Billy King advised all concerned with the Nets that the team will “take a while” to gel. Consider that a bad sign early in the season.
Consider their performance against the Orlando Magic Sunday night a worse sign.
After beating the Miami Heat Friday night at the Barclays Center, Brooklyn laid an egg on the road in Orlando. Many will chalk up the 107-86 loss to an off night, which is most likely the case. But the Nets receive a lot of credit for a team that hasn’t proven anything on the floor. The Nets do not earn the same leeway afforded to the two-time defending champion Heat upon their assembly in 2010.
The Magic and rookie sensation Victor Oladipo ran circles around the Nets. Even if allowing for an off-shooting night, the Nets don’t maintain a lineup likely to suit up many fresh legs later on in the season. They cannot use that as an excuse Sunday.
For Jason Kidd coaching his first career game, consider the loss a nightmare. The Nets shot poorly (38.2 percent), but their key players’ inability to establish a rhythm has to concern the novice coach more than the numbers.
Joe Johnson, who earns a mean sum larger than LeBron James, managed only two points on one-field goal. Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams fared only slightly better. The Nets will likely point to their win against the Heat and ask for more time just like King already did.
But King’s directive came at a strange time considering the Nets played a grand total of one game. Not to mention bonding time should take place during training camp and the preseason.
King asking for patience sounds eerily similar to Avery Johnson’s plea in December 2012.
“Now is not the time to really analyze what’s happened for us this year, because we haven’t even gotten to the halfway point and we haven’t played a full season with this roster,” Avery Johnson said days before the Nets dismissed him as head coach.
Johnson wanted more time in order to avoid culpability for the Nets’ failings. King better not head down the same path.
King just said on Oct. 2, 2013: “This is the window. This season.”
The onus falls on Jason Kidd to serve as chemistry professor. Kidd is, after all, King’s pet project as coach. King already ousted Johnson, who was his guy and a former NBA coach of the year.
In many ways, Kidd’s successes and failures will reflect directly on the man who hired him.
For Kidd, that means getting more than two points out of a $19 million man and better hustle on the defensive end from Brook Lopez. The latter seems like a broken record going back four years.
King can’t backtrack if the Nets stumble.
Unlike the Heat, this Nets roster will not garner the same kind of patience as LeBron James and company. The main reason: age.
Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry must summon Ponce de Leon if they plan on competing past next season at the very latest. And while Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson are not nearly as old, they certainly post comparable numbers on their respective odometers.
LeBron signed with the Heat at the tender age of 25. Dwyane Wade was 28 and Chris Bosh was 26. Pierce is 36 and Garnett is 37.
Upon acquiring Williams, the perennial All-Star, from the Utah Jazz, the star guard has endured injuries that include but are not limited to: his ankles, wrist, and quad. In fact, Williams said he might need offseason surgery to repair his ankle. That quote came before the start of the 2012-13 season. Twelve months later and he still battles ankle woes.
The list does not end with Williams, though. Joe Johnson battled plantar fasciitis during last year’s playoffs, and this marks his 13th NBA season. He’s not quite a rookie.
And on and on it goes. Kirilenko missed the first game with a back injury and Lopez underwent his third foot surgery this past offseason.
While not popular thinking, the Nets might never display a full lineup at 100 percent. Maybe King managed to construct this team for 30 cents on the dollar because each player came with a warning label.
That’s not to say the gamble wasn’t worth taking. It certainly was.
But the Nets function like a quarterback undergoing an offensive coordinator change every season. King brought in seven new players this season after overhauling last year’s version with 11 fresh bodies.
If the Nets don’t reach their lofty championship aspirations, we’ll know why. Some teams weren’t meant to be constructed like in the video games.
Will this be one of them?