Next up, a Nets team that’s thinking nothing but title after a big offseason.
[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]
They won 49 games and were a top-four seed in the playoffs, but for some reason, the Nets’ first season in Brooklyn felt like a disappointment.
â€¨After starting the year 11-4, they lost 10 of 13 before (perhaps prematurely) firing head coach Avery Johnson. Under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, the Nets won games, but they never felt like a real threat in the East. They couldn’t keep up with the Knicks in the Atlantic Division, and they never had one of those statement victories that all great teams have.
â€¨In the playoffs, they lost in seven games to an injury-depleted Bulls team, further proving that there was just something missing from the 2012-13 Nets. They knew they had to make changes in the offseason, and that’s exactly what happened. Brooklyn decided not to bring back Carlesimo, hired Jason Kidd as the new head coach, acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in a blockbuster trade, and signed free agent Andrei Kirilenko to one of the league’s best bargain contracts.
â€¨A lot has changed in Brooklyn since last spring, so let’s take a look at five reasons to watch the Nets during the 2013-14 NBA season:
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Can Deron Williams and Joe Johnson Bounce Back?
If there was a single reason the Nets struggled with being consistent last season, it was because Joe Johnson and Deron Williams â€” their two stars â€” each had disappointing years. Johnson scored just over 16 PPG, his lowest average since he was in Phoenix. He also shot just 42 percent, his worst mark since becoming a full-time starter in the NBA. Williams, on the other hand, dished out less than eight APG for the first time since his rookie season in Utah.
â€¨If the Nets want to really compete with the Heat, Pacers and Bulls, both Williams and Johnson need to have bounce back seasons. To me, the real concern lies more so with Johnson and less with D-Will. After the All-Star break last season, Williams was one of the best point guards in the league: in 27 games of regular action, he averaged 23.4 PPG and 8.3 APG while shooting 48 percent from the field. If he can do that for a full year, this season would be the best of his career.
â€¨Unlike Williams, Johnson didn’t have an impressive second half of the season, and his post All-Star weekend numbers were actually far worse than his numbers before the break. Johnson scored just 13.3 PPG in March and just 14.9 per in April, and his performance in the Chicago series wasn’t much better. Despite that, I’m still inclined to believe he will have a much better 2013-14 season, especially with Pierce and Garnett taking some of the scoring pressure away. For a guy who consistently scored 20 points a game in Atlanta, he’s too good not to.
Jason Kidd’s Rookie Coaching Season
At 40 years of age, Jason Kidd is the fourth-youngest (Brad Stevens, Jacque Vaughan and Frank Vogel are all younger) head coach in the NBA and doesn’t have an ounce of experience as a coach. He’s never been an assistant, and just last season he was playing for the Knicks. Sure, he always had one of the top basketball IQ’s in the league, but I’m still skeptical about the hire. At some point, Kidd will make a great head coach, but this season isn’t going to be a walk in the park for him.
â€¨Can he somehow convince Paul Pierce to be O.K. with Joe Johnson being the team’s go-to-guy in last shot situations? Can he successfully manage the minutes of Pierce and Kevin Garnett? Can he keep the always moody Deron Williams happy? Can he really have authority over guys he was playing against just a few months ago?
â€¨We’ll see how it all pans out for Kidd. One thing’s for sure: watching it all unfold will be fun.