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Spanarkel Says: Nets' flexibility is key to success

Versatility plus title experience could equal a winning formula in Brooklyn
10/28/2013 10:12 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Despite all of the Nets' offseason additions, Jim Spanarkel still sees Brook Lopez as the team's X-factor.(AP)
Of all the things that have been said about the Nets’ trade with the Celtics that netted Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, the thought of “championship experience” has been one of the hotter topics.

Nets on YES analyst Jim Spanarkel, who spent the first of his five NBA seasons alongside “title experienced” players like Julius Erving and Henry Bibby on a 1979-80 Sixers team that went to the NBA Finals, knows that said “experience” itself isn’t enough to carry a team – but it sure is a huge motivator.

“Sometimes I think that might be overrated; you need things to have fall into place sometimes to win, but having the experience of winning, what that says to me is that those three can say ‘we’ve won, so we know that winning is worth the effort you put into it, and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is worth it’,” Spanarkel told YESNetwork.com. “They know what it takes to get there and know what it feels like to be there, so if they can get guys to buy into that – which I think they can – then it all comes together.”

The Nets now have three guys who have been to the mountaintop before, and as they try to gel and get there themselves this winter, Garnett, Pierce, and Terry will be able to motivate and lead their new teammates through the tougher times on that journey.

“I think the number one thing (they bring) is that leadership and experience, which translates when you set your new expectations for a team and the plan for how you’re going to reach them. It’s great for a player to say his team is going to win 50 games, or a pick a number – but setting the goal is the easy part, it’s how they execute it that matters,” Spanarkel said. “It depends what the expectations and standards are, and Garnett and Pierce approach that from a standpoint of making sure that the way they’re going to do this is to put 110 percent effort behind it. I think that’s an intangible that’s going to rub off on people, and I think that’s going to come into play with the entire team this year.”

All that said, however, Spanarkel still thinks this year’s X-Factor is the one guy who has technically been in the black and white longer than anyone else on the roster.

“There are a lot of moving parts with this team to talk about, but I think the X-factor will be Brook Lopez,” he said. “He has his history of foot problems, but barring any injuries, I think his development and improvement at the defensive end of the floor with the help of Garnett can really impact this team. And, just from what I’m seeing, the way Garnett and Andray Blatche have the ability to play “tall” with each other but also stay out of the post will also help Lopez on the offensive end of the floor in those situations, too.”

No matter what happens on the floor, however, any great team needs an equally great coach on the sidelines to maximize their talent. Jason Kidd’s next regular-season game may be his first, but Spanarkel thinks that despite his inexperience, the combination of the assets that made him a great player with the knowledge of his staff can help the Nets go far.

“As a player, Jason Kidd reacted to game situations as well as anyone in the history of the game,” he said, “but it’s one thing to react as a player and another for him to have to react and make judgments on the fly from the bench. There could be a learning curve, but he has a great group of assistants who will be there to support that learning curve.”

Another thing that will help Kidd, Spanarkel says, is that he has a tremendous versatility on his roster, so the new coach will have the “luxury” of seemingly always having a good matchup.

“Many of these players are multi-position capable; when you look at the backcourt, Deron Williams can play the 1, 2, or 3, Joe Johnson can play 2, 3, and a little 4, Johnson and Pierce can flip-flop the 2 and 3, and Livingston can run big at the 2 as well,” Spanarkel said. “And, the versatility of the big men is a real good complement, too. Figuring out what lineup works best on particular nights based on those talents will be an adjustment, but I think it will be a big help.”

In that vein, Spanarkel says, Andrei Kirilenko may end up being the one acquisition who helps the Nets the most in an under-the-radar kind of way.

“When you talk about the blend and how a lot of guys can play multiple positions, I think Kirilenko fits right in between. From the way he plays and his all-around game, I think he can benefit in so many different ways,” he said. “His game understanding can help that team a lot, and I think because he has so many different tools, he’s going to get plenty of opportunities to get minutes, and with the talent around him, it’s going to be a nice fit.

Add it all together, Spanarkel says, and Brooklyn is a serious contender.

“Other teams had good summers, but I think the changes the Nets made and the players they brought in, with the experience, leadership, and added depth and flexibility, gives them an edge over everybody else.”

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