The Nets Are Still A Huge Mess


Let’s start here: as general manager, Billy King made a series of franchise-crippling moves that, barring stupid and unexpected good fortune in free agency, will hold the Brooklyn Nets back from contention through this decade. As head coach, Lionel Hollins all but admitted he’d given up on trying to improve the wasteland roster that had been handed to him, and ran an offense that relied nearly exclusively on low-percentage shots.

King will be “reassigned” within the organization, presumably to the same dark room with a rusty typewriter where Lawrence Frank cranked out his daily reports. He’s not listed on the front office directory. Hollins is out; it’s likely his good friend and top assistant Paul Westphal will join him. (The fact that Westphal, a highly respected former head coach, was not given the interim job speaks volumes.) Update: He did.

Oh, there will be cheers. The fanbase has wished for King’s dismissal for years now, Hollins for months, if only because Hollins hasn’t been there as long. Neither earned their keep for the job they did, and I’d bet my apartment that neither will hold the title of “general manager” or “NBA head coach” again.

But the most damning part of all of this: by this point, it doesn’t really matter.

The damage is done. You can’t hire your 2016 and 2018 first-round picks to replace King and Hollins. The Nets will get two new captains to sit at the wheel of this sinking ship. In the immortal words of a famous New Jersey Net, whoop-de-damn-doo.

More importantly, the steps that lead to this point came from a front office with an immediate vision that steered the team to failure. They had to win now. They had to steal Knicks fans. A team didn’t grow in Brooklyn, a corporation exercised eminent domain to crash-land a team on Flatbush and act like they’d been there for years. That team died in Brooklyn, then dragged along its zombie corpse for an extra year.

This is not to exonerate Billy King, the blind leading the blind. Nor Lionel Hollins, who ran an offense designed to lose basketball games. But the next day Prokhorov and his team — spearheaded by Dmitry Razumov, the primary conductor of the infamous Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade — takes responsibility for this mess will be the first day.

Maybe that’s Monday. But even if it is, the Nets still serve as a symbol of organizational failure, a team so concerned with winning immediately that they ignored the bigger picture. Between their lack of draft picks, cap space (before this season), and talent, they cannot start anew, no matter how many names run through their front office and coaching ranks.

Those changes were inevitable, and necessary. But a sweeping change in organizational philosophy cannot move forward without the necessary pieces to enact that vision. They could hire a forward-thinking coach, but he’d implement a system with players unlikely to be in Brooklyn long-term. They could hire an excellent general manager, but he’d have to sell a sinking franchise to top free agents that have more appealing options elsewhere. With the Nets in basketball purgatory, dropping them in the middle of January don’t change that one iota, and leaves them ill-equipped to make moves at the trade deadline.

So yes. Celebrate the most recent casualties of what’s arguably the most disappointing era in sports history. It was well-deserved. But once the champagne stops flowing, you might remember that with six weeks until the trade deadline, the Nets have no general manager, no first-round draft pick, a lame-duck interim head coach, a mostly absentee owner, and a 10-27 record. The Nets could hire Lords Auerbach & Naismith themselves and they wouldn’t be able to climb out of this mess.