Despite spending an NBA-record $180 million in payroll, orchestrating a blockbuster draft-day deal for a pair of Hall of Famers and boasting one of the most decorated starting fives in the league, the Nets (10-20) find themselves on the verge of becoming one of the biggest disasters in sports.
And even worse than that, they don’t seem the least bit capable of turning things around in a still-very-winnable Atlantic Division.
“I’m even surprised with this season,” admitted Brooklyn’s $98 million point guard Deron Williams just last week. “It’s like a nightmare.”
The nightmare began with rookie head coach Jason Kidd sitting out the Nets’ first two games to serve a suspension for his well-chronicled DUI arrest the summer before last.
And it hasn’t stopped since.
Brooklyn’s high-profile acquisitions — Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko — have alternated between being ineffective on the court or hobbled off it.
All-Star center Brook Lopez is done for the season with a foot injury.
Williams has missed 11 games due to ankle issues.
The Nets consistently get out-played and out-coached following halftime in nearly all of their games, making them the worst third-quarter team in the NBA – by far.
Kidd grew so frustrated with top assistant Lawrence Frank, his head coach during his playing days with the Nets, that he relegated the $1 million a year assistant to scouting-report duty, banning him from the bench and practices.
How about Kidd openly questioning his team’s resolve last week, citing their increasing “comfort” with losing and inability to bounce back when confronted with a deficit.
“The way the injuries have been and the things we talk about every day, the lack of energy, the lack effort. I didn’t see that being a problem when we put this team together,” Williams added.
There are even reports surfacing that Kidd has lost the support of his players in the locker room, something the 40-year-old shrugged off quickly following Friday night’s rare victory over Milwaukee at the Barclays Center.
“I just coach and get my guys ready,” Kidd said. “I can’t answer to what you guys [the media] make up. I’m sorry. I don’t have an answer to that question.”
And despite all this, the Nets are only three games behind first-place Toronto in the Atlantic and four back of Boston for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
After taking on the defending Western Conference champion Spurs on New Year’s Eve, the Nets will have 51 games to decide how they’ll be remembered in 2014.
As the worst team money could buy or the one that fought tooth and nail to make something special out of a seemingly lost season.
“I don’t know when we’re going to figure it out, or how we’re going to figure it out, but we have to,” insisted Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson.
There’s still time to do it. Really, there is.
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