Speaking with season ticket holders on a conference call Thursday, Nets GM Billy King & coach Lionel Hollins admitted that it’s been “a trying year,” but still held out hope for the team’s playoff chances.
“I think it’s been a trying year for you guys and all of us,” King said on a conference call with Brooklyn Chant members. “I thank you for your support, being there for us. It hasn’t been the year we wanted. We’re still in the playoff battle and trying to get there.
“The overall way I look at this is, going forward, we’re going to continue to try and get more athletic.”
King said he believes the team will get a good player in this year’s draft. The Nets and Atlanta Hawks, as part of the deal that brought Joe Johnson to the Nets, will flip first-round picks.
“I think it could turn around really quickly,” King said of the Nets.
“We’re going to explore every option to continue to add some athleticism so we can be a better defensive team, become a more athletic team, so we can get out and run. That’s the plan. We’ll look and explore every option. There will be no stone unturned as we go forward.”
This is a common refrain from the Nets: they always want to get younger and more athletic. It hasn’t changed, if only because the Nets have yet to unload one of their three major contracts: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez. The three alone take up the majority of the team’s salary cap, and only Williams could be considered even an average athlete at his position. They got close to a deal at the deadline which would’ve netted them Reggie Jackson for Lopez, but the Thunder pulled out at the last moment[note]Jackson has struggled with his new team, the Detroit Pistons, for whatever that’s worth.[/note].
The Nets have made minor moves with youth & athleticism in mind. The 38-year-old Kevin Garnett was shipped out at the trade deadline for the 26-year-old Thaddeus Young, though Young is not a high-flying athlete. They bought the rights for Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson in last year’s draft, two athletic players, and replaced Paul Pierce with the 25-year-old Bojan Bogdanovic.
They’ve committed to building through free agency in 2016, when they may only have so many choices in a competitive, high-stakes market. At least by then, Johnson & Lopez will be free agents, and Williams has just one season left on his deal.
But they have one major roadblock to getting younger: draft picks. The team controls the fate of just one of its draft picks until the year 2019 — its second-rounder this year. (Full rundown of Nets draft picks here.)
Hollins also discussed the team’s issues playing at Barclays Center, where they’re 11-19 on the season. He surmised that players played a more “individualistic” style of basketball in front of the home crowd:
“I think with our group, we just tend to be more relaxed, more focused, more together when we’re on the road,” Hollins said. “Even when we lose we’ve played really good ballgames on the road.
“At home we tend to be more individualistic and we try to play to the crowd and we don’t make the same sacrifices as we do on the road. If I had an answer for that I certainly would correct it pronto.”
The Nets are 11-19 at home, and 14-19 on the road. They play ten of their last 15 games at home, but their playoff window is closing fast.