The Nets had a lot of grand plans coming into this season. A priority was supplanting the Knicks and taking over New York City. Although those plans have been put on hold, there’s no denying the Nets have made a splash.
Aside from starting the “Circus” road trip on the right foot, winning three of the first four games, including Sunday’s 102-100 victory over Phoenix, the Nets clinched a playoff berth for the first time since the 2006-2007 season.
The Nets need to capitalize on this opportunity. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov spent a lot of money on the team this season, and he doesn’t just want a first-round exit. The Russian billionaire said a trip to the Eastern Conference final would make it a successful season.
Is he right to demand so much with a brand-new roster? With two players on the team set to make $100 million-plus over the duration of their contracts and a third who is making over $70 million, Prokhorov can demand just about anything.
Whether the Nets can deliver what Prokhorov wants remains a question. If the playoffs began today, the Nets would play the Bulls. Without Derrick Rose and the home court advantage, the Nets could survive. However, there is a chance that Rose will return before the end of the season. If he does, and is anywhere close to 100 percent, a first-round exit is a real possibility for the Nets.
Under normal circumstances, a team making the playoffs for the first time in six years would get a pass on a first-round exit, because it would be considered just one step in a large rebuilding process. But the Nets went through a lot, in a short period of time, to put Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez together. Oh, and they fired a coach, too.
Making the playoffs is a good thing, but being a first-round flop isn’t.