Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fire Jason Kidd if you must, but blame Billy King first

Brooklyn Nets' GM Billy King with coach Jason Kidd
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What's happened thus far in this 2013-14 season is inexcusable.

The problems for the Brooklyn Nets this year are almost innumerable, and they're at every level of the organization. For the players, there have been serious issues with effort, execution, and tons of mental mistakes. They're also being completely miscoached. Can you think of the time they actually ran a play? At times, this Brooklyn squad has looked utterly clueless. And owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been unusually hands-off and quiet this season, especially for a guy who wants so badly to win now.

Do I think Jason Kidd should be a head coach in the NBA in 2013? No. But do I think he should be fired? Like the Nets' bosses seem to be doing, I'm waiting until Brooklyn is at full health again until I feel completely comfortable evaluating him.

What we do know is this: with a depleted roster, Kidd has done a horrible job on the sidelines. The Nets have been riddled with injuries so far, so Kidd has to get some kind of a pass for now.

The real issue, though – the guy people actually should be blaming – is the man who gave Kidd the reins in the first place: general manager Billy King.

As reported by Nets Daily in June, King initially felt hesitant giving Kidd the head coaching job – as he very well should have. Putting a rookie head coach in charge of a team of superstar veterans just nine days after he retired from playing is almost like putting a toddler in charge of a nursing home. He's getting eaten alive by veteran coaches and the Nets have lost by 20 or more points an astonishing six times already this season. But how much of it is really his fault?

Before you blame Kidd, blame King for putting Kidd in the situation he's in. And look deeper. Hiring a rookie coach is far from the end of King's transgressions against this Nets team.

It's no secret that the blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics this summer turned out to be a colossal mistake. Anyone can see that just by watching these old guys play. Paul Pierce, 36, has a shooting percentage that matches his age – a full 8% lower than his career average – and his shot selection has been laughable. Kevin Garnett, 37, also has a field goal percentage identical to his age, which is a shocking 12.7% lower than his career average, and scores only 6.5 points per game (his career average is 18.9). Beyond that, he's looked about three steps slow on defense. Jason Terry, 36, has somehow been the best piece of this trade, even though he's missed nearly half of the season so far. None of his numbers are great, but he's provided some crucial energy off of the bench. He's really the best piece of the trade by default simply because he hasn't been a liability.

The former Celtics players have been failures for this team, but the bigger disappointment is the long term effects of the move. Brooklyn gave away three first-round picks – in 2014, 2016, and 2018 – plus the right to swap picks in 2017. Due to this trade and the trade prior to last season with the Atlanta Hawks, the Nets do not control their own first round pick until 2019. It really wouldn't be so bad if King had just protected the Nets' picks, but, of course, he didn't.

Furthermore, the Nets will not fall under the salary cap until 2016. King happily took on some monstrous, putrid contracts in recent years. We all know about Joe Johnson's contract: he's one of the highest-paid players in the league and is owed $69.5 million over the next three years. The oft-injured and rapidly declining Deron Williams will make $81.7 million over the next four years. Garnett will make $23.5 million over the next two years. Pierce's services for this season will cost $15 million. Terry will be paid $10.7 million for this year and next year. And let's not forget about the amnestied Travis Outlaw, who the Nets must pay $8 million over the next two years.

Overpaying for products and inventory is just bad business. At the end of the day, the Brooklyn Nets is a business. What happens when a company loses money because its management is not spending his money wisely and giving away valuable futures in the process? We all know this – American business culture is short-tempered and cold-blooded. Heads roll.

So what is Billy King still doing here? By overspending on old, no longer serviceable players and giving away draft picks for the next five seasons, King has not only driven this team into the ground for the foreseeable future, but he has also doomed the Nets' efforts going forward.

The "Big Five" have played just 78 minutes together this season, and, to be honest, they haven't looked bad at all during their minutes together. The problem, of course, is keeping them all on the court. It was Billy King's idea to put a bunch of old players together and expect them to stay injury-free. This is a great strategy if you're playing 2K, but in real life, 36- and 37-year-old basketball players get tired and hurt.

King gambled. King lost. And now the Nets are lost – for the better part of a decade. With no money to spend and no draft picks in sight, Brooklyn's future is crippled and it's hard to even imagine what this team will look like even two years from now. The Nets' only players signed after the 2014-15 season are Williams, Brook Lopez, and Johnson (Mason Plumlee's contract has a team option for 2015-16). This was a great nucleus to build around last year. Maybe it will be again in two years.

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