There was no blather from the Nets about being a championship team. There was no nonsensical talk about the Nets taking over New York. The Nets ended the practice of trashing the Knicks.
That’s what four disappointing years can do to this Brooklyn franchise. That’s what harsh reality does to the Nets.
In the franchise’s fifth year in Brooklyn, the Nets are starting over. That means starting from the ground up. That’s where the franchise is.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov tried to buy a championship in his first few years as the owner of the team by acquiring mercenaries such as Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. It did not work. All three of them were not happy as Nets, and the best the team could do with them was going to the Eastern Conference semifinals two years ago.
Prokhorov learned his first lesson as an NBA owner. In the NBA, no team can buy a championship. Winning comes from drafting and developing players. That’s the route the Nets have to take moving forward.
That’s the task Nets general manager Sean Marks and first-year Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson have at their job right now. This team is in rebuilding mode.
The task for Marks and Atkinson is hard since the Nets won’t have first-round picks for several years thanks to a misguided trade of trading it for Pierce and Garnett.
This is where both will earn their money. Marks need to get it right in drafting second-round picks, and Atkinson has to develop them into good players.
Marks comes from an organization that knows how to draft well and find unheralded players in the Spurs. He knows a thing about developing players since he worked as a developmental coach with the Spurs.
Atkinson’s strength is developing players. He did a great job developing players such as Jeremy Lin, Kent Bazemore, Jeff Teague and DeMarre Carroll when he was an assistant coach. The Nets are banking on him to do same thing with players such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Trevor Booker, Sean Kilpatrick, Greivis Vasquez, Anthony Bennett and Isaiah Whitehead as their head coach.
If these players can develop into productive players, the Nets may have something going. That’s the route they have to take.
For Atkinson and Marks, it’s not a problem. They know they can do it or else they would not have taken the job.
The Nets will be interesting to watch. No one could have said that few years ago when they played in Brooklyn. Maybe that’s the way to get causal fans interested.
The Nets have been just that in the first two games of their regular season. They had a rally late in the fourth quarter that fell short in their season opener against the Celtics last night, and they went on a 29-13 run in the fourth quarter to beat the Pacers 103-94 in their home opener last night after falling behind 81-74.
The Nets used defense to rally in both games. It’s what they need to do to be in games and stealing games. It’s something they haven’t done in a long time.
Playing defense would be an improvement for this franchise. It’s an identity Marks and Atkinson want to bring to that team. They know defense wins games and championships.
The Nets need to get results out of Whitehead, Kilpatrick and Hollis-Jefferson for them to show growth heading to future years. If they can do that, they have something going for them.
It’s nice Lin and Brook Lopez will perform, but the bigger picture for this franchise is seeing their young players turn out to be stars. That has to be the goal for this franchise until they get their draft picks back in a few years.
It has to hurt for a proud owner like Prokhorov to start over again. This is not what he envisioned when he brought the Nets en route to Brooklyn few years ago.
It’s a lesson he likely learned. He gets it now.
The Nets are not going to win fans right away. They are not going to draw big crowds. They won’t get the attention as they are the most irrelevant team in this competitive sports market.
What the Nets can do is be respectable and watchable.
That would be an improvement.