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Thursday, December 27, 2012
How to spell success for Nets

By Mike Mazzeo

Before the 2012-13 campaign began, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who spent $330 million in the offseason, was asked what would constitute a successful season for his team.

“Our plan is maybe the conference finals,” Prokhorov responded.

Nearly two months later, the Nets are 14-14 -- 3-10 in December.

Something has to change. But what? Let’s take a look.

Fire Avery Johnson: It seems like ages ago that Johnson was named Coach of the Month for October and November. His Nets, once a team that thrived playing lockdown defense and grind-it-out offense, have regressed significantly. Recently, Johnson’s isolation-heavy system was questioned by his star player, Deron Williams. He is in the final year of his contract.

As the old saying goes, a coach is only as good as his players. That may very-well be the case here -- at least somewhat, anyway. Still, even if it is, the coach often takes the fall.

Why it could work: Bringing in a new coach could rejuvenate the roster. The Nets have talent and might benefit from a new voice and a new system.

Why it won’t happen: The organization loves Johnson. He had horrible teams his first two years at the helm. As a result, he deserves more time to right the ship. They’d have to pay Johnson and his replacement.

Make a trade: Johnson continues to tinker with the rotation, but to no avail. It might not be a bad idea for GM Billy King, known for his aggressiveness, to shake things up. Many of the players on the roster have massive contracts, but MarShon Brooks, who barely plays, is young and still has plenty of value given his low contract and potential. Kris Humphries, currently out because of a strained abdominal muscle, has recently fallen out of the rotation and could be another chip. There’s always future first-rounders too. The Nets are built to win now, so why not?

Why it could work: The Nets could acquire a valuable piece(s) for two players that aren’t going to figure prominently in the rotation.

Why it won’t happen: Humphries is due $24 million over two years. Not exactly the most favorable contract. He’s not eligible to be traded until Jan. 15 per CBA rules. Brooks makes just $1.16 million this season and won’t be a restricted free agent until 2015-16. It’s not easy to deal a player like that straight-up and get maximum value.

Change from within: It’s still early. But D-Will, who missed Wednesday night’s 15-point loss in Milwaukee due to a bruised right wrist, is having the worst year of his career and is playing hurt. The Nets’ season took a downward turn when Brook Lopez, who was playing his best basketball ever, got hurt and missed seven games due to a sprained foot. He hasn’t been the same dominant player since returning. Joe Johnson has been valuable albeit inconsistent. The bench is no longer producing the way it once was. It might be worth a shot to start Andray Blatche or give Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor more playing time. What’s the harm?

Why it could work: Blatche has thrived as a starter before and deserves more minutes. Avery Johnson has said his biggest issue is finding time to sit Joe Johnson because the Nets are much worse when he’s off the floor. The statistics show as much. Brooks wanted to be Sixth Man of the Year. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting last season. Regardless of his occasional defensive lapses, he deserves an honest chance. So does Taylor, who played well Wednesday night.

Why it won’t happen: Blatche has been tremendous with the second unit. Johnson loves playing veterans Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse, but has been reluctant to put in Brooks, while Taylor is just a rookie.