Money won’t be an object for the Nets this summer, be it for a coach or players. That’s what Mikhail Prokhorov taking over means.
The Nets have to use that money wisely and by that we mean they can’t overspend for the likes of Rudy Gay and David Lee. Also, the Nets have to make sure when they go shopping they find a leader.
They were lacking in so many areas during this 70-loss season and leadership ranked right up there.
Back around the time Vince Carter came back to East Rutherford to do his basketball camp last summer we wrote about how hard it would be for the Nets to make up for his leadership. They didn’t and still haven’t.
Devin Harris said all the right things, but he got hurt in training camp and missed most of it. He never was appointed official captain and then after playing in the first two games of the regular season missed the next 10.
The Nets needed their best player to be there from the beginning to lead them and it didn’t happen.
Keyon Dooling and Jarvis Hayes were candidates, but they had similar situatiosn as Harris. Dooling missed all of camp and the first 18 games of the season after hip surgery. Hayes was banged up in camp, hurt his hamstring in the opener and was out until after the New Year.
Brook Lopez was the Nets’ best player all year, but he’s too young to be a leader. He’s not that vocal and can be moody. We would have liked to see him command the ball more, be vocal that way and lead that way. But he's not there yet. He will be with time.
All of that said, Lawrence Frank was the leader of the Nets. He tried to hold everyone together, keep them motivated and positive, while also holding them accountable. And when he was fired after the Nets’ 16th consecutive loss they lost their leader.
Kiki Vandeweghe ultimately replaced Frank, but it didn’t take 16 games for him to lose many of his players.
As much as the Nets need guys who can score, rebound and defend and guys who care about winning, they need someone to lead them.
If the Nets get LeBron James or Dwyane Wade in free agency their problems would be solved across the board. But let’s figure they stay with their respective teams.
Also, if the Nets are able to draft John Wall or Evan Turner they are said to be natural born leaders. But you can’t rely on a rookie leading you. Now let’s say the Nets finish third or fourth in the lottery and they take Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson or DeMarcus Cousins. They’re not leaders.
Figure that scenario, and then in free agency the Nets land Gay and Lee, they’ve gotten better, but none are leaders. Even if they get Amar’e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer, the Nets are much better, but neither is the leader on their teams. It’s Steve Nash and Deron Williams, respectively.
It’s much easier to be the No. 2 or No. 3 guy, but when you have to become the No. 1 guy, you have to impose your will on the team and no only in games. It means setting the tone in practice the way Jason Kidd once did for the Nets and the way Carter did after he left.
The truth is the Nets probably have to find their leader in their next coach. If it’s Mike Krzyzewski there is no question about his leadership skills. Jeff Van Gundy is a much more accomplished version of Frank. The other expected candidates are Avery Johnson, a former point guard/leader on a championship team and coach of a finalist, Tom Izzo, Jay Wright and perhaps Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau.
The Nets need a strong personality with a defensive mentality, someone to hold players accountable and lift them over any hurdles or obstacles; someone who can make an immediate, positive impact on the players and team as a whole and will establish an identity.
When the Nets go shopping this offseason, they need to find a leader.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)