But lost in all the title talk was the fact that the championship process takes time. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King went out and bought the expensive ingredients. But Jason Kidd won't be able to cook up championship chemistry as quickly as one of his signature blazing fast breaks.
It’s only one game, but the Nets’ season-opening 98-94 loss to the upstart Cavaliers revealed signs of why it might take patience before we see this loaded roster at its peak, hitting on all cylinders.
How bad did the Nets want to open the season with a win? Just check Kevin Garnett's face. That bad.
“It is going to be a little more than patience,” Garnett explained. “But everybody has to be patient. It’s not just because you assemble guys that things are just going to voila!”
Perhaps the Nets will come out like gangbusters on Friday and start an incredible winning streak against the defending champion Miami Heat. But really, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Nets don’t hit their stride for a while.
For starters, the Nets’ starting five of Garnett, Pierce, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson just started playing together. They had very little camp time to develop chemistry, with Williams missing most of training camp due to a sore ankle. When asked to describe what it felt like to have the starting five out there early against Cleveland, Garnett said it felt like the starters were overwhelmed with “anxiety.”
To show how badly the five wanted to come together quickly, Garnett made a strained face that displayed grit and determination but with a hint of struggle and frustration.
“Everybody wanted it right here, right now,” said Garnett, who had eight points and 10 rebounds in his first Nets game. “That’s not the process. The process is going to be something gradual and something that we all work into and flow into. And we all got to be patient with that process.”
The starters didn’t even get to see what they can do in the fourth quarter of a tightly contested game. Despite erasing a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit and tying the game four different times -- the last of which came with 1:04 left –- the Nets kept Williams on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. On a minutes restriction, Williams logged a total of 21:44.
The engine that will drive the Nets will be brought along slowly, and Brooklyn is not going to risk its star point guard to try to win a game in October, which is absolutely the smart thing to do.
Williams doesn’t know when the Nets will take off the minutes limit and even when that happens, the starters will need time to mesh and learn one another. The same goes for integrating other key pieces such as the injured Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) and Terry, who missed a good chunk of the preseason coming off knee surgery.
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“As guys get healthy, AK and Deron Williams getting healthy, I see us doing nothing but getting better,” said Pierce, who had 17 points in his Nets debut. “Obviously, we didn’t have Deron there in the fourth quarter. So when they are able to get his minutes up to when he is able to close out games, we will be a different team.”
The Nets didn’t even have their coach in the building as Kidd served the first game of a two-game suspension, with assistant Joe Prunty acting as the temporary coach. Kidd isn’t going to start his first season as a coach until Sunday at Orlando.
He’ll need time to figure out rotations, substitution patterns and in-game coaching adjustments on the fly in the heat of a tight game in the final seconds. Kidd will also have to learn how much to play veterans such as Pierce and Garnett as the season progresses. Both played less than 30 minutes against the Cavs.
Still, despite all this, the Nets were in this game against Cleveland. They played good defense but failed to stop the Cavs for the full 24 seconds at critical junctures in the fourth. Pierce also had a chance to tie the game with 16.9 seconds but missed an 18-footer that let the Cavs escape.
The Nets know that they might not be able to control how long it will take for all their parts to come together. But they can control things such as playing defense and securing critical rebounds (the Nets surrendered 16 offensive rebounds).
“These are learning lessons,” Garnett said.
The question is how long will these lessons last? Patience is required to make championship runs.
“Well, hopefully the finished the product will be us hoisting up the trophy, so we know it’s a long haul,” Terry said. “When it happens, it is going to be special.”