The 2000s: From New Jersey to Brooklyn
By Tom Dowd
For the second time in the team’s history, a single trade changed everything for the Nets.
On July 18, 2001, the Nets sent Stephon Marbury, Johnny Newman and Soumaila Samake to the Phoenix Suns and received Jason Kidd in return.
Over his 6½ seasons with the Nets, Kidd would be named to two All-NBA First Teams and one Second Team, six NBA All-Defensive Teams and five NBA All-Star games. The Nets would reach their first NBA Finals and then return the following year, going on to six straight playoff appearances.
The turnaround was immediate. With Kidd at the controls, the Nets won seven of their first eight games to start the 2001-02 season. They doubled their win total in finishing 52-30 to win their first division title.
Kidd was not the only addition to the lineup. Guard Kerry Kittles returned after missing the 2000-01 season with a knee injury to shoot 40 percent from 3-point range. Rookie Richard Jefferson was a first-round pick acquired in a draft-night trade who excelled in a sixth-man role. Starting center Todd MacCulloch was signed as a free agent and formed a solid pivot pair with Jason Collins, who also came over in the Jefferson trade.
The pieces fit perfectly, with Kidd directing a free-flowing balanced offense that had Kenyon Martin as the leading scorer with just 14.9 points per game, with Van Horn right behind at 14.8 and Kidd averaging 14.7.
“He had an uncanny knack for what had to be done to get the ball in the basket,” said Nets official scorer Herb Turetzky. “Not by his hand, by somebody else’s. And he was with a group of guys that could run that floor with him like a herd of deer. And they knew if they would get open, he was going to find them. Richard Jefferson, Kerry Kittles, Kenyon Martin, later on Vince Carter. Even Jason Collins got down the floor. He had an uncanny knack for finding them in the right spots. And the ball came just at the right time.”
A six-game victory over the Boston Celtics in the conference finals sent the Nets to the 2002 NBA Finals where they fell to the Los Angeles Lakers, who won their third straight title behind Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
There were minor changes over the summer. The trade of Van Horn and MacCulloch to Philadelphia opened up a spot in the starting lineup for Jefferson. The Nets repeated as division champs and sweeps of Boston and Detroit gave them 10 straight playoff wins going into an NBA Finals matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. The franchise’s first NBA title eluded the Nets again as Tim Duncan and the Spurs won the second of their five championships.
In December 2004, Nets GM Rod Thorn made another deal that shook the NBA, acquiring Vince Carter from Toronto. With two All-NBA selections and five straight NBA All-Star Game appearances, the dynamic swingman was one of the league’s most exciting offensive talents.
Over 4½ seasons with the Nets, Carter averaged 23.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists. The following year the Nets won their fourth division title in five years while matching their second-best NBA record with a 49-33 finish.
As the Kidd and Carter era came to a close – Kidd was traded in 2008 and Carter 16 months later – the franchise’s future pointed towards Brooklyn.
Another blockbuster trade tipped off the new era when the Nets acquired two-time All-NBA point guard Deron Williams in February 2011. Six-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson followed the next year to put a premier backcourt in place when the Brooklyn Nets made their debut at Barclays Center with a 107-100 win over the Toronto Raptors on Nov. 3, 2012. The next year the Nets added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett while making playoff appearances in their first three seasons in Brooklyn.
With the opening of the HSS Training Center and the hiring of GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson in 2016, the Nets are primed for the future as they conclude their 50th season, their 41st in the NBA and their fifth in Brooklyn.
Acquired in a draft-night trade in 2001, Richard Jefferson was the sixth man on the Nets’ NBA Finals team in 2002 and jumped into a starting role the following year as the team repeated as Eastern Conference champions. Over seven seasons with the Nets, Jefferson averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds, with a career-high 22.6 points per game in his final season as a Net in 2007-08.
Selected first overall in the 2000 NBA Draft, Kenyon Martin helped spark a franchise resurgence as the starting power forward on two Eastern Conference championship teams. An NBA All-Rookie First Team selection in 2001, Martin represented the Nets at the 2004 NBA All-Star Game. Over four seasons, Martin averaged 15.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 34.1 minutes per game with the Nets.
Guard Joe Johnson brought the thrills to Barclays Center’s first few seasons with a string of buzzer-beating game-winners, averaging 16.3 points in 2012-13 and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range in 2013-14. In 3½ seasons in Brooklyn, Johnson averaged 14.7 points as a Net and ranks fourth in franchise history in 3-pointers made.
The longest-tenured Net in franchise history, Brook Lopez is in his ninth season since being drafted 10th overall in 2008. The center is in the top five in Nets history in games, points, rebounds and blocks. Lopez is on pace for his fourth season averaging 20-plus points and as of March 22 has career averages of 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
IN THE 2000S: A TIMELINE
- Byron Scott hired as Nets head coach
- Kenyon Martin selected with No. 1 pick in NBA Draft
- Kenyon Martin named to NBA All-Rookie First Team
- Point guard Jason Kidd acquired in trade from Phoenix
- Nets win franchise record 52 games, first NBA division title and advance to NBA Finals for first time
- Jason Kidd named to All-NBA First Team
- GM Rod Thorn named NBA Executive of the Year
- Center Dikembe Mutombo acquired for Keith Van Horn and Todd MacCulloch
- Nets repeat as Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference champions
- Jason Kidd leads NBA in assists for second straight year, named to All-NBA First Team
- Nets win third straight Atlantic Division title
- Richard Jefferson selected for USA Olympic team
- Nets acquire All-Star guard Vince Carter from Toronto
- Nets win fourth division title in five years
- Nets extend playoff streak to six straight appearances, longest in franchise NBA history
- Nets play final game at IZOD Center, home for 29 seasons
- All-Star point guard Deron Williams acquired in trade
- Nets play first game in Brooklyn after two years at Prudential Center
- Sean Marks hired as GM
- Kenny Atkinson hired as head coach