In the years the Nets played in the NBA, they formed an identity for only three times: Two for good and one for awful.
During the Chuck Daly years, the Nets transformed into a grind-it-out team. During the Jason Kidd years, the Nets turned into a run-and-gun team with Kidd being the maestro at point guard.
Even when the Nets were awful, they developed an identity of “Whoop-de-damn-do” with players such as Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson, and Chris Morris providing plenty of losses without a care in the world.
Other than that, the Nets had no idea what they wanted to be or who they are. It resulted in plenty of losses along with irrelevancy in this pro sports market and in the NBA. It wasn’t for lack of trying. They just did not have the players.
The Nets played in Brooklyn for seven seasons with nothing to show for it. The best they did from that time was getting to the Eastern Conference semifinals against LeBron James and the Heat in the 2013-2014 season. Other than that, plenty of coaches, players, and executives came and went.
Next season should be the year the Nets need to find an identity and stick with it. With Kevin Durant coming back from an Achilles injury, that should make it easy. Just give the ball to him and get out of the way. Look for so much pick-and-roll offense from Kyrie Irving to Durant.
Of course, Durant has to be healthy, and most importantly, he has to show he can be the guy the Nets envisioned before the injury. No one knows if he is up to it, not even him.
If Durant turns into a shell of himself after that injury, the Nets are screwed all around. Not just on the court, but also financially. They paid Irving $35 million a year for four years just to get the former Thunder and Warrior, and the Nets point guard offered nothing other than being hurt and getting a head coach fired in Kenny Atkinson. Paying two stars to do nothing and be dressed in civic clothes can haunt a franchise for a long time.
No one on the Nets likes to think about it. Nets fans perish that thought. No one can blame them. The power of positive thinking beats calamity in times like this.
The Nets should hire a head coach that will be consistent in his principles rather than have a head coach that changes identity every few weeks. A coach that will be defensive-oriented and a coach that will utilize its big man. Tom Thibodeau comes to mind.
Sure, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and Atkinson had good intentions of what they wanted the Nets to be like, but they never had the players.
There’s no reason not to have an identity now. But they need a coach who will not deviate when times get tough. Thibodeau comes to mind since this team needs to have a defensive mindset, which has not been the case since Kidd played for the Nets. Thibodeau will set the tone of what the Nets want to be. If guys don’t play defense, they won’t play or they will likely be gone.
The Nets can’t hire another coach that is learning on the job, and they know that since they would waste Durant’s career. Smart money says Thibodeau is the favorite to get the job. The job search starts and ends with him.
Here’s another thing about the Nets: No one knew what to expect from them in recent years. They either showed up to play or they didn’t.
This can’t happen anymore, which the team plays at the level of an opponent. Too many times, they never played with a full effort against teams like the Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, or other mediocre teams since they thought they could get by. Championship teams bring it game after game.
Expect Thibodeau to put an end to that if he gets the job. One thing about him. He will make sure his teams bring it every game no matter what. It would be a refreshing change to what it used to be. Sure, it will help that he has Durant, but he spells gravitas with his coaching success when it comes to having players executing what he wants.
Having Durant back and getting a coach like Thibodeau provides the Nets an identity they crave.