First, the good news: The Brooklyn Nets are returning at least eight players from last season’s team: Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee, Marquis Teague, Mirza Teletovic and Deron Williams. Make it nine if, as expected, Kevin Garnett returns. And make it 10 if Jorge Gutierrez manages to make the team out of training camp.
Now, the bad news: After finally figuring out Jason Kidd’s system and discovering their identity following an absolutely abysmal start in 2013-14, the Nets have another new coach, Lionel Hollins, which means they must learn another new system and discover their identity yet again.
It’s going to take time. It’s just a matter of how much.
Under Kidd, the Nets struggled in 2013. Garnett and Paul Pierce struggled playing the part of supporting actors after playing starring roles. Kidd was running the offense through Lopez, something the coach wasn’t entirely comfortable with. And to top it off, Williams was hurt.
It was a mess.
But then Lopez got injured, and, as bad as that was, things got better. Shaun Livingston moved into the starting lineup, and small and long proved to be the way to go. The Nets started shooting more 3-pointers and getting steals to make up for their deficiencies rebounding the basketball.
They figured out who they were and turned their season around because of it.
Now, Hollins is at the helm. In Memphis, his teams defended tenaciously and rode their imposing frontcourt to great success.
What will Brooklyn’s identity be this season? And how long will it take them to discover it?
Lopez is expected to be healthy. So is Williams. But both are coming off surgeries. What can be expected? Will Hollins run everything through Lopez in the post? Will he run pick-and-rolls with Williams? How much of a role will rookie Bojan Bogdanovic, who has to get acclimated to the speed and style of the NBA game, have? Will he experiment with smaller lineups that feature one big or Williams and Jarrett Jack in the same backcourt?
Training camp will be important for Hollins in evaluating how he’s going to use his personnel. That, of course, is going to necessitate players being healthy and able to participate in practices in order to develop chemistry and cohesion. Kidd’s coaching stint got off to a bad start because Williams was hurt and unable to get reps. A repeat of that with Williams or Lopez, or both, missing valuable practice time would make things difficult on Hollins.
Would it be a surprise if the Nets got off to a slow start again? Based on the above factors, not really. But maybe Hollins will get them up to speed, and they’ll do just the opposite.