Nets’ long list of questions starts with Pierce and Garnett … and Lopez … and …

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The most expensive roster in NBA history faces questions this summer. And it doesn’t have the flexibility to find all the answers.

The Brooklyn Nets have hit the offseason with a five-game conference semifinals defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat. Their $102 million dollar payroll and $90 million luxury tax bill got them just five playoff victories.

In a press release on Thursday, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov called it a “crazy season.” Every team has its ups and downs, but Brooklyn’s were rather unique.

On Jan. 1, the Nets were 10-21 and had lost their best player, Brook Lopez, for the season. Then they went 34-17 over the final three and a half months, thriving with a smaller and more skilled lineup. They beat the Heat four times over the course of the season, had fourth-quarter leads in three of the five playoff games, and were within two points in a fourth. With Joe Johnson carrying the load, their offense became pretty potent in the postseason.

If the Nets were a young team, they’d have something strong to build on. But only three players from their 11-man rotation will be under the age of 29 when next season begins, and one of those could choose to sign elsewhere this summer. Andray Blatche said Thursday that he will decline his $1.4 million player option for next season.

The Nets’ most important free agent is Paul Pierce, who will turn 37 in October. He wants to keep playing, but gave no indication of where he might want to be next fall.

“When I get a chance to sit back, really put my thinking hat on, I’ll figure out what’s next,” Pierce said after Game 5 on Wednesday. “I think I still have something in the tank I can give a team. So maybe one or two [years] at the most, and see where I’m at.”

Kevin Garnett has some thinking to do as well. As part of the trade that brought him from Boston, the Nets guaranteed Garnett the $12 million on his contract next season. But he averaged just 20 minutes per game, was an offensive liability, and missed all of March with back issues.

Garnett turns 38 years old on Monday, ranks fifth all-time in minutes played, and just finished his 19th season. That’s exactly how many seasons Nets coach Jason Kidd had played when he decided to retire and walk away from $6 million a year ago.

Garnett would be giving up twice that amount and can still make an impact on defense. But he’s a prideful dude and may not want to see his skills diminish any further.

“He’s done it for a long time at a very high level,” Kidd said Thursday. “The biggest thing and concerns that I’ve talked to him about is you don’t want to leave with someone carrying you off the court.”

Garnett didn’t speak to the media after Game 5 or at the Nets’ practice facility on Thursday. Nets GM Billy King said that he spoke with Garnett on the plane ride home from Miami.

“Get away, spend some time and talk with your family then we’ll talk again,” King told Garnett. “There’s no need for an answer now.”

The Nets could lose three starters this summer, because Shaun Livingston is also a free agent. After a breakout season, he’ll be coveted by several teams, and the Nets can only pay him with the tax payer’s mid-level exception (a three-year contract starting at $3.3 million per year).

The Nets could have Lopez back at full strength, and they could not. He’s had three surgeries on his right foot in the last three years and an additional repair on his left ankle in March. His team, meanwhile, changed their style and played their best without him.

But Kidd and King have little choice but to bank on Johnson, Lopez and Deron Williams, who are owed a total of $121 million over the next two seasons.

King has little flexibility in improving the roster beyond his high-priced stars. He doesn’t have any draft picks (to use or to trade) and nothing beyond that tax-payer’s mid-level exception to offer free agents (including Croatian guard Bojan Bogdanovic, whose draft rights they own), though Pierce can be brought back (and handsomely compensated) via Bird rights.

What King has to hope for is a better and healthier Williams (who may undergo surgery on one or both ankles this summer), a healthy Lopez, and a Johnson that plays more consistently like he played in the postseason. The chances of all three of those situations going their way seem slim.

Maybe the most solid thing the Nets can build on is Kidd’s development as a coach. He’s got a great feel for the game and, after those early-season struggles, found an identity for his team. He managed a deep rotation about as well as you could this season. And with the respect of players around the league, the Nets will find free agents who want to play for him. If Livingston stays, loyalty to Kidd may be the biggest reason.

It’s not like the Eastern Conference is passing the Nets by. If they bring most of their veterans back and avoid the slow start in their second year together, they can be right back among the best teams in the conference. Every other East playoff team has its own questions to answer this summer.

“Our goal is to try to bring as much as the core back,” King said, “add to the core and go at it again.”

31 Comments

  1. Blog-So-Hard-2014 says:

    Garnett didn’t show up in game 5.. Period!!

  2. dmh says:

    D-Will is starting in on that chronic injury train. If he is not careful, he could become a short Penny Hardaway…… great pg back in the day…. injury prone and overrated after the big contract was signed due to the injury mainly…… always gonna wonder what could have been. Lopez is tall but, overrated due to the chronic injury bug. A guy like that will always have a place in the league, just not as a max player. If anything, the nets did the bobcats/hornets a huge favor when they matched that contract. KG I think still has some juice. He did get 12 boards that one game with I think it was 13 points. He is old though and should not be counted on for anything but role player minutes and role. He would be good in the west backing up guys like Tim Duncan or Serge Ibaka for 10-15 minutes max. Pierce has more in the tank than KG. There again age and milage have Pierce as a role player but a pretty good role player at that. Pierce could go to a place like Houston and shoot 3s or even Toronto and help those young guns get over that hump maturity-wise on the court. Collins is what he is. He is a center who is on the last stages of a decent career that is useful as a defender and for 6 fouls. Since Miami does not really play with a center, Collins had no use in that last series. Against Indiana that would have been a different story but, the seeding did not work out that way. (Bosh is not a center he just plays it based on need, Birdman is not a signficant enough piece to waste 6 fouls on as a F/C and Oden barely plays) Blatche is a keeper but, only at the right price. Same goes with Shawn Livingston. Other than that the nets need to get younger and hope that the Dwill surgery will bring the Utah Dwill back to life for the nets. Hopefully given the fact that anything resembling a draft pick is in Celtiic or Hawk hands, the Nets can bring over Euro-stash or make a shrewd trade or both. Otherwise it is going to be a slow painful decline for the Nets and the Russian will have no chance at his “guarantee.”

  3. sully says:

    Coaching Errs in crunch time cost the Nets last 2 playoff loses against Heat. In the final seconds J Kidd made the inbounds call but bad spacing, going to J Johnson against LeBron were both bad decisions. Nets had 4 better matchup options against the heat in final seconds of these 2 games but were not used. Nothing against J Johnson, hes a great scorer but everyone in the house knew that play and certainly Lebron & co were all over him resulting in poor shot selection and turnovers. A lost opportunity for the Nets.

  4. YoYo says:

    D-Will think he is so good but he is not…He was good because of coach Sloan system and Coach Sloan mentoring him and show him how to play because without Sloan he jsut an average player that everyone see since he left Utah…He learn most of his basketball skill from Sloan and he talk trash and got his mentor to quit/retire to feed his ego……Karma D-will (average player)

  5. JM says:

    Kidd had his struggles but he finished strong in the latter parts of the season… Job well done although the expectations for this team was way too high and the money spent was way too much.. KG and Truth are future HOF’s but they are old already. Lopez has paper legs and D-Will is fragile too.

  6. ,jsdnckjasd says:

    I don’t care if Kidd’s one of the greatest PG to play the game but Hiring a freshly retired player to coach a supposedly championship calibre team is just stupid. For God’s sake PP and KG are like just 4 years younger than him!

  7. jazz barner says:

    who cares about the heat…. lebron is a coward and wade is a punk. at least kg and paul are not traders like allen… they would never join miami bet that….

  8. luis says:

    kid bajo la altura en los 2 ultimos partidos en la segunda mitad ,mucho daño le hizo blatche y teletovic junto con kirilenco juntos los 3 en el 4tiempo en el partido que ganaron;no jugo con las estadisticas y dirigio con el corazon .ahi tiene los resultados,eso no le pasa a popovich: pretendio desquitarse con la misma formula cuando el boston y esto le nublo la razon

  9. Not a heat fan says:

    Says the okc fan with Perk in their lineup#waste. 4-1 SAS

  10. vinnie b says:

    I agree 100 percent with STEAGL3-the forward the nets need is Carmelo Anthony ! he’ll take less money with chance to play with championship hopefuls or playoff bid. Jason Kidd did a good job compared to all the other experienced coaches. Finally, the HEAT gets away with a lot ! They are talented, lucky and dirty! how could they loose!

  11. Bu says:

    I’m quite baffled by some comments that they still think this group can win championship. At the start of season, it’s clear that they are weak in defense, and not to mention how they’d mesh on offense. D Will, Johnson both needs a lot of touches of the ball to be effective and they’re not known for their defense. KG has been playing well in a system where Kidd’s Off & Def does not give. No wonder he’s playing less minutes and less of def anchor. V unlikely Kidd can provide a system with this group vs the group in Boston during Big 3+1 era. AK47 seemed only 60% of his previous self. Lopez now becoming like T Mac, no injury no fun.

    As author pointed out, they hv v little manueverability with salary and trades. So the key issue now is how Kidd can develop a system that can utilize everyone’s strengths, while creating stingy team defensive system to stop the younger athletic players, and Miami’s Big 3.

    Lastly, I really don’t know why people place so much emphasis on regular season match up records. Playoff is completely diff and the real good teams have the toughest mindset and flexible enough to adjust, while playing great D. You don’t see this in regular season but only in playoffs.

  12. The Nets is bums . They only had 3 winning months all season long and you want to put that same product on the floor next season? Good Luck

  13. Drago says:

    To me the Nets are heading to where the Lakers are right now.To win a championship or even be a contender you need young blood and loots of it.This year was a success for them and they should be happy to repeat that next year.Championships are a pipe dream lets be real.

  14. thespectator says:

    they may have beat miami if brook was still healthy…but we will never know cuz next year you can beat miami will be retooling their lineup

  15. Blog-So-Hard-2014 says:

    HAHAHAHAHA Jay-Z got 100 problems AHAHAHAHHAHAH!!!!!!

  16. ko0kiE says:

    they got a bunch of overpaid underachieving players in johnson (although he almost lived up to his contract this year), williams, pierce, garnett (yeah, he’s KG but is he still 12 mio. $ worth at this stage) not to mention lopez who’s almost always injured.
    I feel sorry for the other good role players with their “laughable” (compared to those “star” players) salary… like livingston, anderson, kirilenko.

    and btw. I’m disappointed.. i was really looking forward to see Jason Collins play.. even if it was just for some seconds.

  17. steagl3 says:

    Miami didn’t win it all their first year together – though they were still considerably more successful than Brooklyn. Still, I think this Brooklyn team is pretty special when firing on all cylinders. They have so many threats and present defensive mismatches to every team in the NBA. I think the first order of business is to do whatever it takes to keep Shaun Livingston. He has reestablished himself as a solid all-around player and could potentially be a star if he improves his shooting. Obviously Iso Joe isn’t going anywhere, he’s the anchor of this team and has a ton left on his contract. KG should probably consider retiring. If Brook Lopez really is another Greg Oden, then it’s time for Brooklyn to rally around Mason Plumlee as their starting center. He’s young, fast, explosive and proved this season that he can hold his own in this league. As for my man Paul Pierce… well, he is going to help any team he’s on, period. As a lifelong Celtics fan I hope Danny Ainge resigns him for his last year(s) but it’s unlikely to be next year, so soon after they let him go. So it seems to me that Brooklyn is his next best option for the 2015 season. And I would definitely keep Mirza Teletovic who reminded us he’s not just a 3 point shooter, he can rebound and play defense too. Finally, D-Will started to return to his all-star level in the postseason, so we can hope that will continue into next regular season. I wouldn’t trade him unless he regresses again. Not really sold on Andrei Kirilenko or Alan Anderson, I think they are expendable, and if Blatche leaves that would be a bummer, but there are better backup centers out there.

    The real need in my opinion is a strong and dependable power forward that can alleviate the load from Pierce. Teletovic is not a starter in my opinion, and not a great matchup against guys like LaMarcus Aldrdige or Kevin Love. They need someone bulky that can bang around inside.

  18. Gabriel says:

    I read somewhere that Deron Williams could possibly be traded. Ultimately, this team will go as far as he takes them which seems not far at all. There was a time where he was considered Chris Paul’s rival, have those days gone? He is my favorite point guard in the league and has yet to play like the guy he was in Utah. This series against the Heat should have still been going, he did not take advantage of the fact the Heat had nobody to guard him.

  19. celentano says:

    let them fish at yersey shore,lol.

  20. jean W says:

    This team can really do something special in the NBA if they do what they supposed to do .

  21. fanofthegame says:

    Nets have a lot to be proud of…the Heat didnt win their first season together. If management is as smart as they’ve been, they’ll bring the entire current roster back. For the guys to turn the season around the way they did, they deserve another go at it. Go Nets

    • YoYo says:

      What? Didnt win their first season? They made it to the final and barely lost in the finals!!!

  22. jdub455 says:

    KG shld retire or join the Heat as an off the bench player and a less than 5M player… Pierce can join the clippers as an off the bench and a less than 5M player… Brook Lopez must stay with the Nets… A Deron Williams trade / buyout shld be considered… Gone is that player who deserves every bit of the multimillion contract he has..

    • tgl says:

      id like to know who the clippers have at the 3 that pierce would ride the bench even at 37 cause granger couldnt hold pierces jock strap lol and garnett will retire and would never sell out and play with the heat cause he wants to beat the best not become one of there pets lmao

  23. okc2014 says:

    I know it’s not nice to say, but coach Kidd either is coaching an old foagie, a wannabe, or just a plain ole bum. Get rid of Joe Johnson. That should be the first order of business. Then kick Derron to the curb.

    • Some Guy says:

      dude have u been watching the playoffs? johnson is the only one playing well.. without him they would have lost in the first round

    • 36yrfan says:

      exactly….JJ is their Only consistent producer and DW…..well…..He Will Never live up to the media hype they shoved down our throat since he had a couple good years in Utah…..then made a stink about the Coach and got him to retire and went to the nets instead of Dallas……and then made another stink about his next coach and got him ‘fired’ and now they have a point guard as their coach and he STILL can’t improve…….alot of minor injuries and a bad mindset ……. his play has had the MOST to do with their demise……