If the Brooklyn Nets don’t win the NBA title in the next two seasons, blame LeBron.
Don’t blame Nets GM Billy King or billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
Going into the offseason, it didn’t look like the cap-strapped Nets could do much.
But King, as he’s known to do, stunned everyone, orchestrating a blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics to obtain future Hall of Fame forwards Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, along with veteran reserve Jason Terry.
And Thursday, King capped off a brilliant summer, getting Andrei Kirilenko, who opted out of a $10 million contract, to take the mini mid-level exception.
Looks like a massive upgrade, doesn’t it?
The Nets will now head into the season with an NBA-record $80 million luxury-tax bill and a projected starting lineup -- Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, KG and Pierce -- that has made a combined 35 All-Star games.
Clearly Prokhorov, who has said he’ll get married if the Nets don’t win a championship by 2015, doesn’t want to get hitched. So he opened up his pockets and allowed King to build him an Eastern Conference contender.
While Miami is still the obvious favorite -- and LeBron James may have four titles and five NBA Finals appearances by the time Prokhorov’s five-year plan expires -- the Nets, at least on paper, look like a top-four team in the East, right up there with the likes of Indiana, plus a healthy Danny Granger, and Chicago, plus a healthy Derrick Rose.
As for the Knicks? Well, they did acquire Andrea Bargnani, a move that appeared to be reactionary following the KG-Pierce deal, so there’s that.
But when you stack New York’s basketball teams against each other -- regardless of how you do it -- one would be hard-pressed to say that the Knicks are superior.
Going into this season, it appears that the Nets have three big question marks: First-year coach Jason Kidd, health and chemistry.
But the Nets are hopeful Kidd, surrounded by a staff that includes Lawrence Frank and John Welch, can learn fast; they have enough depth to overcome injuries; and their veteran-laden roster will learn fast and be willing to sacrifice numbers for wins.
Back in 2010, it was easy to dismiss Prokhorov’s five-year plan. It isn’t now.
Prokhorov gave King free rein to spend and spend King did, putting together a roster that has championship experience, toughness, leadership, depth, talent and versatility.
Only one major problem: It doesn’t include LeBron.