With training camp six weeks away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.
Today's question: Can they stay healthy?
ESPN’s Summer Forecast predicted the Nets would finish in eighth place in the Eastern Conference next season with a record of 39-43. Many Nets fans weren’t exactly thrilled with that prediction when I posted it on Twitter.
Sure, they still have to play the games, but based on what’s happened over the summer, Cleveland (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love?) and Chicago (Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah) appear to have emerged as the class of the East. The next tier includes the likes of Washington (John Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce), Toronto (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas) and Charlotte (Al Jefferson, Lance Stephenson, Kemba Walker).
The Nets could find themselves in that grouping -- if they stay healthy. And that’s a big “if.”
Obviously, they’re only going to go as far as Deron Williams and Brook Lopez take them. Both are former All-Stars and certainly capable of playing at an extremely high level. But Williams is coming off dual ankle surgery, and Lopez is coming off foot and ankle surgery. Both are progressing well in their rehab, but it’s unknown how much they will be able to produce this season.
Joe Johnson, 33, arguably the best player on the team, has been extremely durable throughout his career. He missed just three games all of last season. Andrei Kirilenko, 33, however, missed 37 games -- mostly due to back spasms. He says he’s healthy, but he’s obviously going to have to prove it.
Assuming Kevin Garnett returns for his 20th season, the 38-year-old big man will likely be on a minutes/no back-to-backs restriction as the Nets try to conserve him and his back for the long haul. Lopez could find himself in a similar situation. That’s why a guy such as Mason Plumlee is so important. Plumlee, 24, needs to stay healthy. No question about that.
Over the summer, the Nets lost three of their most durable players -- Shaun Livingston (76 games played), Pierce (75) and Andray Blatche (73) -- but Alan Anderson (78) is back, and newcomer Jarrett Jack has missed just five games over his past two seasons. Mirza Teletovic and rookie Bojan Bogdanovic figure to both see their fair share of playing time, too.
Last season, the Nets were decimated by injury, missing a combined 181 games due to injury and illness, which necessitated the use of 24 different starting lineups. They’re younger heading into the 2014-15 campaign, but they really can’t afford to have any of their key players miss significant time. New coach Lionel Hollins is going to be implementing new systems, and he needs to have his players on the court to do so. That job won’t be easy if guys are in and out of the lineup. Building and maintaining both continuity and chemistry is going to be key.