Nets say egos ‘are behind us’ in title chase
by Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — An empty lot sits on the back side of Barclays Center, at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Dean Street in Brooklyn. Construction continues around the arena, and while the front and more prominent Atlantic Avenue sides are finished and modernized with retail, night life and more, work remains.
Inside, a near-finished product awaits.
The Brooklyn Nets spent this offseason turning a playoff team into an instant championship contender. Soaring over the luxury-tax threshold, the Nets have the most expensive roster in NBA history, spending more than $100million on salaries. All this for a team that didn’t even lead its own city last season, with the New York Knicks winning five more regular-season games and reaching the second round of the playoffs while the Nets were bounced in the first round.
It’d be easy for the Nets to focus on climbing out of the shadow of Madison Square Garden’s more popular and historic tenants.
“Our owner (Mikhail Prokhorov), he didn’t bring us here to win the city of New York,” veteran forward Reggie Evans says. “He brought us here to win a championship.”
That’s why future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were added in a draft-day trade. That’s why Jason Kidd was hired as head coach 10 days after retiring as a player from the Knicks. That’s why veteran forwards Andrei Kirilenko and Alan Anderson signed for reduced rates, and promising big man Andray Blatche stayed with the team and turned down starting roles elsewhere.
The task is not to be taken lightly. The Nets have the talent and depth to compete with the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. In Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez, they field five recent All-Stars in their starting lineup. Their second string of Shaun Livingston, Jason Terry, Kirilenko, Evans and Blatche is among the best in the NBA.
All those big names, coupled with a 40-year-old rookie coach and a unique ownership situation (Prokhorov is a Russian magnate), could lead to fractured chemistry. The thinking in Brooklyn is those factors will play to the team’s advantage, creating a focused goal and an … [For more on Reloaded Nets say egos 'are behind us' in title chase, click here.]