Nets’ ‘blueprint’ gets another re-draft
Prokhorov’s Penchant for Change Emerging as Franchise’s True Identity
Second-year Brooklyn Nets head coach was a title Lionel Hollins held for 37 excruciating games.
Judging from the Nets’ tumultuous history since relocating from New Jersey to our fair borough, that might become the gold standard for coaching longevity on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush avenues.
With the latest redraft of his original “Blueprint for Greatness,” billionaire Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov claims he will take a more patient route toward the franchise’s first-ever NBA title, a far cry from the five-years-to-a-championship mandate he laid down when he first took over.
“You know, our approach helped us to reach three playoffs in a row, but we have failed to go further,” Prokhorov ceded during his face-to-face with the media Monday to discuss the firing of Hollins and the “reassignment” of general manager Billy King at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“That’s why we need a small reset for this year, and I hope we’ll be back not as a playoff team [but] as a championship contender. This is my only goal,” the former Russian presidential candidate added.
This latest “small reset” is the fourth of its kind since the Nets began calling Brooklyn home on Prokhorov’s long-distance watch.
The rarely seen owner fired Avery Johnson during the second month of the team’s tenure here, just shy of one month after Johnson had been honored as the league’s Coach of the Month.
Interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, a title now held by career assistant Tony Brown, took over and guided the Nets to a 34-19 record before a first-round Game 7 flop at home against the Chicago Bulls sent him spiraling back to the broadcast booth at Prokhorov’s behest.
Jason Kidd, arguably the franchise’s greatest player and the leader of the Nets’ back-to-back NBA Finals teams in 2002-03, acquitted himself very well in his first, and only, year at the helm.
The Nets, briefly buoyed by King’s now-infamous deal to acquire Boston icons Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, rallied from a slow start to finish 44-38.
And they actually won their first playoff series since arriving in Brooklyn, topping Toronto in seven tough games before falling to eventual Eastern Conference champion Miami in the second round.
But Kidd forced Prokhorov’s hand with his well-chronicled attempt to take over personnel duties from King, resulting in yet another coaching change and the installation of Hollins as Brooklyn’s leader for the long haul via a four-year pact.
One-and-a-half seasons and another first-round playoff ousting later, Hollins was handed his pink slip by Prokhorov.
King finally got the hook as well, leaving assistant GM Frank Zanin to guide this rudderless ship over the final 45 games of the season, the first of which Prokhorov took in as the Nets were soundly beaten by the San Antonio Spurs Monday night in front of 15,214 fans for their 10th consecutive home defeat.
“San Antonio is the gold standard for the NBA,” Brown noted following the 106-79 drubbing, absorbing the first of a steady stream of losses that will appear on his coaching resume until Prokhorov and Zanin figure out exactly whom the sixth head coach of the Brooklyn era will be.
“I can share with you what my strategy is: I want us to have a much firmer blueprint of what kind of players we are looking for, and why,” Prokhorov said. “I line with strategic balance, developed with a new coach and with a new GM. So I think we need to have a sense of identity and style of play.”
Brook Lopez, the longest-tenured Net and an optimistic sort by nature, didn’t hide his feelings on what a wild ride it’s been since Brooklyn tipped off its first-ever game here back on Nov. 3, 2012.
“I’m in the dark,” the 7-foot Stanford alum said. “I don’t know how to cover it up or put it any other way.”
That darkness figures to loom over the grass-covered roof of Barclays Center until Prokhorov finds a head coach/GM combination that can lead this long-suffering franchise back into the light.
That will likely take a great deal of patience, perseverance and humility, three qualities the owner has been short on since announcing his plans to take over the Big Apple with his alleged “Blueprint for Greatness”.
“Our culture needs to change,” Prokhorov admitted in an open letter to Nets fans following the organizational shake up.
And yet the Nets’ only cultural identity here in Brooklyn the past three and a half seasons has been change itself.
Best of luck to full-time GM No. 2 and head coach No. 6, whomever they turn out to be.
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