was inspiring, but handing the reins to a completely untested NBA coach is cause for pause. Yes, he brought former Nets skipper and recent Detroit Pistons coach Lawrence Frank with him, but Kidd has a lot to learn.

The Nets will instantly respect him because he is a contemporary and when you count the best point guards in NBA history, Kidd doesn't get past your ring finger.

However, Kidd could be the biggest wild-card in the upcoming Nets season. Can such an inexperienced coach cost his team wins? Absolutely he can, but Kidd's not in the big chair for his X and O savvy. He's there because of his gravitas.

"Playing next to Jason Kidd was a dream come true," Terry said. "He was the best point guard ever to play the game in my eyes. And he was coaching. If there was a play that needed to be drawn up, he would do it; if there was a practice that needed to be ran, he would be the guy out there making all the guys practice when they didn't want to. He was phenomenal.

"And that's why I believe this transition, for him, will be as smooth as any: he's been doing it his whole career. I'm privileged to be in the situation to be playing for a guy who understands me and understands my game."

While that quote doesn't positively reflect on Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle, the point was made - Kidd was coaching while playing the point guard position.

If we assume Kidd will at least be as proficient as Whoopi Goldberg in that movie where she becomes a coach, then there will be few problems. The Nets are veteran-heavy and Kidd will basically just have to worry about substitutions and what tie goes with what belt. Frank can do the heavy lifting with play- calling and designing sets after timeouts.

So the next big shift came via the trade with the Celtics. As shocking as it was for two teams, division rivals and division rivals who engaged in what could mildly be described as a fight during the regular season, engage in a massive trade, this was a steal for the Celtics.

Let's not even touch on the acquisitions. The Nets let go of dead weight. Shedding Gerald Wallace and his three-year, $30-million contract, which was tied around the Nets ankle like an anvil attached to a mob informant in the Hudson, made this a victory.

Kris Humphries is actually underrated in my book, but his cardinal sin was marrying a woman 90 percent of the league would have married. They are the only true assets the Celtics acquired and word is, they'd move them both if they could.

Pierce, Garnett and Terry are all old by NBA standards, but not by 60 Minutes correspondent standards. (Credit to Alec Baldwin for that line.) They were all effective in their roles last season, especially Pierce.

During the regular season, Pierce, who clearly still looked shell-shocked at his Brooklyn introductory press conference, averaged 18.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 4.8 apg, which was a a career-high. He still commands double-teams and still can take a game over, especially in the fourth quarter.

But individual achievement is not what drives Pierce any longer.

"At this point in our careers, we're championship driven," Pierce said. "We've made a lot of money in our careers, we've won a number of awards and at this point we're all about winning a championship and Brooklyn gives us the best opportunity."

Does it?

Of all possible suitors, yes it does.

The Nets will roll out a starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez. All five have made the All-Star team and, on paper, it could be the best first unit in the league.

Best on paper means squat, but when the group is loaded with veterans, it helps. Some can be difficult and admittedly, it would have been nice to watch Garnett make Humphries cry on the bench. But, Pierce is right, this is all about championships as the dawn sets on the careers of Pierce and Garnett.

That starting core is offset by a bench that will feature Andrei Kirilenko, Terry, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche. And so far, that's about it. In the playoffs, rotations shrink, but that's not the most dependable unit in basketball history. Another low-end free-agent veteran would help, preferably one who can score.

The Nets aren't on the hook for long with this group. Pierce's contract ends after this upcoming season. Garnett and Terry have two years left. All three will be off the books before Wallace's contract expires.

So what's wrong with taking a shot for two years? Obviously, the long-term plan in Brooklyn doesn't exist. The Nets are taking their shot now.

The Nets finished fourth in the Eastern Conference last season. They lost in the first round to a woefully undermanned Chicago Bulls team. This group should contend better than the 2012-13 version.

For one thing, Garnett may be the best defensive big man in the NBA still and his offense is 500 percent better than Evans', the starter at the big forward spot last season.

The options on offense are staggering. All five starters can fill it up. Terry can still score and defensively, Garnett, Kirilenko and Evans are all above average. Lopez can block shots. Don't mistake him for a good defender, but he's a decent shot-blocker.

The easiest diagnosis of the Nets is that they won't improve on their fourth- place finish in the East. That's probably accurate since the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are equally loaded and didn't regress in the offseason.

But this group wasn't put together for the regular season. You know Garnett and Pierce will both miss games, either for injury or maintenance. The idea is to be competitive in the postseason.

This group affords them the chance to go further in the playoffs. These moves were all no-brainers. Yes, it helps having an owner who is willing to pay $82 million in luxury tax alone. (That figure is just stupid.)

And yes, it helps that Kirilenko, an early choice for Sixth Man of the Year, agreed to help his comrade for the mid-level exemption instead of $10 million from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It helped that Garnett put off retirement for one more shot at glory.

In parting with very little, maybe two rotation guys and first-round picks that will run through the next two Olympiads, the Nets can make a legitimate run at an NBA title for two years.

As long as Kidd doesn't screw the whole thing up.