Dec 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner (12) puts up the game winning shot in overtime as Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) and forward Paul Pierce (34) defend at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers defeated the Nets 121-120 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets: Can They Return To Form This Season?

Before the regular season started, the Brooklyn Nets appeared to have the personnel to make them a competitive contender in the Eastern Conference.  Although the Eastern Conference as been fairly lackluster in the past few years, the Nets seemed to be on their way to being one of the premiere superstar franchises in the NBA.  Unfortunately, the Nets hopeful ambitions for success have quickly turned sour as Jason Kidd continues to struggle with his new responsibilities as a first year head coach.  Worse still, free agent acquisitions Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are showing signs of constant fatigue as both of these once unstoppable athletes are posting career low numbers in terms of field goal percentage and points per game.  However, the biggest letdown for the Nets is the season ending injury to their gifted center Brook Lopez.  While it’s hard to imagine the Nets facing anymore insurmountable obstacles than they have already, based on what has happened to this woeful franchise so far the possibility of the Nets bouncing back seem fairly bleak.

In terms of free agency movements, the Nets were one of the more aggressive franchises that were looking to give their roster a healthy dose of veteran leadership.  After acquiring Jason Terry, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Boston Celtics, the Nets made it evident that their goal was to bolster their roster to make them supremely competitive immediately rather than for the long haul.  Sadly, the Nets tenacity in free agency has back fired this season as all three of these long time veterans have continued to struggle game in and game out.  While it’s unfair to expect these beloved athletes to put up numbers that match the accolades they acquired in their primes, the overall change in terms of their performance from last year to this year has declined drastically.  While Garnett’s overall production has decreased steadily with each year, he hasn’t been even close to being this incompetent in his entire career.  In his final year with the Celtics, Garnett was averaging 14.8 points per game while making 49.6% of his shots from the field.  With the Nets, Garnett was reached all time lows in points per game (6.5) and field goal percentage (37.9%).  This noticeable statistical drop off has also been prevalent with both Jason Terry and Paul Pierce.  Although it’s unfair to expect these players to replicate their impressive performances from previous seasons, their constant inability to be even remotely competitive is definitely a cause for concern.

It’s one things to have underachieving veterans who are going through an understandable decline in their illustrious career.  However, when a team loses arguably one of their biggest contributors on the court to a season ending foot injury, it can shatter their hopes of ever overcoming once manageable problems, even this early in the season.  Despite the Nets chronic struggles, Brook Lopez was the shinning star of this ailing franchise as his ample contributions allowed this discombobulated team to stay in games, which they could have easily been blown out in.  Before his untimely injury, Lopez already had eclipsed his accomplishments as a prolific scorer and had made strides in improving his already exceptional accuracy.  While the Nets have a solid replacement in Andray Blatche (11.8 PPG and 5.9 RPG), he can be a little inconsistent in terms of his accuracy although his physicality and quickness could be useful as the Nets season wears on.

In the end, the Nets have succumbed to numerous letdowns that were both unforeseeable and disastrous.  While the lack of support from their free agent pick ups is tough to manage, expecting a first time head coach in Jason Kidd to right the ship after all of these missteps is a lofty expectation that even a well versed guru of the game would struggle with in immense frustration.  Although the season is still young, the Nets have yet to show any signs of resiliency and physical determination to compete.  Despite the mediocrity of the Eastern Conference, the Nets have still found themselves in the undesirable position of being one of the worst teams in the league.   

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