So, in the end, the Nets are back where they started, where they should have been after a trade proposal for Carmelo Anthony first blew up in their faces back in September. Just because the Nets, most notably GM Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov decided to go all in two more times (once more after Prokhorov coyly said the team was “out”) doesn’t mean the Nets weren’t destined to be back in the same place all over again. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about the current state of the NBA, it’s the players – most notably the “star” players – run the show, and if ‘Melo was dead set on going to the New York Knicks, the same way LeBron James and Chris Bosh were dead set on joining Dwayne Wade in South Beach – there’s no amount of powerpoint, Russian vodka our Jay Zee playa-ship that’s going to change that outcome.
I’ve not been shy about saying that I thought the team’s overtures for Anthony were ridiculous and absurd. Giving up so many picks, assets and financial flexibility for essentially one player – a guy who’s very talented, but hasn’t been a game changer for the first half of his career in Denver, and will likely only make the Knicks marginally better and an early Playoff ouster even paired with Amare Stoudemire. In addition to repeatedly offering the sun and the moon for a player who maybe could have snuck this organization into a bottom playoff seed next year (if there even IS a next year), the front office has once again proven why the Nets will continue to be second-class citizens in the New York area. And assuming all of the main players in the front office and coaching staff remain the same, I don’t know how the stench will be erased. Yes, bravado and risk-taking is a nice change-of-pace from the Bruce Ratner years, but you can only lead with the chin so many teams before you’re left concussed, and needless to say, the 2010-11 New Jersey Nets have been officially knocked out.
What we’ve also learned is as rich as Mikhail Prokhorov is and as charming as he may appear in his 60 Minute interviews and press conferences, the average NBA superstar just does not care. He alone will never sell these players on this organization. The Nets need to stop getting involved in scenarios where the player’s hold all of the leverage. The current framework of this organization is not going to change anyone’s mind. If that’s the Blueprint for Greatness, on merits alone, quite frankly it stinks.
Going back to a simpler time when the Nets were last relevant, the organization built their foundation on a plethora of lottery picks (Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn, Kenyon Martin, Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins), some solid role players acquired via trade or free agency (Lucious Harris, Todd MacCulloch, Aaron Williams) and then the one big “superstar” to bring it all together (Jason Kidd) who interestingly enough, was acquired at probably his lowest value and had zero leverage to refuse his assignment and play with the Nets. Not saying the Nets need to follow this blueprint point for point again, but it beats a blueprint of unsuccessfully trying charm the pants off today’s petulant NBA superstars who are headed towards a crash course with reality once a lockout occurs and a new CBA is agreed upon sometime later this year, or early next year.
In the meantime, for the sake of what’s left of our collective sanities, let’s just forget about Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard in 2012. Howard is already lustful for LA, Paul has given a toast about joining ‘Melo and Amare in New York, and I’m sure Deron Williams will just as rather go someplace else after being stuck in Salt Lake City since he was a rookie. Let Billy King do what he actually does well, which is draft, not wheel and deal. Let Derrick Favors actually develop without demanding he be some kind of Energizer Bunny he clearly isn’t. And if I’m ownership, I take a long careful look at Avery Johnson and determine if he’s actually the best person to be managing an actual rebuilding effort in New Jersey/Brooklyn, since all he’s proven so far is an ability to bluntly criticize and alienate many of his players.