|All in all, Deron Williams was probably the Nets' MVP this season. I know, a lot of people would say Brook Lopez, but D-Will took on a leadership role with this team that Brook just wasn't able to do|
The 2012-13 season was supposed to be a "clean-slate" campaign for the Nets in which their checkered New Jersey past was discarded away into a trash bin and the only focus was to be bestowed upon just its Brooklyn future. Well, that was true to a certain extent, as the Nets finished 16 games above .500 and garnered the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference, an end-of-season standing that could be viewed as a success in its own right by many fans and supporters of the team.
But then came the playoffs.
Just to their luck, Brooklyn drew the #5 seed Chicago Bulls, a squad suffering from some brutal injuries, especially that of star point guard Derrick Rose, who missed the entire 2012-13 year with an ACL tear suffered in the 2012 playoffs. Even with Rose's absence, a foot ailment to center Joakim Noah, a viral sickness for small forward Luol Deng, and a calf problem for guard Kirk Hinrich, Tom Thibodeau's resilient bunch was able to knock off the Nets in seven games, advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals after a crushing Game 7 win at the Barclays Center.
In Game 4 of that series, the Nets blew a 14-point lead with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter, kickstarting a crazy 3-OT affair that resulted in a Chicago win, a win that gave the Bulls a 3-1 series lead at the time. Brooklyn fought back, winning the next two games before their unfortunate Game 7 loss.
Although the playoff result was certainly not what the Nets would have wanted, the truth is that just making the playoffs was enough of an accomplishment for the team in its first season in Brooklyn with a bunch of new players and a new coach that took over halfway through the season. Injuries earlier in the season made full continuity impossible and constant bouts of ineffectiveness from key players like Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, and sometimes Joe Johnson (and early in year, Deron Williams) cost the Nets dearly in terms of playoff position that may have altered their postseason success.
But all in all, with everything considered, a 49-33 maiden Brooklyn season is very respectable, even if it came in a weaker Eastern Conference and was marred by a too-early playoff exit. A ton of good developments came out of the 2012-13 campaign, such as the out-of-nowhere success of Andray Blatche, stunning rebounding prowess of Reggie Evans, newfound leadership of Deron Williams, unstoppable offense and increased intensity of Brook Lopez, clutch shooting of Joe Johnson, or even a late-season surge from Gerald Wallace.
These positives surely didn't come without a fair share of negatives, many of which manifested themselves in the series vs the Bulls. The Nets utilized WAY too many isolation sets, mainly run through Joe "iso-Joe" Johnson, at the end of shot-clocks, quarters, and games. Too many times was the Nets' offensive gameplan to get the ball to Joe with 15+ seconds left to shot and expect him to drill a face-up jumper over his defender, a play which failed much more than it succeeded. Also, the Nets were highly inconsistent on both sides of the ball, going through extended offensive and defensive droughts that made it nearly impossible to determine which nets team was going to show up on a night-to-night basis.
But with the 2013-14 regular season a number of months away, and with the rest of the NBA playoffs (most likely with the Heat and Spurs facing off in the Finals) still to go, Brooklyn has awhile to hire a new head coach (Lionel Hollins, maybe) and retool it's roster, which was barely good enough for #4 in the East this past season. A lot of time for a not-huge amount of changes. I'm feeling confident that Barclays Center season #2 will be just as, and hopefully more, successful than season #1 was.