Of all the sports stories reflecting a complete turnaround at the beginning of a new year, none would probably be more appropriate than that of the 2013-2014 Brooklyn Nets.
At the start of that NBA season, the Nets went on a shopping spree to complete a collection of high-priced superstars to enter the season with high expectations.
They orchestrated the now considered as the worst trade of all-time by bringing in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry, along with Andrei Kirilenko in a separate deal to combine forces with resident stars Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gilas mainstay Andray Blatche. They also brought in rookie coach Jason Kidd. These prized acquisitions have the Nets entering the season with a loud noise in getting a championship run.
But that noise turned to silence when the Nets started poorly.
After splitting their first two games against the then Lebron James-led Miami Heat, the losses started piling for the Nets that they went to finish November with an awful record of 5-12. They lost five-straight and three-straight on separate occasions.
December would follow a similar pattern. They would win three of the first five games but lost seven of the next nine to finish 2013 with a record of 10-21.
On top of that, they would loss Brook Lopez to a season-ending foot fracture making, any championship aspirations unrealistic at this point.
Then the gorgeous turnaround happened.
As the calendars were changed with new ones, so were the manufactured fortunes of the Nets.
Kidd, who chose Pierce and small-ball over Blatche and rookie Mason Plumlee, probably established the blueprint for using the true-blue small-ball, one which uses a short line-up and still be successful.
He moved 6’11”Garnett to the center slot and the bulky 6’7” Johnson at small forward; and inserted 6’7” Pierce at power forward, a first in The Truth’s career and 6’7” Shaun Livingston at shooting guard to join 6’3 Williams at point in the starting line-up .
The fact that Garnett plays away from the paint in the perimeter and prefers face front to the basket at that point of his career and Pierce’s lack of size made the Nets at a huge disadvantage in the paint.
Their paint dominance loss, however, was offset by the increased floor spacing threat given Garnett and Pierce’s ability hit from the outside.
The next sequences that would defy logic with the Nets going berserk and started a winning binge.
Johnson converted a buzzer beater to down the Oklahoma Thunder on January 2, 2014 and start the change of trends.
They would win four more straight after that.
After losing to Toronto on their sixth game of 2014, they got another five game-winning streak going before losing their last two in January.
Their record of 10-3 would be the best in the NBA for that month, climbed to 20-24 and back to the playoff picture.
After a so-so 7-5 record in February, Brooklyn proved January is not a fluke by turning in a better March performance.
They would win 10 of the first 12 games of March before splitting the last four. The winning run makes their record in March 14-4, again the best in the NBA, and improves their overall record 41-33.
Their record in the regular season games of January, February, and March, 2014 would be an NBA best of 31-12, enough to propel them to the playoffs the Eastern Conference.
They eventually settled with a final win-loss record of 44-38, securing the sixth seed and facing the Toronto Raptors in the first round.
They went on to beat the Raptors in seven thrilling games to continue their run with the undersized Pierce playing a key role at clutch time. Him saying “That’s why they brought me here” showed the Nets were just about right in their trade decision, at least for the short term.
Kidd’s magic, however, could not work against the Miami Heat who play same small ball style but with younger and more athletic players. They succumbed 4-1 to fall short of moving to the next phase.
Nevertheless, their timely turnaround, from 32.26% winning percentage to 66.67% that coincides with the flip of calendars was the best ever made by a team in the NBA, perhaps in all of sports.
To think of it, it was achieved with just a small tweak in their line-up and a philosophy, from one of the biggest line-up with Lopez at center to one of the smallest with Pierce at power forward.
The result is finishing the season in the opposite pole in relation where they started it.
They may not be completely successful at getting the championship but what the Nets have accomplished in salvaging a playoff appearance and upsetting a higher seeded team shows that kicking off bad habits or changing approaches not fitted to a situation could result to greater good than one could ever imagine.
It could be just as easy like turning the switch of a light bulb.
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS