Del Boca Vista

Last week I tweeted the following: “Isn’t Florida where old people from Brooklyn move to when they retire?  Kinda fitting that KG and Pierce are down there already.”

Now… obviously that was a little facetious of me, but with the Nets being eliminated by the Heat in game 5 in Miami, turns out there was some truth to it.

If you’re not familiar with the reference, you only need to watch any episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry visits his parents to understand.

There is a long running tradition of New Yorkers and in fact, folks from all over the North East of the United States, moving to the warmth of Florida when they get to retirement age.

For Jerry’s parents it was the Del Boca Vista property just outside of Miami.

Where will it be for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett? Are they ready to retire now that they’ve been eliminated by the Heat? And if the answer is yes, what’s next for the Brooklyn Nets?


It was draft night 2013 when news broke that Kevin Garnett had waived his no-trade clause, thus allowing the Celtics to ship Garnett, along with Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn in exchange for three future first round picks, Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans. Lifelong Celtics fan Bill Simmons was not happy about it as he wanted to see Pierce and Garnett retire as Celtics.

However, it was a much bigger gamble for the Nets who basically pushed their entire stack of chips into the pot for a shot at a title this season. Nets GM Billy King was all-in.

They already had Joe Johnson on a massively overblown contract (3 years, $69.5 million remaining), had just signed Deron Williams (5 years, $100 million) and Brook Lopez (4 years, $60 million) to extensions a year earlier, with Jason Kidd recently signed as a rookie Head Coach.

Their payroll, after taking on Pierce, Garnett and Terry was approaching $100 million for the 2013-14 season, meaning a massive luxury tax bill for owner Mikhail Prokhorov. He wanted a winner for his new arena and figured he could buy a fan-base with instant success. It’s his money; who are we to begrudge him that right?

The Nets started the season very slowly, ending the month of November with a 5-12 record including a 5 game losing streak.

As was the case with the Lakers the previous season, you cannot expect to merge 5 All-Stars together in one training camp and expect them to mesh instantly. The task was made even harder given their Head Coach was retired all of 5 minutes before moving into coaching. He had zero experience.

To make matters worse, All-Star center Brook Lopez was lost for the season with a broken foot that required surgery.

After losing on New Year’s Eve, they sat at 10-21. Well out of playoff contention and looking anything but the title contender Prokhorov thought he had acquired.

However something clicked for them right around the New Year. The team started to find cohesion and an identity, winning 10 of their first 11 games and going 10-3 overall in January to edge closer to .500 again.

At the trade deadline in February, in an effort to get younger and provide more scoring depth on the wing, they acquired shooting guard Marcus Thornton, shipping veterans Jason Terry and Reggie Evans to Sacramento.

By March 3, they were back to .500 and by the end of March were now 6 games over .500 and contending for home court advantage in the first round of the East playoffs. Finishing 44-38, they earned the #6 seed in the East – seemingly dropping the final game on purpose to avoid playing Chicago in the first round – and looked primed to do some damage.

Kidd had them playing confidently even if their style and rotations were still evolving.

They battled through a tougher than expected first round series versus the upstart Toronto Raptors, winning in the 7th game on the road thanks to a huge defensive play by Paul Pierce.

However, after battling hard and not backing down, they’ve now been eliminated in the second round by the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, 4 games to 1.


So where does this leave the Nets heading into the summer? There are a number of questions right now and not many solid answers.

Joe Johnson was an All-Star this year (somehow), but is far from in his prime. His scoring output this season (15.8ppg) was the lowest in 10 years, his assist average (2.7apg) the lowest in 11 years, while his PER was barely above the league average at 15.5. He is in decline at age 32 and that will not help the Nets reach their championship aspirations. His contract is an albatross hanging over this franchise and virtually untradeable at this point.

Is Brook Lopez Yao Ming 2.0? This is the second major foot injury for the talented big man and he has now played a total of 96 regular season games over the past 3 seasons. He had surgery on his left ankle in March, which was in addition to the surgery he had on his right foot back in January. While there are positive reports about the progress he is making with his rehab, the fact that he needed to basically have his foot reconstructed to shift bones and redistribute weight, raises a huge red flag about his stability going forward. He has 2 years and over $32 million remaining on his contract. Will the Nets see any return on that investment?

How exactly does Marcus Thornton fit into their plans? He can still score (18.6 points per 36-mins since joining Brooklyn), but is nothing more than a 4th option these days. His defense is awful (109 DRtg, 0.5 DWS), having been exposed massively in this Heat series, and he barely averaged 1 assist per game this season. He is owed $8.5 million next season, but is at least an expiring contract that could be traded.

Rookie Mason Plumlee has shown promise filling in for Lopez, but is likely destined to be a back-up once Lopez returns. Veterans Andray Blatche, Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko are all on cheap contracts for one more year and provide depth but will not lead this franchise to their championship goal.

Shaun Livingston had somewhat of a bounce back year, starting 54 games and helping to move the ball, but he has a lot of limitations. He cannot shoot the 3-ball at all, plays matador defense and is a liability due to his thin frame against most shooting guards in this league, plus he is below average in efficiency (14.5 PER). He is out of contract after this season and despite Billy King saying in March that “re-signing Shaun Livingston is priority No. 1”, the Nets clearly have bigger priorities to address.

Deron Williams is another major concern for Billy King and Prokhorov. At just 29 years of age, Williams should be in the prime of his career. There was talk in the pre-season of him being an MVP candidate this year given the plethora of scoring options at his disposal and veteran help to get him the ball in the right spots. Instead, he continued to battle ankle issues on his way to having his worst statistical season since his rookie year. Signed to a max contract extension in 2012, to be the face of the new franchise in Brooklyn, 14.3pts, 6.1ast, a USG% of 21.8 and a PER of 17.6 is just not going to get it done. Williams missed 18 games this season and has played in more than 75 games only twice in the past 6 seasons. Is he really a franchise player?

Finally, the question has to be asked whether Garnett and Pierce will even return to Brooklyn?

Garnett has one more year to run on his deal but seemingly has little left to give. Excluding the 1998-99 lockout season, Garnett played in a career low 54 games this season, managing just 20.5 minutes per contest for 6.5pts, 0.7blk, 1.5ast and 6.6reb, while shooting just .441 FG%. All of those numbers, aside from the rebounds, are also career lows. He turns 38 on Monday and now played 19 seasons. If he does not see an opportunity to win a title with Brooklyn next season, is there any point in putting his body through the grind of another season? You’d have to think not.

Pierce becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and there are already rumblings that he may return to Boston for one final season to retire as a Celtic. He’ll be 37 by the time the next season starts with 16 seasons under his belt. Forced to play power forward for much of this year, he has still managed to have an efficient season despite taking a grind on his body and a reduced role. He came up big in the first round versus Toronto, played well against the Heat and clearly still has more to give.

The question is: whatever he has left, will he want to give that to Brooklyn or try and mentor the young talent the Celtics are trying to develop? Will he join Doc Rivers for one last go-around and a shot at a title in his home town of LA with the Clippers? Or will he just stay in Florida and retire with Garnett? Only Pierce can answer that, but there is little certainty that he’ll be back at Barclays Center next season.

As clichéd as it sounds, the Nets are at a major cross-roads right now. They have no first round pick in this year’s talented draft, nor in 2016 or 2018. In addition, Atlanta has the right to swap their 2015 first rounder with Brooklyn, while Boston has that same right in 2017.

The Nets are simply not going to improve via the draft unless they make some trades.

They have expiring contracts in Garnett ($12 million) and Thornton ($8.5 million) that may be of interest to other teams as trade chips, but Lopez, Johnson and Williams are all in Brooklyn to stay for better or worse.

With the changes to the luxury tax penalties in the new collective bargaining agreement, Prokhorov will no longer be able to just throw money at the problem.  Billy King will need to decide if they continue to chase a title with the current core or try to blow it up and start again.

One thing is for sure: it is fitting that Garnett and Pierce have played their final game of this season in Florida. Maybe they should just stay and move into Del Boca Vista … if nothing else it might just keep the Costanzas out!


Follow me on Twitter @tomhersz

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When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball

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