Don’t make me regret this

Kevin Garnett
I have faith in you, KG. (AP)

I wanted to start out this post by just saying thanks to everyone for sticking it out with me the last month. We’ve had some fun times, we’ve watched some interesting signings and we’re due for what should be a phenomenal season. It’s August, it’s football training camp season, it’s the week of a professional golf major, and that means there is absolutely no reason to even be remotely excited about the NBA right now. But anyway.

Like I said, we’ve had some fun times. But now it’s time to get real. My substitute editor job is over and it wouldn’t be good, nay, wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t lay it all out the line before I left. Free agency is over, the big trades are done, the schedule is out. What do I think is going to happen to the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets?

Let’s start here. Every offseason is important and each one requires changes to be made, unless you’re the defending champs. We know what happened to the Nets in April, but more importantly, we knew exactly who they were.

They were a below-average defensive team, ranking 17th in defensive rating. They played at the third-slowest pace in the league. To use cliche sports writer terms, they lacked the heart and toughness to win in the playoffs. They were inconsistent and confusing. They had two coaches who looked lost. The team was about BROOKLYN! and not as much about the Nets.

Obviously, a good offseason fixes as many issues as financially possible. The Nets added Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko, two defensive stalwarts at positions that were previously held by the weakest spots for the team on the floor. Improvement, check.

Their pace… well, that probably won’t increase because nothing got younger and faster, but it doesn’t really need to. Quick pace doesn’t necessarily translate into success, as proven by Memphis, who made it to the Western Conference Finals playing at the slowest pace in the league, and by the Milwaukee Bucks, who won 38 games playing at the fastest.

Toughness, heart, and other buzz words of the sort? Well, they added Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, two of the heartiest guys in the league. Garnett, despite being 38 and likely playing at just 20 minutes or so a game, was really the best possible player they could have added this offseason. He makes the team tougher, he’s still an outstanding defender and he fills the PF hole that was held by Kris Humphries (scrub), Reggie Evans (loveable, but scrub) and the occasional Gerald Wallace (scrub). Improvement, check.

Some problems we don’t have answers to yet. Will they be inconsistent and confusing? Will new coach Jason Kidd look lost? Well… that remains to be seen. Without a doubt he has the tools to succeed. Holes were filled and needs were addressed. For certain, though, this team is about the Nets and not about Hello Brooklyn.

With changes like this, barring injury and what would be an annoying surge by the Knicks or Pistons, the Nets are all but a lock to finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference. But that’s a problem. If the Nets finish fourth, they are no better than they did last year, deeming this offseason and season a failure. Third place would be better, but still disappointing. For fans to find success in this team, they will need to be the primary competitors to the Heat at least. I think anything less than a Finals appearance will be unacceptable, as I’m sure most fans agree. I have high hopes for this season. I have very, very high hopes for this season.

I’ve been wanting to make some bold statements for a few weeks, but I’ve been too afraid of coming across as overreacting to the moment. So I let it simmer, and my feelings haven’t changed. And I don’t believe it is just the bias Nets fan in me talking.

1.) I honestly believe that the Miami Heat will not play in the NBA Finals this season. I don’t think they can get to four in a row. I do not disrespect LeBron James, but I question if that team is good enough right now to get to four straight. I honestly believe that the Heat will win the East, only because I can’t disrespect the champs, but they will not go to the NBA Finals.

2.) I honestly believe that the Brooklyn Nets have the best eight-man rotation in the NBA. The problem, of course, is at the #1 spot, but #2-#8 is better than any other team. I know we all know it, but because everything right now is “on paper,” let’s do just that. Williams-Johnson-Pierce-Garnett-Lopez-Kirilenko-Blatche-Terry. That team is deep and has an All-Star at each position. No other team can compare.

3.) I honestly believe that the Pacers, Bulls and Nets have the ability, barring injury, to win 55 games at least. I honestly believe that each one of those teams has the talent to win in the playoffs. I honestly believe that no matter who finishes first, second, third and fourth, they will all be separated, all four, by no more than five games. Right here, right now, I am predicting the Nets will go 58-24

4.) Not sure when this is going to go up, but at some point, ESPN.com will launch their annual summer forecast and here is how I voted. Before you think I contradicted, I made my picks on the word “likely” not “who do you think it will be straight up”:

Most likely Eastern Conference champs: Miami Heat
Second most likely Eastern Conference champs: Brooklyn Nets
Third most likely Eastern Conference champs: Chicago Bulls

Most likely Western Conference champs: Oklahoma City Thunder
Second most likely Western Conference champs: San Antonio Spurs
Third most likely Western Conference champs: Houston Rockets

Most likely NBA champs: Miami Heat
Second most likely NBA champs: Brooklyn Nets
Third most likely NBA champs: Oklahoma City Thunder

Here’s what I’m saying. Bold statement time.

I expect greatness out of this years Nets team. I expect that window of greatness to last one season, depending on the status of Paul Pierce’s contract. I expect this team to succeed despite a rookie head coach and despite age. I expect that this team lives up to the hype of last year’s Lakers, not become them. I expect this team’s loaded starting five and loaded bench to carry them.

I already stated what I think will happen to Miami.

I expect the Brooklyn Nets to make it to the NBA Finals.

And if you asked me who would be my pick, in August, to be in this years championship game, I’m going with Nets-Thunder.

It’s time for me to feel this way. I’ve been a Nets fan my whole life. Even when the team had Jason Kidd and went back-to-back, I never thought they would actually get there. I’ve never in my life looked at my team, in any sport, and thought, This team is my real, unbiased pick to go all the way. I’ve never rooted for a team that I thought was special enough. I’ve never rooted for a team that I thought had what it took. And I’ve never entered a season knowing that I’ll actually be disappointed with anything but. This is that season.

It’s time to be those fans.

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