The Brooklyn Nets acquired point guard Jarrett Jack from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday in a three-team deal, sending swingman Marcus Thornton to the Boston Celtics. Boston also receives forward Tyler Zeller and a protected 2016 first-round pick from Cleveland, while the Cavs get a Celtics’ second-round pick.
For Cleveland, the incentive to make this trade was obvious: clear cap space to sign LeBron James. For the Celtics, they get two promising young players and a future first-round pick to help them in their rebuilding process.
The first half of Brooklyn’s offseason has been clumsy and awkward. Head coach Jason Kidd bolted for Milwaukee in a messy divorce, owner Mikhail Prokhorov was hit with the biggest luxury tax penalty ever, and the core of the team remains injury-prone, overpaid, aging, and declining.
But that was only Part One; the offseason isn’t over yet.
Two weeks ago, Brooklyn worked their way into trading for exciting draft picks Markel Brown and Bojan Bogdanovic. Now, by acquiring the tough and talented Jarrett Jack and the young and promising Sergey Karasev from Cleveland, the Nets’ offseason plan is beginning to gain support and come into focus for the first time.
The question that plagued the first half of the offseason–stand pat or retool?–has been answered. Retool, it is.
Just so you know, my definition of retool is to keep the core together, but surround it with youth, athleticism, and energy.
Recently, many successful cores have been torn apart too soon by pressure and impatience. For example, the entire starting lineup of the mid-2000s Detroit Pistons or the Boston Big Three of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, just to name a few.
Throughout the past decade, it’s been almost as if deep playoff runs not resulting in multiple rings are ignored, and solid core groups have been disassembled before their time.
Often, when we think about these teams’ current states, we wonder, would they have been better off if they just kept everyone together, despite their ages? Teams back in the day used to do this more often.
The late ’90s/early 2000s Sacramento Kings with Chris Webber, or the mid-to-late ’90s Utah Jazz with John Stockton and Karl Malone–even when championships didn’t come, overall playoff success was rewarded. The only team to continue this trend into the 2010s has been the San Antonio Spurs.
I’d say that’s worked pretty well.
After winning their fourth title over a span of eight years in 2007, everyone was ready for the Spurs to finally break up the band. They just couldn’t get back to the Finals, they were being upset by younger, more physical teams, and they couldn’t even get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs anymore.
But, rather than blowing up the roster and rebuilding, they retooled.
They made back-to-back Finals in 2013 and 2014, and are the favorite in the stacked Western Conference to get there again. And this was accomplished, not by rebuilding, but by retooling.
With this recent infusion of youth and energy around its tired core, it seems Brooklyn is trying to emulate the Spurs’ retooling process. Not a bad way to go–following after the league’s model franchise.
But Prokhorov’s mindset is, and will always be, championship or bust. So, even if trying to win a title within the next few years with this core group intact might be a lost cause … you can bet on one thing.
The Brooklyn Nets are gonna try.