Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Brooklyn Nets with Tom Lorenzo and Reed Wallach of NetsDaily. (Yesterday's preview: Houston Rockets)
Brooklyn Nets 2014-15 Season Preview
2013-14 Record: 44-38, No. 2 in Atlantic Division, No. 6 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown (rookie, No. 44), Jarrett Jack, Cory Jefferson (rookie, No. 60), Jerome Jordan, Sergey Karasev, Willie Reed
Roster subtractions: Andray Blatche, Jason Collins, Shaun Livingston, Paul Pierce, Tyshawn Taylor, Marcus Thornton
SB Nation affiliate: NetsDaily
Blazer's Edge: It's no secret that guys like Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko have lost a step or two in recent years...how much gas do they have left in the tank?
Tom Lorenzo: I'd only be worried about Kevin Garnett. He has put maximum mileage on his knees, and I'm not sure he can make it through an 82-game season and then some, if they make it to the playoffs. He's going to need rest this season, he's going to need his minutes monitored, and he's going to need plenty of post-game treatment. The other three guys I'm not so worried about. For Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko it's all about health, as opposed to age or losing a step. I think both can play at a very high level, they just need to stay healthy -- Williams with his ankles, Kirilenko with his back. Joe Johnson, on the other hand, has never been a big motor guy. He does his best work in the half court, not necessarily taking guys off the dribble. He looks for open space, uses his body to back down smaller 2s, and plays his general game. I don't worry so much about him losing any steps. He's such a great offensive-minded player that he can adjust and adapt.
Reed Wallach: I think that Garnett is definitely over the hill. This being his 20th year, Garnett is not going to be asked to be a leading man on offense anymore, rather just be a capable shooter from 12 to 15 feet out. On defense, Lionel Hollins is still going to count on KG to be a solid rim protector and be a plus defender. Even though last season was a struggle for Garnett, he still managed to be a solid defender. I think that Johnson has thrived in Brooklyn, flying under the radar since he has not been asked to carry a team (even though he has at times), and I think that with the most explosive offense he has had in Brooklyn on this roster, Johnson will only improve. Kirilenko still has talent, but he just needs to remain on the court. Last season, back issues kept him out most of the season, but when he played, he was fantastic. I expect a big year out of him off the bench.
Ah, Deron Williams. No one knows anymore if he can return to superstar status, but he does finally seem to be in shape and confident in his game, something he wasn't at all last season. I think that with Brook Lopez healthy again, DWill can have a resurgent campaign. He won't be the Deron Williams of old, but he will certainly be better than Brooklyn's Deron Williams.
BE: Is Brook Lopez fully recovered from the injury that derailed his 2013-14 season? What do you expect from him this year?
TL: He looks to be healthy, so far. I don't know if he's fully recovered and I certainly don't think Nets fans can ever sit back and rest on him being at 100 percent all day, every day, even after having multiple surgeries on his feet. The thing about him, though, is that there is now a more conscious effort to play his game in a way that can keep him on the court for 75-plus games per year. It's the Zyndrunas Ilguaskas method of keeping a big man healthy -- you have corrective surgery on your feet, adjust and adapt. I do think he's going to be back to being 18 and 6 Brook Lopez, which is a huge help for this team in a Lionel Hollins-led system. Again, I expect him to play at a high level, but the concern about his health will always be there for me.
RW: All reports out of training camp are that Lopez is 100% and will have zero restrictions this season, which is great for a Nets team that needs his incredible offensive talent. I expect a big year out of Lopez, one where he throws his name back into the elite center conversation. Lopez has arguably the best offensive game of any big in the league, but has lost respect from the media due to his injury woes. I think Lionel Hollins' flex offense will get Lopez more looks off of cuts where he can get a step on his man and finish strong at the rim. He should lead Brooklyn in scoring.
BE: Mason Plumlee had a pretty good summer representing the U.S. in the FIBA World Cup. What do you think will carry over from that experience? Is Plumlee ready to take the next step in his career?
TL: It was about as good of a learning experience as you could hope for. He spent his rookie season learning from Kevin Garnett, one of the all-time great athletic bigs, and then got to spend the summer training with many of the greatest players and coaches on this planet. From a learning perspective, you can't ask for anything better. As for what he does with it on the court, I still think it's going to take time. He needs to continue to develop a low-post game. He's a fantastic athlete and active around the rim, but in post-ups he needs to work on a step and a finish. I do think he'll get there, especially if he can learn a thing or two from Brook Lopez and the coaching staff who is working with him on that post-up.
RW: Plumlee was already a mature ball player when he got drafted 22 by the Nets in 2013, playing four years at Duke, so the transition to the pros was easy for him. However, you can never learn enough, and Team USA was another growing experience for Plumlee. It never hurts anyone to play alongside some of the biggest stars in sports, and no matter what anyone writes, he earned that spot. I think that his ability to win a roster spot on the US team will be huge for his confidence and he will be able to become more of a threat on the offensive end while also being a more mindful defender as well. It also doesn't hurt that he is playing behind Garnett and Lopez either, he can learn a lot from those two.
BE: Let's talk about bench depth...who are the major reserves for this Nets team? How do you expect the rotation to look?
TL: The Nets have a pretty strong bench. When you consider guys like Jarrett Jack, Mason Plumlee, Andrei Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson coming off the bench, that's not bad at all. Each of those guys gives the Nets something different, and having a veteran back-up PG like Jack behind Deron Williams, who has dealt with ankle injuries for some time, is a big get in this offseason. I expect Lionel Hollins to use his bench a lot, especially since, as we talked about, you have Garnett who is on his last legs and Williams and Lopez who are coming off of injuries.
RW: Lets go on the assumption that Bojan Bogdanovic is the starting shooting guard. If so, the Nets will be counting on the likes of Kirilenko, Mirza Teletovic and Jarrett Jack to be the offensive threats on the second unit. Jack has looked great in the preseason, and may be due for a rebound season after a poor one with the Cavs. Teletovic burst onto the scene last season when Jason Kidd used him as a floor spacer and basically told him to just shoot it every time he touches the ball. This season, it looks like he has become more of a threat going to the basket, so his offense continues to develop. Kirilenko, even when not 100%, is a versatile threat on the floor, not to score, but to facilitate and create action. His basketball IQ and court vision is off the charts.
After that, Plumlee will get big minutes behind the aging Garnett and Lopez while Alan Anderson will be the "glue guy" of this team, doing the little things to improve the team. The Nets don't have big names on the bench, but I expect to see them mesh well with the starters when Hollins opts to integrate the lineups.
BE: What on earth happened between the Nets and Jason Kidd this past offseason?? Do you think Lionel Hollins is an upgrade over Kidd?
TL: Where do I begin... Well, first of all, Jason Kidd did not seem happy in Brooklyn last season. He couldn't handle the media -- which is amazing, especially for someone who spent nearly two decades playing in the league, he did not know how to speak to the media -- and the pressure of trying to win in New York was too much for him. So, he made a power play that he knew would not work. He is really close to new Bucks owner Marc Lasry, so the move there was easy, and the media in Milwaukee is not the same as the media in New York -- they have one traveling beat writer, while the Nets travel six. Kidd did not want to be in Brooklyn. He couldn't handle it.
That said, I absolutely 100 percent think Hollins is an upgrade over Kidd. This isn't a "lover scorn" kind of thing. I actually spent several seasons covering Hollins and the Grizzlies for SB Nation, so I'm familiar with his style. What he's going to do for this team is two things (aside from coach them, of course!): he's going to hold players accountable and he's going to instill toughness in them. He's an old school, hard-nosed coach who sent Allen Iverson packing because of his attitude, benched a future cornerstone of the Grizzlies franchise, O.J. Mayo, because he wasn't working hard enough, and developed Zach Randolph, a dear friend of yours, I'm sure, into an...adult. Don't get me wrong, I think he's a fantastic coach, but more importantly he's going to be a better leader for these players. That, to me, is the most important thing he brings to the table.
RW: Long story short, Kidd thought he was in line for a promotion, one year after his coaching career had a volatile start to say the least. The Nets ownership didn't think so highly of Kidd's power play and Kidd countered with an offer from his former associate who is now an owner of the Bucks. Little while after that, the Nets get the guy they probably should have hired in the first place last summer, Lionel Hollins. Kidd may very well become a good coach, but for a Nets team that has championship aspirations, Hollins is a better fit. The former Memphis coach has proven that he can coach and get the best out of his players and is a defensive guru. The Nets need all the help they can on D.
Special thanks to Tom Lorenzo and Reed Wallach of NetsDaily for taking the time to discuss the Brooklyn Nets' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Tom can be found on twitter @TomLorenzo; Reed is @ReedWallach. NetsDaily has you covered for Nets news and analysis.
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