By Jim Weber
“Ball so hard, this sh** crazy.
Y’all don’t know that don’t sh** phase me.
The Nets could go 0-82 and I look at you like this sh** gravy.”
And sadly, we might just find out if it’s true if the worst-case scenario plays out for the newly branded Brooklyn Nets in the next week.
Who is to blame? General manager Billy King and, ultimately, Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who clearly knows plenty about making billions but nothing about running a pro sports franchise.
King has consistently tried to take short cuts in turning the Nets into a contender since the big Russian bought the team in 2010 and King was named the team’s GM several months later. Instead of properly rebuilding like the Oklahoma City Thunder did under Sam Presti, the Nets could become a sadder version – if that’s possible – of the New York Knicks.
It started when the team traded for Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams in February of 2011 by shipping out young talent in Derrick Favors and Devin Harris – both key cogs on the Jazz’s playoff team this past season – as well as two first-round picks (No. 3 overall last year, which became Enes Kanter, and another first-rounder to be determined) for an All-Star with no support around him.
Unsurprisingly, the Nets have still been horrible since Williams’ arrival.
For the last year, the Nets have put the entire hopes of their franchise on the broad shoulders of Dwight Howard. As soon as he opted in to his final year of his current contract in March with the Orlando Magic, King hit the panic button and sent this year’s first-round pick (eventually No. 6 overall, which could have landed a player like Syracuse SG Dion Waiters or possibly even Kentucky SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) for the rights to Portland swingman Gerald Wallace, apparently in an attempt to re-sign Williams with a “win now” philosophy.
Wallace was abysmal in 16 games for the Nets at the end of the season, shooting 41.6% from the field as the team limped down the stretch. Oh, and the injury-prone Wallace naturally missed five of the team’s last eight games. Even more comical? Now he has opted out of his contract, meaning the Nets might have traded away the rights to a potential future team cornerstone for 16 meaningless games from Wallace.
And now with Howard squarely back on the trading block, the Nets are trying to cobble together enough pieces to trade for Superman once more. The problem? They’ve already given away all of their assets.
The Nets don’t have a selection in this year’s draft until pick No. 57 (naturally, they also traded away their second-round pick), no longer have the Golden State Warriors’ future first-round draft pick and little young talent to offer the Magic. The only tradeable piece the Nets have left is Brook Lopez, who is an injury-prone homeless man’s Dwight Howard.
Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets have three of the first 18 picks and lots more talent to offer the Magic. And now there are rumors they aren’t just targeting a trade for Howard, but also clearly enough cap space to snag Williams as well.
And whiffing on Howard and Williams is a doomsday scenario for the Nets.
Deron Williams has made it clear he wants to play for a winner and it would seem awfully foolish for him to stay with a dead-end franchise instead of move home to Dallas and play alongside Dirk Nowitzki or team up with Superman in Houston.
That will give Brooklyn plenty of money to re-sign Kris Humphries – better known as Kim Kardashian’s ex – as Prokhorov’s billions can be spent on lesser free agents like Goran Dragic, but that’s about it.
Because of King (pictured), the Nets could end up without Howard, Williams and Wallace next week while also watching young talent like Favors, Harris, Kanter and Kidd-Gilchrist on other rosters while the Nets are stuck with Humphries, Lopez and a bunch of nobodies that will be comparable to the 12-70 crew from three seasons ago.
And that’s just sad for a franchise that’s built up so much buzz about its move to Brooklyn (working a stone’s throw away from the Barclays Center, I can attest that the excitement here is really palpable) and a homecoming for the Jigga Man.
But hey, at least it would make for a great Jay-Z remix: “99 Problems (And The Nets Are All of Them).”
[Note: Video is NSFW]
Jim Weber is the founder of LostLettermen.com. His column appears Mondays and Wednesdays.