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No safety net: Brooklyn can’t afford any more missteps

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The Nets are at a self-made crossroads. Its lack of draft picks leaves the club little margin for error when choosing the path it hopes leads out of the National Basketball Association’s basement.

General Manager Billy King, who owner Mikhail Prokhorov reassigned last week, left the organization and his successor very few options for fixing the franchise with just one first-round draft pick over the next three years and $56.7 million in salary commitments in 2016–17.

The team’s best hope for a turnaround is a smart general manager, a player-friendly coach, and Prokhorov’s deep pockets.

Pundits expect the league’s salary cap and luxury tax threshholds to soar from $67.1 million to $89 million — with the luxury tax threshold climbing from $81.6 million to $108 million — thanks to a new multi-billion-dollar television deal, according to a USA Today article. It could go up again drastically in 2017–18 — possibly capping salaries at $108 million and the luxury tax at $127 million.

That leaves the Nets plenty of money to throw at free agents over the next two summers. And the franchise has all the motivation — Prokhorov said he deserves a championship even more now than he did when he first bought the team six years ago.

Way back when, Prokhorov and then–part-owner Jay Z offered a “Blueprint to Success” and promised a championship, but that never happened, despite his best — and sometimes risky — efforts.

“I think we have been really bold, and we did our best in order to reach a championsh­ip,” Prokhorov said. “And I still believe, with some luck, our results might have been more promising. But I’ll do my best to make us a championship team.”

That is still the goal, and it always will be, but the team is a lot further away than it was six years ago.

I applaud the team’s reported interest in former Raptors and Suns general manager Bryan Colangelo as King’s replacement. The two-time National Basketball Association “Executive of the Year” has a proven track record and would bring a clear vision to Brooklyn.

Multiple reports have suggested former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau may take over for interim Nets coach Tony Brown. His record is stellar. Thibodeau’s Bulls squad won 64.7 percent of its games and made the playoffs all five years. But Brooklyn should still proceed with caution — his strong will and hard-headedness contributed to his demise in Chicago.

If the Nets aren’t into this for a long-haul rebuild, then Brooklyn’s own Mark Jackson makes more sense. His Golden State players loved him, and he helped mold the group into a championship team.

Jackson’s charisma and confidence would be an asset when trying to lure free agents to build around Brook Lopez and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He would also handle the New York market and media better, something that appeared important to Prokhorov.

The Nets are not beyond repair, but one more misstep after three years of errors could make it a long time before Prokhorov’s championship dream becomes a reality.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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