- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN New York Writer
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Heading into the offseason, the Brooklyn Nets, who had the highest payroll in the NBA the past season ($107 million, including luxury taxes), face a ton of uncertainty.
“Something is going to happen. I don’t know what. I don’t see us coming back as the same team,” said Joe Johnson, who will be entering the final year of his deal ($24.9 million). “This is my third year here. I could see if we were getting better each year, but it’s kind of been the opposite. So to not even be a .500 ballclub in the East [38-44], it’s disheartening. I think everybody in that locker room is unsure of the future here. I don’t think anybody is indispensable, and that includes me.”
The Nets have made it clear to center Brook Lopez and power forward Thaddeus Young that they would like both to return, Young confirmed. Lopez ($16.7 million) and Young ($10 million) have player options for 2015-16. Both said they have enjoyed their time in Brooklyn, though their futures with the organization remain unclear. Lopez and Young can both test the free-agent market if they decide to opt out.
“I definitely wanna see what the big fella’s gonna do also, but we’ve already been told that they expect us back next year and they want us back next year -- no matter if we pick up our options or opt out,” Young said. “But for me, like I said, I’m just gonna factor in everything possible across the board and just try to make the right decision.”
Nets coach Lionel Hollins said Lopez has the potential to be a franchise player if he improves his low-post game.
“I think when you look at Brook, I think that you can think about him that way,” Hollins said. “He has some limitations. When I say limitations, I think that if he developed his post-game, he could be a franchise player. But I don’t want to put that pressure on him, to say that if he doesn’t do that, he isn’t. I’m just saying that potentially with size and athleticism and the whole nine yards, from an offensive perspective. But there’s a lot more that goes into a franchise player than just skill, so I don’t even want to go there.”
The Nets have had four different coaches since their move to Brooklyn in 2012. It took them a while to adjust to the old-school, no-nonsense Hollins and his system. Hollins evaluated his team’s weaknesses and what needs to change.
“We’ve got to get quicker. We have to get quicker and more athletic," Hollins said. "When you look at what happened to us in the playoffs, those point guards for Atlanta were much quicker than us. We have to add somebody at that position that can go in the game and stem the tide some. Our shooting has to be better. We have to rebound better. The weaknesses that we had all year that kept us inconsistent didn’t go away. We just hid them very well for a stretch, and we were able to make the playoffs. I’m thankful we made the playoffs, our team overcame a lot, and they battled, and they got to the playoffs, and that was a testament to them, and the way we battled the Hawks for the first four games was a testament to them.”
Later, he added: “I thought we had a higher basketball IQ as a group than we did. That was a big thing. I thought we had more toughness and all of that. But as a coach, looking from the outside, that’s why I always say until you come in and coach a team you don’t know for sure. I thought the skill level was better and all of this, but we worked around it, and that’s part of coaching. Somebody asked me last night, ‘Did it happen too late?’ We made the playoffs. I’m thankful for that, and I’m proud of our guys, the coaching staff as well as the players, that we figured it out, they figured it out, and we had a run. I thought we were going to have to win six or seven out of eight or whatever it was at some point in order to make the playoffs. We did that, we got to the playoffs, we gave the No. 1 seed in the East a great run -- it’s over. We go, and we try to build from there.”
Hollins had to simplify his team’s offense because they weren’t able to run a more complex scheme.
“It’s difficult when teams start doing stuff and taking things away,” he said. “There’s nothing else to go to. We got to the point where we were strictly pick-and-roll, strictly pick-and-roll, strictly pick-and-roll, and it came down the stretch, and we played Chicago and Milwaukee. They took the pick-and-roll away, and we got beat by 20-something. It happened again last night [a 111-87 loss]. They completely stopped that, and we had nothing, and there’s nothing much more we can go to because we had gotten to the point where we had just eliminated most of the playbook, so we weren’t practicing it, so it’s hard to come back and do it when you haven’t been doing it.”
With their season complete, the Nets face a ton of uncertainty heading into the offseason.