Nets playoff history: In a new home, Brooklyn hopes it has the star power

Andy Lyons

The Brooklyn Nets should be happy to simply make the postseason after six years of struggles, but the team's last string of success taught them valuable lessons about the biggest hurdle in the NBA playoffs.

It hasn't gone perfectly as planned in Brooklyn. The Nets fired coach Avery Johnson midseason, went through rough patches in the schedule, and watched as the production of stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson was, at times, lacking.

But relatively speaking, the first year in Brooklyn couldn't have gone a whole lot better.

The Nets have returned to the playoffs for the first time in seven years, finally washing away the remnants of a stale New Jersey franchise. Looking further back in time gives context to how rare it's been for the Nets, the Eastern Conference's fourth seed, to have made the postseason. From 1995-2001, New Jersey only won more than 31 regular season games once -- the Nets weren't on course to win more in the lockout year, either -- and thus made a single playoff appearance under coach John Calipari in 1998.

The 2012-13 version of the Nets is the first playoff-bound team since the 2007 squad, which lost in the conference semifinals. That year was the last full season of the Jason Kidd era, which under coaches Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank appeared in six consecutive playoff berths for the franchise.

What began the Nets' magic for those six seasons was a trade that sent Stephon Marbury to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Kidd.

And what ended the magic each year were clashes against teams with greater star power.

Placed on a relatively young roster that included second-year pro Kenyon Martin, rookie Richard Jefferson, backcourt mate Kerry Kittles, and forward Keith Van Horn, Kidd led the Nets to the NBA Finals in 2002, his first season in New Jersey. The Nets fell in the finals via a sweep at the hands of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

New Jersey returned to the NBA Finals the next season but did little better against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in 2003, losing in a six-game series.

The next few years went about the same way. Kidd helped the Nets to the conference semifinals in 2004 where they fell to the Detroit Pistons and their deep cast of enigmatic stars. They got swept in the first round by the Miami Heat in 2005, and again fell to O'Neal and Dwyane Wade's Heat in the 2006 conference semifinals. The last postseason appearance for the Nets ended in 2007 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With the Nets finally returning to the playoffs, pressure will be on Williams, Johnson and first-year All-Star Brook Lopez to strong-arm Brooklyn through the postseason a la Kidd. As the Nets' own playoff history has cruelly taught them, some new faces could give them the star power to go deep in the playoffs this season.

Relative to the New Jersey era as a whole, however, the Nets should be happy to be here at all.

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