By Steve Lichtenstein
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So … everyone’s seen Brooklyn general manager Billy King’s record when he (twice) had carte blanche to construct a team, but now Nets fans are supposed to be OK with ownership allowing him to burn it to the ground without further setting the franchise back?READ MORE: Third Former Aide Accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo Of Inappropriate Behavior
A report from ESPN.com on Tuesday had sources saying that King has been on the phones looking to see what he can get in a trade(s) for any or all of the Nets “Big 3” of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.
To paraphrase Dr. Peter Venkman of “Ghostbusters,” I’d bet that King will split the trades up so he can do more damage to the organization that way.
In a preliminary move on Wednesday, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Brooklyn has agreed to send MIA forward Andrei Kirilenko to Philadelphia.
Though Kirilenko was a useful reserve last season, he quickly fell out of favor with new coach Lionel Hollins due to his poor shooting and subsequently left the team for personal reasons. Kirilenko has played 36 minutes total this season, none since November 13.
Of course, with Kirilenko’s value shrinking by the day, King’s options dried up. The Cavs and the Clippers were rumored to have some interest, but not enough to get a deal done.
The tanking Sixers couldn’t care less about anything other than accumulating assets (and will likely waive Kirilenko upon acquisition), so they reportedly forced King to sweeten the deal with a 2020 second round draft pick and possibly even third-string point guard Jorge Gutierrez. The trade is expected to be finalized on Thursday.
What did the Nets get? Well, they will wipe AK-47s contract off their salary cap and luxury tax books, reportedly saving billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov around $11 million. Tweener forward Brandon Davies, who is probably best known for getting suspended by BYU in 2011 for having premarital sex, also appears to be heading to Brooklyn, though it is not confirmed whether or not the Nets will keep him on the roster as his contract is not guaranteed.
The Nets will also reportedly receive an approximately $3.3 million trade exception. Trade exceptions have a one-year expiration, which means King has a little extra salary cushion either way should he pursue the Armageddon Agenda this season.
It is tempting, as anyone who follows the league can see that the Nets are far from being considered a serious contender.
Wednesday night’s 105-80 loss in Chicago was the Nets’ third consecutive defeat by more than 20 points. After being relatively healthy at the start of the season, the Nets were forced to play their last two games without Lopez (back sprain) and Johnson (illness). Forward Mirza Teletovic missed the Chicago game with a hip injury.
Before we get into excuse mode, let’s note that the Bulls did not have Joakim Noah–the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year and all-around maniac—in their lineup and also acknowledge that they whupped the full-strength Nets back in Brooklyn less than two weeks ago.
The Nets are simply poorly constructed. They lack size, speed and athleticism, which kind of makes it hard for them to compete with the best teams in the NBA. On Wednesday, they got burned by uber-quick guards like Derrick Rose and Aaron Brooks and they were pummeled inside by Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson.
There’s not enough depth here to withstand the inevitable injuries that plague every team in the league, not just the ones with so many key players with long medical charts as the Nets.READ MORE: Long Island Rail Road Service Cuts To Take Effect Monday
I went into some detail in my last post how this was almost all King’s fault, and believe he has to go.
That also means that in no way do I trust King to make the smart decisions necessary to dismantle the team’s core. The Nets would be better off playing it out until the regime is changed.
After all, despite the Nets’ recent free fall to a record of 8-12, they are still a game up for the eighth and final postseason seed in the godawful Eastern Conference. Unlike the Nets, the teams underneath them have their own 2015 first round draft choice–many would likely prefer to take their chances in the lottery as opposed to being first-round fodder for the top seed in a playoff series.
None of the Nets’ best players would command a first-round pick in a trade, not when you factor in such considerations as their ages, salaries due this season and going forward, and injury history. Add in the other teams getting a whiff at King’s desperation and I can see the Nets receiving a bunch of pennies for every dollar they offer up.
If they wait another year, Johnson and Lopez’s contracts will be looked at as expirings and could prove more valuable to other teams, especially those looking to re-load for the summer 2016 free agent class.
The worst thing King could do is flip these large contracts for longer-term ones, though I doubt King is that stupid. I don’t want to see Rudy Gay in Brooklyn black. And kill me if Josh Smith moves here.
There’s no trade out there that will all of a sudden catapult the Nets back into the thick of the Eastern Conference race this season, not if they’re giving up Williams, Lopez and Johnson.
King should be patient for a change and let this season ride out, maybe tinkering at the edges like he always does.
OK—you got me. I’ll also be fine if King finds a new home just for Lopez, no matter the terms. He is just so frustrating to watch. The Nets turned last season around after Lopez was lost for the year—I’ve always felt they’d be better off this year starting Kevin Garnett with Teletovic up front anyway.
Unfortunately, teams tend to shy away from immobile big men with a reconstructed foot following three fractures.
And therein lies the Nets’ dilemma. King has accumulated a roster full of players no one else really wants. The Nets would do better letting someone else decide what to do with them.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.
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