The worst part about Candy Land was when the card you pulled landed you on one of those black sticky spots. You were stuck until you drew the color you landed on. Sometimes, it seemed like forever until you finally pried that fateful card from the deck and were able to move forward.
Mikhail Prokhorov strikes me as more of a Monopoly man, which could explain why the Nets are stuck and going nowhere fast. The Nets are on a six-game losing streak that includes three blown double digit leads at home. Unfortunately for the NBA, the Nets would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The Nets are in a liminal space: a team bad enough to frustrate fans but not quite horrendous enough for a top-10 draft pick. The good news is with an overpaid, underwhelming and often-injured star, minimal young talent and just an overall lack of excitement, the Nets don’t make to be stuck much longer than this six-game stretch. That is if they don’t make the trades that are being thrown around the NBA rumor mill.
Don’t let eighth seed in the East fool you. The Nets are six games below .500 and in the midst of a skid which includes losses at home to Boston and Philadelphia, cellar dwellers of the conference. If a team that goes on stretches like that can make the playoffs, it’s because of how bad the conference is — not how good the team. Getting to the first round of the post season and losing in four or five games doesn’t do Brooklyn any good. It’d be better to for the Nets to be a losing team and start the rebuilding process. But that process has to start with some potentially difficult moves.
If the rumors are true, the Nets seem ready to move in a new direction by trying to dump big men Brook Lopez and Deron Williams and maybe even Joe Johnson. Lopez, who’s been disappointing to Nets fans, has had several bad foot injuries and is widely considered to be soft. But he does have something to offer when he’s healthy. A 7-footer that can stretch the floor and has some scoring ability could prove useful for many teams, Lopez would be better suited as a role player than a main cog. The problem is Lopez doesn’t get paid like a role player. The Nets aren’t looking to take on anymore long-term deals, and Lopez is due a whopping 16.7 million next year. It’ll be difficult to find a team willing to take that on, especially if they don’t think of him as a starter.
Of course that’s pocket change compared to the 63.1 million Brooklyn owes Deron Williams through the 2016-17 season. To say Deron Williams has been a colossal disappointment would be an understatement. When you see Williams in the lineup these days, which isn’t often given his history of nagging injuries, it’s like watching an Adam Sandler movie trailer. You know what to expect of the film, and you know you’ll likely end up disappointed. The most disheartening aspect of all is knowing what he used to be and wondering where it all went south. Even if someone is willing to take on Williams, in what capacity? Coming off the bench? If so, would Williams be willing to do that? Although it’s hard to believe he would, that’s quite a bit of money for a team to shell out if he isn’t going to start. Is restructuring Williams’ deal an option? The list of questions just keeps getting longer.
Almost as sad as Williams’ situation is Joe Johnsons’. Although he has been fulfilling his role, averaging 16 points, four boards and three dimes during his three years in Brooklyn, he will likely go as well. Johnson is a player with a hefty deal as well, but the difference is he has lots of trade value around the league.
Looking at the Nets’ current roster, what it comes down to is how much they’re willing to lose. Brooklyn will likely be able to hang on to its low playoff seed in the East, but are they willing to wipe the slate clean and rid themselves of the entire core of Williams, Lopez and Johnson? This would likely mean struggling mightily at first potentially hitting rock bottom in the conference in order to rebuild and start stacking the team with young talent. Outside of Mason Plumlee, who’s having a very solid sophomore campaign averaging around 10 points and seven rebounds per game, the Nets don’t have much youth. Not to mention the little they have isn’t getting much experience. We’ve seen big man Cory Jefferson and Oklahoma State product Markel Brown sparingly, and while Bojan Bogdanovic has shown flashes during his consistent playing time, it’s uncertain where he fits in a long term plan for Brooklyn.
Although it may be hard to swallow, the Nets have to go with the philosophy that it’ll get worse before it gets better. It’s time to start over. There hasn’t been much reason for excitement on this team besides Plumlee, and he still has to prove he can get the job done in the long run. Ridding itself of the big three — if you can call them that — with Garnett retiring in the near future is the best case scenario. Sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward. If GM Billy King really thinks he can move forward with this group, they Nets will be stuck for many more turns to come.
Follow David on Twitter @Dshug24