Just after noon on Sunday (Eastern Time), The Brooklyn Nets announced their decision to reassign their General Manager Billy King and fire their Head Coach Lionel Hollins. While the former’s spot will be left vacant until a replacement is hired, the latter’s job will be carried on by assistant Coach Tony Brown. The ongoing 2015-16 NBA season is the worst in the Nets franchise history since the ownership decide to move its base to Brooklyn.
In a statement released by the team, this is what principle owner Russian Mikhail Prokhorov had to say:
"It's clear from our current state of affairs that we need new leadership. With the right basketball management and coach in place, we are going to create a winning culture and identity and give Brooklyn a team that it can be proud of and enjoy watching. We have learned a great deal during the past six years and our experiences will guide us for the future. Following the consolidation of team ownership last month, I can assure you that I'm more determined and committed than ever to build a winner."
The move to reassign King comes as no surprise as the General Manager’s impact on the team has only resulted in lots of tax (including repeater’s tax) for the team and just one Playoff series victory. However at a time when the team has been shedding talent and money off their roster, the timing of the move to fire second year Coach Hollins is a huge surprise.
ESPN NBA reporter Mike Mazzeo, who covers the Brooklyn Nets specifically, sums up the tenure of the two gentlemen with the franchise:
#Nets GM Billy King finishes tenure with one playoff series win. Lionel Hollins went 38-44 last season, 2-4 playoffs and 10-27 this season.— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) January 10, 2016
The firings could have come at a better time for the franchise, which is currently in a slump. With a record of 10-27, the Nets have lost nine straight at home at the Barclays Center and are only better than the lowly 4-35 Philadelphia 76ers in the East.
Reason behind messy current state of the Nets
Owner Prokhorov’s statement involve a lot of words like culture, new leadership and experience. Ironically, his leadership and experience in this field have been huge factors in the team’s performance under his ownership.
On May 11, 2010, following the approval by other NBA owners, Prokhorov became the principle owner of the Nets and that’s when the mayhem in the franchise began. A couple of months into his ownership, Prokhorov had high expectations from the team and believed that the team could win a championship within the next five years.
The owner’s expectations of a championship seems to have put the front office in a lot of pressure. Every roster change made since Prokhorov’s taking over as an owner, has been in an attempt to improve the team’s present with absolutely no regard for the future.
Before the start of the 2010-11 NBA season, the team traded for Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz and signed Joe Johnson as a free agent to a massive 6-year contract worth 123 million dollars. The upgraded backcourt took two full seasons to make a difference in Brooklyn but the Nets finally reached the Playoffs in the 2013 only to lose in the first round in seven games to the Chicago Bulls.
Despite the loss, the Nets looked in good shape to improve and make more noise in the post-season especially in the East. However then the franchise made a move it probably shouldn’t have, as it gambled the future of the franchise on a very false hope of a championship in the present.
The famous disastrous Nets-Celtics trade
Mind you, this trade was disastrous only for Brooklyn. Actually disastrous might be too mild of a word. On the other hand, the rebuilding plans for the Boston Celtics received huge boosts thanks to the many pleasantries (unnecessary) the Nets offered them.
Kevin Garnett (then 36 years old), Paul Pierce (then 35 years old) and Jason Terry (then 35 years old) are all battle-tested NBA Champions with loads of experience to shower on youngsters but the team should have some youngsters in the first place. The Nets dealt away five players ( three youngsters) and three draft picks (2014, 2016 &2018) for the Boston trio. To make matters worse, the trade forced the Nets to absorb’s the trio’s hefty contracts (32 million combined).
With a relatively young core of Williams, Johnson and Brook Lopez, surrounding them with experienced NBA champions was not such a bad idea. Having said that, the Nets did so at the expense of their salary cap. The salary cap for the 2013-14 NBA season was 58.679 million while the Nets had a payroll of close to 100 million, to which 90 million dollars was added as luxury tax. Brooklyn ended up paying a final amount of just more than 190 million in salaries and luxury tax combined.
Having given away their draft picks, the Nets had no back-up in case the final product after this trade doesn’t turn out as expected. With the future gone, the present should have been pleasant right? Wrong. Huge payrolls and luxury tax cheques emptied the organizations pockets, making them a no-factor in free agency.
Franchise needs right mindset, continuity and patience
This past summer the franchise seems to have slowly got back to its feet after the 2013 trade with Boston. They started making smarter moves not only in terms of personnel but also money wise. With the luxury tax unavoidable, the franchise reduced the chances of facing the repeater tax when it came to an agreement with Deron Williams to stretch his remaining contract over five years.
Although the firing of King and Hollins is questionable, it does provide the team and the entire organization a chance to begin with a clean slate. As Prokhorov stated in the team’s press release, the team needs a culture change but the change must be embraced by him. Head Coaches appointed by this franchise must be given time and the ownership’s confidence. ESPN’s Mike Mazzeo once again points out an interesting fact about the team’s lack of continuity:
Coaches in Brooklyn era: Avery Johnson, PJ Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, Tony Brown and TBD— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) January 10, 2016
Published 12 Jan 2016, 10:00 IST
For the sake of the Nets and their fans, hope the owner and the team’s management make no hasty decision and only appoint a Head Coach and GM who they have complete faith through the thick and thin.