When the Brooklyn Nets started last season with a record of 10-21, patience was their virtue. This season, the Nets are once again off to a poor 8-11 start. But this time around, it seems that they can’t wait any longer.
Another Blockbuster Trade?
ESPN.com reported that the Nets have started to explore blockbuster trade options that would ship out superstars Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. The sources are saying that the Nets have begun reaching out to other teams to inform them that the three franchise players are “available” via trades and that they are ready to move them in one or separate deals. Although the salary cap is the reported motive, the same sources are saying that the Nets aren’t merely looking for a salary dump. They have retained the “win-now” mandate of the ownership and are trying to get players of equal value to keep their playoffs goal.
It can be recalled that the Nets orchestrated an ambitious upgrade last season when they traded for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to embark on a $190M dollar championship run. That drive went off to a bad start but as first year Head Coach Jason Kidd began ironing out the kinks, the Nets finished that season 44-38 and went all the way to the second round of the playoffs where they were bumped off by the eventual Eastern Conference champions Miami Heat. But only an aging Kevin Garnett remains of that trio, and he is left to battle it out with a come-backing Brook Lopez and an inconsistent Deron Williams.
The Nets have built their franchise around Williams whom they acquired from the Utah Jazz in 2011. But D-Will hasn’t been close to All-star form in the last two seasons after his battles with ankle injuries. Then just as the Nets signed the sweet shooting Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, Brook Lopez started to get hit with foot injuries. So instead of having a solid Big Three, the Nets have played with an unstable core since moving to Brooklyn.
Williams still has two years worth $43.3M left in his contract, while Lopez has one more remaining year worth $16.7M. On the other hand, Johnson is owed $24.9M in 2015-16. This trio is the NBA’s highest paid trio this season, with a total combined salary of $58.7M. And while the Nets have shed half of their $190M 2013-14 payroll, they are still way above the cap this season at $94M.
Aside from their battle with injuries, Brooklyn doesn’t have any continuity as Williams, Johnson and Lopez have been dealing with the frequent coaching changes. Current head coach Lionel Hollins is the team’s fourth coach since 2012-13 so aside from the instability of their core, the team has had to adjust to their coaches’ different systems. As for Joe Johnson, he has been physically healthy and productive on the court but he voiced out his frustrations this season by calling out his teammates whom he called “selfish”. And with a good locker room guy like Paul Pierce gone, turmoil is said to be brewing in the Nets’ dugout.
The Nets showed flashes of brilliance when they defeated the defending NBA champions San Antonio Spurs last week 95-93 in overtime, but the team has not lived up to their expectations. GM Billy King has said that there is “nothing imminent” about trading his stars, but he admitted to “talking to people on the phone”.
Time is definitely running out for Mikhail Prokhorov’s five year promise to turn the Nets into a champion team. Last year, Prokhorov backtracked on his statement to take a bride if the Nets don’t win a title in five years. He may have to take back his title promise too. The Nets may have a much better record than their cross town rivals Knicks who are miserable under Phil Jackson, but they aren’t good enough to win the title soon, not with their existing line-up.