Welcome to the Greatest Moment series at Last Word On Pro Basketball, where we’ll present to you each NBA team’s greatest moment of the 21st century. From draft lottery luck, to a franchise-changing trade, to the sweet taste of a championship, every NBA team has had its own special moment to look back on.
In this edition, we will relive the greatest Brooklyn Nets moment of the 21st century: The infamous Boston Celtics trade.
Greatest Brooklyn Nets Moment of the 21st Century: The Infamous Boston Celtics Trade
Recap of the Trade
The Brooklyn Nets acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White from the Boston Celtics on NBA Draft night. The Celtics, in turn, received Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first round draft picks (2014, 2016 and 2018), as well as the right to swap first round picks in 2017.
The announcement was made by Nets General Manager Billy King. Team owner Mikhail Prokhorov was giddy with excitement. “Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets. With the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, we have achieved a great balance on our roster between veteran stars and young talents. This team will be dazzling to watch, and tough to compete against.
On the Brooklyn Nets website, the announcement was titled, “Nets Aquire NBA Champions Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry.”
Anticipation was high. The NBA pundits were in a feeding frenzy. Most saw it as a steal by King and the Nets as they got rid of players who the Celtics ultimately didn’t want.
Factors Leading up to the Event
Team Owner Mikhail Prokhorov in 2010 had one mission, to bring respectability to a once proud franchise. The team had a league worst record of 12-70 in 2009-10 season leading to wholesale changes. Out went coach Lawrence Frank and General Manager Rod Thorn replaced by Avery Johnson and Billy King respectively. Prokhorov was no basketball novice as evidenced by his ownership of Russian and European Champions CSKA Moscow. Also factored into Prokhorov’s plan was the impending move to Brooklyn from New Jersey.
The acquisition of Deron Williams from the Jazz (in 2010) and later (2012) Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trailblazers brought encouragement to a fan base starved for success. Then came the Joe Johnson trade from the Atlanta Hawks in 2012. Johnson at the time was an eleven-year veteran and six-time All-Star seemed a perfect fit as a backcourt mate for Williams. Together with the development of young center Brook Lopez, all arrows pointed upwards for the Nets. After finishing second in the Atlantic Division with a 49-33 and losing a hard fought seven game series versus the Chicago Bulls, King knew he had to move.
Following a 14-14 start to the previous season, Head Coach Avery Johnson was surprisingly dismissed by King. To start the 2013 season, King hired former Nets legend Jason Kidd as the new head coach. Kidd played the season before as a member of the New York Knicks. A season filled with inconsistency and injuries plagued the Nets throughout. Again, the Nets finished second in a weakened Atlantic Division. More importantly, the Nets defeated the Toronto Raptors in keenly contested seven game series.
Few will forget Pierce’s performance in Game 1’s closing stages.
After defeating the Raptors, and losing to the Bulls, the wheels fell off completely. First Kidd left to join the Milwaukee Bucks. Next Pierce left to play with the Washington Wizards. Third, Garnett missed almost as many games as he played.
Though many hailed this as a good move for the Nets, the fact remains, this experiment went bad from the jump. In the pursuit of excellence, King allowed himself to “buy cat in bag” as the West Indian folks often say. Prokhorov previously told YES Network’s Sarah Kustok that the team’s five-year plan was based on “the Five Year Plan of Vladimir Lenin.” Wasn’t that a red flag (no pun intended)? Prokhorov himself stated that the Lenin plan “didn’t work good in the Soviet economy”, but was hopeful of different results. That is the textbook definition of insanity.
There is Good News
Because of that ill-fated trade, the Nets occupied space below mediocrity. However, there’s been signs of life. After the long anticipated dismissal of King, Prokhorov hired Sean Marks as the new General Manager. Marks came into the job eyes wide open. In his opening press conference, Marks outlined aspects of his vision. “We’ve got a culture that needs to be set and that starts from Day One. Everything that I do here with the help of the organization behind me is gonna help in setting that culture.” Marks continued, “The people within the organization are gonna define this culture.”
Marks made player development the calling card of his regime. “The entire organization staff will be expanded without a doubt.” He further cited the G-League team (Long Island Nets), as well as scouting being avenues for development. This is a far cry from the King era. To further calcify his stance, Marks hired Kenny Atkinson to be the head coach. Player development is the top skill of Atkinson’s. Marks also hired Trajan Langdon, a former lottery pick as his top assistant.
Rebuilding is Now the Legacy
Through systematic purging the Nets of the Prokhorov-King five-year plan, Marks has removed all players from the Billy King era. Williams was first to be bought out, followed by Johnson. Garnett and Terry were traded away. Marks even traded fan favorite and consummate professional Lopez was traded during this off-season. In return, the Nets now consist of a young nucleus of players. Jeremy Lin, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Allen Crabbe, Isaiah Whitehead, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sean Kilpatrick, and Trevor Booker are all under thirty years old. Only Timofey Mozgov and DeMarre Carroll are older than thirty years old. The revival is in full force at the Barclays Center. All fans are enthused by the work Marks and Atkinson has done.
Had that Celtics trade never happened, the Nets would not be in the position they’re in presently. The complete overhaul from the top-down allows the Nets to slowly, methodically build the organization to their specifications. This firm foundation set by Marks helps the organization going forward as it is a platform to work from. It’s about substance over style unlike before.
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