In the end the Nets managed to put up a fight in their final game of the season, but 24 good minutes out of 48 won’t win you many ball games in the playoffs, much less a deciding seventh game against a hobbled, but rugged, Chicago team. Brooklyn lost 99-93, thus ending any dreams of a championship that owner Mikhail Prokhorov had for the foreseeable future.
The Nets last game of 2012-13 summarized their inaugural season so succinctly: inconsistent.
For all the talk about the flawed roster put together by Prokhorov and GM Billy King – good enough to win 49 games in the regular season, up from 22 in their final season in New Jersey – it was their inability to play consistent team basketball for long stretches – be it over the length of a game, or even during a number of games – which cost them a playoff series win against a disciplined Bulls team which never wavered in it’s game-plan, or it’s belief that they would win the series despite coughing up a 3-1 lead.
“I had fun playing with this group of guys,” said Deron Williams when asked what he took away from the season. “I had fun with this group of coaches. We had a lot of ups and down, a lot of turmoil, but we still had fun doing it.
“I think this experience is going to make us tougher as a group – it’s kind of a learning experience for all of us together, being our first season together. It shows we’ve still got a way to go. We showed glimpses that we can be a really good team. We’ve been so inconsistent as a group – and me, individually. “
Williams (24 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists) tried valiantly to will Brooklyn back from a 17 point half-time deficit against Chicago, he got some help from Gerald Wallace (19 points, 5 rebounds) who hit key three-point shots in the third quarter to bring the Nets within 4 points at one stage but the hill was too steep to climb.
The fact remains that there are still deficiencies on the roster that need addressing. Brooklyn’s payroll next season will hover around the $85 million mark, which puts them well over the luxury-tax threshold of $70 million. Not even Mikhail Prokhorov will be willing to absorb that much of a hit.
As has been the case all season, the Brooklyn trio just couldn’t seem to play their best games at the same time, especially in the Bulls series.
Joe Johnson, one of the guards that was supposed to form the “best back-court” in the league when the team was put together finished with 6 points, on 2/14 shooting. Nets coach P.J. Carlisemo pointing to a combination of suffocating Chicago defense on Johnson, along with injury (Johnson has been battling plantar fasciitis) as the reason’s for the poor night.
“He has been playing injured and obviously the shot wasn’t going down, but he has been so clutch for us in the fourth quarter all year, and we wouldn’t be here in Game 7 if it wasn’t for him,” said Carlesimo. “[…] Again, we didn’t lose because of someone not shooting the ball. We lost because [of] the way we didn’t match the energy in the first half, and that was the difference in the game.”
And so the Nets will move forward essentially with the same roster. The top five highest-paid Nets (Johnson, Williams, Wallace, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries) all have nearly untradeable contracts which makes roster changes to their core unlikely. Improvement will have to come from within. Their stars will have to play deserving of their contracts on a much more consistent basis, and the role guys will have to step up as well.
Billy King has some decisions to make this off-season.