Don't count out the Brooklyn Nets just yet

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By HUNTER KOSSODO
College Contributor Network

If you want the Brooklyn Nets' 2013-14 season in a nutshell, go watch the movie Titanic. Much like the Titanic, the Nets were built using a ludicrous amount of money for the sole purpose of departing in April (for the playoffs) to eventually land in New York City (for NBA Finals games at the Barclays Center). The Nets ran into a LeBron James-shaped iceberg and their maiden voyage ended in tragedy.

For a team that was built to win last season, is this year a wash? Can anything get better when Deron Williams and Brook Lopez can't stay healthy, Kevin Garnett is 38 going on 48, and Joe Johnson is the third-highest paid player in the league?

Sure it can.

As with any NBA team, injuries can ruin everything pretty quickly. The Nets had terrible luck with the injury bug last season. Lopez, an All-Star the year before, fractured his foot in December and didn't play another game. Williams had problems with both his ankles nearly all season, for which he eventually needed surgeries in May. Meanwhile, Garnett had back problems that caused him to miss 19 straight games right before the playoffs.

The surgeries to both of Williams' ankles is concerning and raises questions that he won't be the same player athletically that he once was. What should remain intact, however, is his dead-eye shooting and passing ability. Late in the 2012-13 season, Williams hit a franchise-record 11 3-pointers in one game. At just 30 years old, he is also seventh among active NBA players in total assists.

Injuries aren't the kind of thing one can predict, but given their history it's tough to imagine Lopez, Williams or Garnett won't deal with some sort of setback this season. Lopez hasn't played a full 82-game season since 2010-11, Williams hasn't since '07-08 and Garnett since '04-05.

Which is too bad, because if completely healthy, the Nets have three players capable of being All-Stars next season in Williams, Lopez, and Johnson. No team in the Eastern Conference outside of Cleveland and Chicago can say that.

But injuries do happen, and, in Brooklyn's case, a minor injury to one of its stars won't sink the ship. Point guard Jarrett Jack, a Sixth Man of the Year front-runner two seasons ago, will be reprising his role as the leader of the second unit after he was traded to the Nets from the Cavs in July. Should Williams go down, Jack is a nice replacement to have.

Lopez will be backed up by Mason Plumlee, who was a pleasant surprise for the Nets in his 22 starts last season. You might have seen Plumlee recently dancing awkwardly as a part of the gold medal winning 2014 U.S. FIBA Basketball World Cup team.

The loss of Paul Pierce in free agency hurts on the offensive end for a team that ranked 21st in the NBA in scoring. However, the continued health of the rest of their starters will more than make up for it. Williams and Johnson have a track record of being among the best scorers in the league, and Lopez was averaging over 20 points per game last season before he went down. Pierce will be replaced in the starting lineup by the jack of all trades, master of none -- Andrei Kirilenko.

An added bonus for the Nets is that they will be coached by Lionel Hollins, who led the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals in 2013 and has never purposely spilled his drink on the court.

The Nets were very nearly the fifth seed in the East last season but chose to rest their starters for the playoffs instead. A team doesn't go from the thick of the playoff hunt to completely out of it in one season unless they lose a lot of talent in the offseason, break down due to injuries or just check out mentally.

The Nets still have the talent, they have the drive, it's just that damn injury bug that remains a question.


Hunter Kossodo is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is a rabid supporter of Boston sports having lived there for most of his life. Follow him on Twitter: @HKossodo
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