So who needed that LeBron guy anyway?
Now that all of the big name free agents are off the board, the Nets can get back to doing what they were supposed to be doing in the first place: rebuilding a roster. I understand that names like Travis Outlaw and Kyle Korver are not sexy choices, but they’re not bad building blocks either. All playoff contenders have good role-players like an Outlaw and Korver. Where the Nets lack right now is star power, but with some of the pieces that are already in place, maybe that point is overstated as well.
Obviously, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in how the Nets struck out with the “big guns.” A LeBron-Bosh duo is the stuff dreams are made of, and while he has his flaws, I’ve always been bullish on David Lee and thought he could make for a scary three-man rotation frontcourt with Brook Lopez and Derrick Favors. But just because the Nets missed out on these players doesn’t mean they’re doomed to repeat as 12-win also-rans. If you remember the circumstances behind last year – an injury decimated roster in November followed by a clueless head coach in Kiki Vandweghe is an easy recipe for disaster. With new ownership that’s willing to spend, a new coach, new draft picks, and a stronger, more well-rounded bench that’s not overstuffed with expiring contracts, there’s no reason to believe this coming season will mirror last season. It’s also worth noting, HOW the Nets are rebuilding. As noted by ESPN’s Chad Ford yesterday, by spending about $20-$30 million this summer and leaving about $10 million for midseason acquisitions, the Nets are following a blueprint drawn up by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that’s evolving into a force in the Western Conference, all through this kind of intelligent roster building.
I think if we all sit down, take a deep breath, and think long and hard about the past year, we would realize that this team is right where we expected them to be. Brining LeBron and Bosh to New Jersey was always the longest of long shots, given the competition. Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer do not have project to be good long-term contracts. Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson are not max players. So why should we lose face because our best option was never realistic and the Plan B’s were all rolls of the dice?
Perhaps, many of us were caught up in the way the Nets have been selling themselves the past week. The swagger, the taunting billboards, the “leaks” of information from negotiations… maybe it all created a false sense of accomplishment. They always tell a fighter not to lead with the chin, and Team Prokhorov has certainly put it all out there, inviting a backlash. But personally, after the past six years of Bruce Ratner’s focus on real estate, rather than basketball, I welcome an owner who’s willing to take calculated risks and not be ashamed if they don’t hit the bullseye when it comes to assembling a roster.
With or without the big free agents, we are entering a new era with this organization, Nets fans. Remember, Prokhorov spoke of a five-year, not a five-week plan. Let’s also remember that there’s more to roster building than just bidding on the best guys. There may not be playoffs next season. But who knows. After watching the 2008-09 season, would you have predicted the Thunder would give the Lakers a major run for their money in the playoffs last year? It’s going to take time, but the Nets have plenty of it – or at least five years.