Why can’t the Nets win the East?
No, really, I’m asking. Someone give me a reason. Someone tell me why this team is going to lose their edge in May when they’re 33-13 in 2014. That’s better than Indiana (28-20). That’s better than Miami (27-17).
Explain to me what’s wrong with a defense that has completely retooled itself around bizarre lineup combinations and length. The Nets generate 15.1 turnovers per game defensively. That’s sixth in the league. They have plenty of options defensively with Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee, Andrei Kirilenko, and the world’s longest point guard (Shaun Livingston, with an estimated wingspan of 71 feet) on their side. Jason Kidd is just now learning how to use them.
You don’t think a rookie coach like Kidd can win a championship, do you? That’s fine, it’s admittedly a pretty rare phenomenon. But both Paul Westhead (1980) and Pat Riley (1982) did it with the Lakers. Edward Gottlieb, Buddy Jeanette, John Kundla, and George Senesky also won titles in their first years, even though they were admittedly in 1947, ’48, ’49, and ‘56, respectively.
Phil Jackson won in his second year (1991), just like Rudy Tomjanovich (1994). There is absolutely a precedent for coaches winning early in their careers, but what if you think Kidd is too young? Riley was 37 when he won his first title. Kidd is 41.
You’re worried about a team winning a championship without a true go-to guy in crunch time, aren’t you? It has absolutely been done. Just look at the ’04 Pistons and ’79 Sonics. Besides, both Deron Williams (50%) and Paul Pierce (47.9%) have been excellent in crunch time. It doesn’t hurt to have seasoned late-game scorers Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett waiting in the wings, either. There’s no shortage of late-game scoring options in Brooklyn.
Tell me what this is team is missing. They have a menagerie of shooters between Pierce, Johnson, Williams, Marcus Thornton, and even Alan Anderson if you leave him open enough. Their offense, slow and methodical, passes very well for a team that relies so heavily on individual creativity. Once Kevin Garnett starts playing playoff minutes, they’ll have no trouble rebounding. We already know they can play defense. They have about as much experience, championship or otherwise, as any team in the league.
Tell me why the Heat are going to beat the Nets when Brooklyn has seemingly cracked the Miami code. The Nets have swept the Heat this year, taking LeBron’s best shot with the game on the line each time.
Explain to me why Chris Bosh is going to escape Kevin Garnett’s house of horrors in the playoffs, where we’ve seen him disappear time and time again. It’s not a coincidence that Bosh’s one good game against the Nets this year (24 points on March 13) came with KG on the bench. Tell me why Dwyane Wade is suddenly going to turn back into a star in the playoffs when he put up only 16/5/5 on 46% shooting last year.
Tell me why the Nets aren’t about to get significantly better. Unlike Wade, Brooklyn’s older stars haven’t seen significant drop offs come playoff time. In fact, you can expect Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to do a whole lot more in a few weeks. KG is only playing 21 minutes per game, while Pierce is down to a career-low 28. Both jumped above 35 in the playoffs last year, with Pierce playing a ridiculous 42. Neither is going to touch those numbers this year, but both are just about ready to kick into high gear.
Watch out, because when that happens, the Nets could be as good as anyone.
The Nets have as much experience, championship or otherwise, as any team in the league.
Now, tell me how the Pacers plan to contend with Brooklyn in their current state. Tell me how Toronto is going to beat them with Shaun Livingston draped all over Kyle Lowry. Tell me how Chicago plans to attack Brooklyn’s defensive length without a single above-average perimeter scorer. Tell me how Washington, a team built around two guards with no playoff experience, can win a playoff series against a team with hundreds of playoff games under their belt in the rotation alone.
Just tell me what’s going to change between now and when Miami plays Brooklyn in May.
I suspect you don’t have good answers to many of my questions. That’s because, in most cases, a good answer doesn’t exist. These aren’t the same Nets we saw lose to Chicago in the playoffs last year. These aren’t the same Nets we laughed at early in the season. Hell, they aren’t even the same Nets we just saw win in Miami.
They are a legitimate contender, one that’s primed to get a lot better in the coming weeks. Don’t sleep on the Nets, because in a few months, you might wake up to find New York’s best team playing in the NBA Finals.