The Brooklyn Nets were supposed to be a nightmare for teams to deal with this season, but instead they inspire fear in nobody as they have been blown out by some of the worst teams in the NBA just one month into the season.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban does have nightmares of the Nets…nightmares of what might have happened to his own team.
In the years following their 2011 championship, the Mavericks let players walk via free agency rather than make huge bids to keep them. Cuban, who was widely criticized at the time, was afraid of having a team filled with aging players and bloated contracts that has no roster flexibility to make adjustments. In other words, he feared his team becoming what the Nets are right now.
“That’s exactly right,” Cuban told Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. “You get stuck. That’s exactly what I thought. … That was definitely a fear.”
When the Nets organization moved the team out of New Jersey into Brooklyn it was looking to compete for a championship as soon as possible. So they traded prospects and draft picks for Deron Williams. They then traded more draft picks for Gerald Wallace and even more draft picks for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
What’s left is a team that will cost $190 million in payroll and luxury taxes that is the oldest team in the NBA with a 5-14 record. Even though they have had many injuries it doesn’t appear that they will suddenly become a championship contender anytime soon. Instead they are stuck with the NBA’s oldest roster for this season and probably next year as their bloated payroll limits the roster moves they can make.
“Those two go hand in hand,” Cuban said of having a bloated payroll and not being able to adjust the roster. “If we were [a team full of 25-year-olds], the massive luxury tax bill is nothing. But when you know as you get older, you get stuck. … It’s not just that you’re stuck for a week or a half a season, you’re stuck. Now that the rules got even more stringent, you’re even more stuck.”
Cuban is absolutely correct. Unless something drastic happens when the Nets do eventually get healthy, and they might not get Pierce back until 2014, then they are going to be bad this year and might be just as bad next year as well. The Nets were so desperate to contend for a championship that they may have inadvertently locked themselves into mediocrity for the next couple of years.
The Nets should have looked across the bridge at the cross-town rival Knicks, who rather than build through young players like Cuban has tried, have gone the expensive, big-name players route since the 90’s with absolutely no success. These days, unless LeBron James is on your team, the way to build a real contender is same way Cuban has tried to do and the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs have done — through young players and over time.
It doesn’t happen overnight and it seems like Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov is learning that the hard way right now. Cuban’s advice at this point? “Drink more? I don’t know,” he said.