It was assumed around the league that this coming offseason there would be a shakeup in Brooklyn, changes to the coaching staff for sure and likely the front office.
That shakeup came early, with the new year.
The Nets announced Sunday that coach Lionel Hollins has been fired, and GM Billy King has been “re-assigned” from his position.
Nets’ assistant coach Tony Brown takes over as interim head coach. The GM chair will be vacant for now, an interesting choice six weeks out from the trade deadline.
“After careful consideration, I’ve concluded that it’s time for a fresh start and a new vision for the direction of the team,” Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov said in a released statement. “By making this decision now, it enables our organization to use the rest of the season to diligently evaluate candidates with proven track records. It’s clear from our current state of affairs that we need new leadership. With the right basketball management and coach in place, we are going to create a winning culture and identity and give Brooklyn a team that it can be proud of and enjoy watching. We have learned a great deal during the past six years and our experiences will guide us for the future.”
The Nets are 10-27 this season, well out of the race for the playoffs in the East. Worse yet, the Nets don’t control their own first round draft pick until 2019, meaning their prospects for improvement in future seasons hinge on luring free agents to play with Brook Lopez, who the organization re-signed this summer, and rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Blame for this dumpster fire in Brooklyn starts with Prokhorov. He tried to treat the NBA like a European soccer league where a rich guy can just buy a team and wins. When the Nets were set to open the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, he instructed King to do whatever it took — including trading future picks and prospects — to put together an immediate title contender and become the dominant force in New York. Payroll be damned. What the Nets got was a team that paid $100 million in luxury tax — for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams and so on — and still only could make the second round of the playoffs. Prokhorov didn’t understand the market; it’s going to take something far more than that over a much longer stretch of time to win over New York from the Knicks, if it can be done at all. The Knicks have been at the heart of the New York sports scene for generations, you can’t sweep that aside with money.
There have been rumors Prokhorov wants to bring in the president of CSKA Moscow for the GM position.
Both King and Hollins deserve blame for some of their decisions, and there was a need for a fresh start, but the problem with the Nets stemmed directly from ownership and the direction it set. It’s just that owners do not fire themselves — in fact, Prokhorov just bought 100 percent control of the Nets and Barclays Center.
It’s his show, and this is what he’s doing with it. And apparently not very well.