The Brooklyn Nets are a terrible basketball team.
Plagued by injuries and inconsistency from an aging roster of yesterday's stars, they've fallen far short of their preseason hype. Despite entering the season with a league-leading payroll and championship ambitions, they've stumbled their way to one of the worst records in the NBA.
They should have seen it coming. All they had to do was look north to the Bronx and New York's most storied franchise, the Yankees.
The two teams' recent struggles closely mirror each other: Both built hilariously expensive rosters only to see them crumble quickly into decrepitude.
Assembling an old, expensive team is always a big risk. Older players are more prone to injuries and statistical regression, and paying them a premium leaves little financial wiggle room to plug holes if they miss time or play poorly.
Consider the Yankees. They opened last season with the second-highest payroll and the oldest team in baseball. Barely one month into the season, their disabled list swelled to the point where it theoretically had a higher payroll than half the teams in baseball.
Brittle veterans Derek Jeter (39 years old), Mark Teixeira (33), and Kevin Youkillis (34) earned a combined $52 million in 2013; they played in only 60 games between them. On the year, the Yankees lost more than $200 million to players on the DL.
The Yankees had no choice but to give considerable playing time to suboptimal replacements. The older players still in the lineup slumped, too, and as a result, the Yankees missed the playoffs for only the second time in the Wild Card era.
Since acquiring the Nets, owner Mikhail Prokhorov has charted a similar course, though with worse results.
Adopting a win-now-at-all-costs approach, he signed guard Deron Williams to a $100 million deal, then picked up Joe Johnson and his albatross of a contract (3 years, $70 million to go) from Atlanta. And to cap it off, he swung a blockbuster trade this offseason to pick up the ghosts of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry from the Celtics.
In 2011, the Nets had a payroll around $57 million. They've nearly doubled that now.
Like the Yankees, the Nets are not only expensive, but problematically old. Four of their six highest-paid players are out with injuries. In a November game against the Clippers, four of Brooklyn's five starters sat with injuries. (Spoiler: The Clippers won.)
And even when the Nets' old players have gotten on the court, they've played miserably. In particular, Pierce and Garnett are having by far the worst seasons of their careers by virtually every statistical measure, an astounding downturn in production that has the entire team struggling to pick up the slack.
With first year coach Jason Kidd unable to do anything right — he couldn't even correctly pretend to spill soda on himself — the Nets are unlikely to turn things around this year. And if they don't they'll finish just like the Yankees: Old, overpaid, and far from the playoffs.
Money can't buy you happiness. It apparently also can't buy you a title.
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