GM Scores Second Straight Summer Splash with Monster Swap
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Reggie Jackson was the Yankees' "Mr. October".
Now, Brooklyn has its own "Mr. July" in General Manager Billy King.
The Nets' executive in charge of player personnel stole all the headlines in last Thursday night's NBA Draft at the Barclays Center.
Not with his first-round selection of fellow Duke alum Mason Plumlee with the 22nd overall pick, but with the soon-to-be-announced blockbuster deal that will bring future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston to the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
It was one summer ago that King re-signed Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, acquired Joe Johnson from Atlanta and stocked his bench with the likes of Reggie Evans, C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche, helping to turn the Nets from perennial losers to 49-game winners during their inaugural campaign in our fair borough.
Brooklyn reached the playoffs for the first time since 2007 (actually 1956 if you want to go back to the Dodger days), but was bounced from the opening round by an injury-plagued Chicago Bulls team, hastening the exit of interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo and resulting in the stunning hiring of recently retired future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd last month.
King and his players were clearly devastated in the aftermath of an embarrassing Game 7 home loss to the Bulls, and cited the team's lack of mental toughness as one of the key factors in the Nets' impromptu elimination, denying Brooklyn a shot at defending NBA champion Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
'I think we have a great group of the guys in the locker room. I just think, like I said, we talked about the word inconsistency all year. I think we just need to find a way to be more consistent, especially mentally,'' Williams said after Game 7. ''I think that's what got us in this series, is just the toughness, the mental breakdowns.''
Toughness and mental stability were clearly on King's mind when he pulled off the whopping transaction, which will not be officially announced until at least July 12. The Nets will get the 37-year-old Garnett, the 35-year-old Pierce and 35-year-old Jason Terry, each of whom has scored an NBA championship during their respective careers.
That dynamic trio will join Brooklyn's remaining starting core of All-Star center Brook Lopez and the backcourt of Williams and Johnson, giving the Nets the best starting five in the Atlantic Division, which they narrowly lost to the crosstown rival Knicks a season ago.
The Celtics will get Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph and Brooklyn's first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Obviously, King is focused on delivering Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's mandate of an NBA title within the first five years of his ownership. The acquisition of a pair of battle-tested NBA greats, and a sixth man who helped Dallas earn its first championship back in 2011, puts the Nets in position to chase that dream over the next two seasons.
Though he remained mum on what figures to be the biggest deal of this offseason, King's ear-to-ear smile at the press conference following Plum's selection was proof of his gleeful pleasure after making the sensational swap.
With rebounding machine Reggie Evans, Blatche and a soon-to-be-acquired backup point guard fortifying the bench, the Nets figure to be right back in the playoff mix next spring, only with even higher expectations.
Garnett and Pierce, who teamed to win the 2008 NBA Finals in Boston and came within a game of winning it all again in 2010, are two of the game's toughest players, known for their on-the-court intensity and ability to thrive under tremendous duress.
Terry was in the backcourt with Kidd, his new coach, when the Mavericks knocked off the Heat in six games during the '11 Finals before Miami began its run to back-to-back titles.
Though the dynamic trio is long in the tooth, it should re-invigorate what was already a strong first-year fan base at Barclays, which averaged better than 17,000 customers a night during the Nets' inaugural season here.
King further bolstered the roster by going back to his Duke roots to nab Plumlee, an athletic 7-footer, in the first round Thursday night.
"I'm very excited about the Nets," Plumlee said within the friendly confines of his new basketball home. "I didn't work out for them during the predraft process, but who wouldn't want to play here, with the buzz they have going here, the veterans and Jason Kidd coming on as coach. It's a dream come true to be in a situation like this."
"(Mason) gives us some athletic ability up front," noted King, who can't officially address the Boston trade until the Friday after next. "He adds a dimension that we don't have in our bigs."
Before that much-anticipated July 12 press conference, the Nets will give their newly formed coaching staff a chance to work together during the team's annual Summer League slate in Orlando, Fla.
Jason Kidd and assistants Lawrence Frank, Rodney Rogers, Eric Hughes and Doug Overton will oversee the five-game schedule from July 7-12 after kicking off a brief training camp session in East Rutherford, N.J. on Wednesday.
Kidd, making his first foray into coaching after 19 brilliant seasons on the hardwood, should benefit greatly not only from having his old head coach, Frank, by his side, but also from the presence of a pair of highly skilled motivators on the floor in Pierce and Garnett.
King has again taken the early lead in NBA Executive of the Year honors, an award he lost to Denver's Masai Ujiri during his first season in Brooklyn.
However, he'd gladly trade his candidacy for the chance to lift the Larry O'Brien Championship trophy in 2014.
After all, NBA titles, hard as they are to come by, are won in June, not July.
Hoop du Jour: C Plumlee will be joined by last year's first-round pick, PG Tyshawn Taylor, and returning F Tornike Shengelia on the Nets' Summer League squad. Taylor, who saw limited time as a rookie, will have to seriously up his game if he hopes to nab the backup point guard spot behind Williams next season as King is actively seeking veteran help in this department. ... Plumlee could emerge as an important spoke in the Nets' rotation during his first year out of Duke, and is looking forward to the challenge of fitting into Brooklyn's star-studded roster. "My strengths right now are just being athletic, getting up and down the floor, getting on the boards and finish at rim," said the 23-year-old. "I have to work on being able to knock down shots consistently; that's not something I did in college. I didn't even attempt jump shots. I think that's something that could add a whole dimension to game." ... Kidd addressed the formation of his new coaching staff last Friday, though it was long-rumored that Frank and Rogers were on board. “I am very pleased to add Lawrence, Roy, Eric and Doug to my staff,” said Kidd. “They collectively bring a wealth of NBA experience to our bench, both from a coach and player perspective. This combination will not only prove beneficial to me, but will be an invaluable asset to our players as well.”