Watch out for the surging Brooklyn Nets
When Jay Z, Mikhail Prokhorov and company moved the Nets to Brooklyn, they promised to make the Nets contenders.
They rebranded and provided a spark the team wasn’t able to muster in New Jersey. They finished fourth in the Eastern Conference in their first season, improved the roster in the offseason to try to make a postseason run, and hired Jason Kidd to be their leader. In July after they made the blockbuster trade with Boston, the expectations were the highest they had been in over a decade. That is, until the season started.
The veteran led team looked like they were well past their prime, especially Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who seemed to be a basket away from retirement. The team started 3-10 and didn’t get much better. All expectations were discarded and the only conversation was whether or not they could even beat their struggling in-city rival, New York Knicks. In their first 30 games they only managed nine wins, but as soon as 2014 started, things changed.
The team is 12-4 in their last sixteen games and climbed to 38-33 on the season. In the struggling Eastern Conference, they have a legitimate chance to climb up to the three seed.
With the Pacers’ recent struggles, watch out for the Nets to make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Since the injury to center Brook Lopez, the team seems to have found a style of play that fits them just in time for a playoff run. A key component to their recent success has been the changes to their starting lineup, inserting Shaun Livingston next to Deron Williams, sporting a two-point guard lineup. They also moved Kevin Garnett to center, Joe Johnson to small forward, who has played well, and Paul Pierce has dropped down to the low post to play power forward.
When Deron Williams plays to his ability, the Nets are nearly unstoppable with the shooters they surrounded him with. Also, Garnett and Pierce are playoff-tested guys who know what it takes to win in the playoffs. While the Nets have a long way to go until they will be able to overtake the Heat as the best team in the East, they could give Indiana a run in a series, and even beat them, especially if the Pacers don’t figure out their recent struggles and the Nets continue to improve.
A Brooklyn run to the Finals is a big stretch for Nets’ fans to expect, but a run to the Eastern Conference Finals may be possible. Expect Brooklyn to make it to at least win a series and make the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Sports-Kings’ Pass the Pill Contributor Mark Pace @THEMarkPace