COMMENTARY | The Brooklyn Nets opened training camp Tuesday at Duke University in Durham, N.C., with expectations perhaps higher than at any time in the franchise's star-crossed NBA history.
It's not every team in the league that can roll five current or former All-Stars out as a starting lineup, but Brooklyn is one of those teams. The Nets, however, also have a bunch of new faces to integrate into a new system with a new coaching staff.
After going 49-33 in their first season in Brooklyn and suffering a disappointing home-court Game 7 loss to the battered Chicago Bulls in the first round, owner Mikhail Prokhorov rolled the dice, bringing in former Boston Celtics stalwarts Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, a former All-Star in free agent Andrei Kirilenko to bring off the bench, and barely let the sweat dry on Jason Kidd's uniform as a player before tapping him as the Nets' next coach.
So what are the five biggest questions heading into training camp for the Nets?
1. Coach Kidd? Jason Kidd did just about everything there was to do as a player. He won a championship in 2011 with the Dallas Mavericks. There are two Olympic gold medals in the trophy case. He was a 10-time All-Star, shared Rookie of the Year honors with Grant Hill, made six All-NBA teams and nine All-Defensive teams and retired No. 2 on the NBA's all-time list in assists and steals.
It's not a matter of "if" but rather "when" Kidd gets the call from Springfield, Mass., to enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Kidd retired from the New York Knicks in June and less than a week later was named the new coach of the Nets, a franchise he helped to its only two NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.
Kidd was as respected a player as there ever was in the NBA ... but as a coach he's done the sum total of squadoosh. He did bring in veteran coach Lawrence Frank to be his lead assistant, but he's jumping into the deep end of the pool as a rookie head coach with expectations aplenty despite his inexperience.
2. Will There Be Enough Basketballs? The positive side to having five All-Stars in the starting lineup is obvious: talent, talent and more talent. The potential downside to this is having five All-Stars in the starting lineup who all want to -- for lack of a better term -- get theirs.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson weren't always on the same page in 2012-13, their first season together after Johnson was acquired from the Atlanta Hawks in the summer of 2012, and that dynamic gets complicated by having an emerging offensive force in Brook Lopez and a guy coming down the East Coast who is used to getting his fair share of shots in Pierce.
Throw in talented by shameless Jason Terry, who also came over in the trade from Boston, and that's a truckload of guys who are, if not outright used to being the Alpha dog, at least accustomed to being a first or second option.
Fortunately, Williams has Kidd's brain to pick about how to distribute the basketball for fun and profit.
3. The Stars of Old ... or Just a Bunch of Old Stars? Jason Kidd, at 40, will be one of the youngest coaches in the NBA this season. And, hey, he's older than the guys he will be coaching ... but just barely.
Kevin Garnett is 37. Jason Terry is 36. Paul Pierce is 35. Reggie Evans is 33. Andrei Kirilenko is 32. So is Joe Johnson. Alan Anderson will be 31 by opening night.
Of the 15 players under contract on the Nets' roster (not including the ancient Jerry Stackhouse, who is an unsigned free agent), Brooklyn has 117 years of NBA experience. That's both good and bad; there may be no team in the Association that has been there, done that as much as this collection of veterans.
However, if your team is being eyed by the folks at Geritol and Ensure as potential spokespeople, there may be a problem.
The plan is that the remaining star power of this group, coupled with its vast experience, will power Brooklyn past the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
But that plan can be derailed with just the twist or two of an aging joint.
4. Can Andray Blatche Do It Again? Andray Blatche was one of the biggest reclamation stories of 2012-13, as Brooklyn picked him up out of the amnesty bin from the Washington Wizards and was rewarded with one of the best seasons by any reserve big man in the NBA last season.
Blatche posted a player efficiency rating of 21.9 in his 19 minutes per game last season (15 is considered average) and posted per-36-minute averages of 19.4 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting 51.2 percent from the floor.
Blatche is the only other legitimate center on the roster besides Lopez, so it's crucial that he repeat last season's success. Otherwise, the Nets will be (a) forced to go small in the middle or (b) forced to overextend Garnett by making him play the pivot. Neither of these is a good scenario in a conference with Tyson Chandler, Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah.
5. What About the Future? Considering it's been mortgaged for what has to be considered an extremely small window as a contender, it's a question Nets fans might -- for the sake of their blood pressure and sanity -- want to leave alone.
Brooklyn, barring any more wheeling and dealing, will pay approximately the gross national product of a mid-sized industrial nation in luxury tax this year (OK, so it's going to be around $87.2 million, but still) and won't have a first-round draft pick in the talent-rich 2014 draft, or, for that matter, in 2015, 2016, 2017 or 2018. Yikes.
An old core and no first-round draft picks for half a decade? With a rookie head coach who just stopped playing?
What could possibly go wrong?
Phil Watson is a freelance commentator and journalist who covers the Brooklyn Nets, New York Yankees and New York Giants for the Yahoo Contributor Network. He is also editor of brewers101.com and holds an editorial position at HoopsHabit.com.
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