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The LeBron Rules

Posted on: May 6th, 2014 by Justin DeFeo Comments

 

Michael Jordan was the best player on the planet, a revolutionary scorer so potent that in order to vanquish him, the Detroit Pistons had to develop elaborate principles to follow on defense. They called them "The Jordan Rules," a term so popular that a book about Jordan was released a few years later with the same name.

In today’s game, LeBron James is the King, and he’s also who stands in the way of the Nets' hope for a bid to the Eastern Conference Finals. Stopping him is no easy task, but let’s look at The LeBron Rules the Nets will need to follow to slow King James.
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In the video above, Nets players Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, and Mason Plumlee talk about Brooklyn's inability to rebound, and some ways they've got to fix it.

But what else can they do? Let’s look deeper at some of the Nets rebounding issues.
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Paul Pierce; Patrick Paterson

Paul Pierce (AP)

A Hall of Fame performance is rarely the act of an individual.

Paul Pierce’s fourth quarter takeover in Game 1, combined with his declaration of “That’s Why I’m Here!” while running back to the huddle was, though wildly entertaining, no exception.

It wasn’t only Pierce’s veteran guile or his lifetime of difficult shot-making experience at work, but carefully executed Nets offense that cleverly put Pierce into creases in the Raptors defense, freeing him for his 4th quarter burst.
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Stephon Marbury

Stephon Marbury had one unique night. (AP)

2000-2001 Stats: 67 GP, 38.2 MPG, 23.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG, 44.1 FG%, 32.8 3P%, 79.0 FT%
2000-2001 Advanced: 54.0 TS%, 48.4 eFG%, 22.7 PER, 110 ORtg, 109 DRtg, 7.8 WS
All-Star Team? Yes
Team: 26-56

Unpopular opinion alert coming: Stephon Marbury is an underrated player in Nets history.

Marbury was a sublimely talented individual saddled with a poor supporting cast. He gets accused of being selfish and a poor leader, which I won’t argue. But his talent and production should trump that.

There is no greater example of Marbury’s talent than his 50-point game against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. Instead of writing a long opus on why I believe Marbury to be worthy of Nets all-time all-star status, I’ve decided to retroactively look at this game and point out, in painstaking detail, the greatness that is Stephon Marbury.

But FIRST: Watch. And enjoy.

0:54 - A classic one-handed, look away pass by Stephon Marbury to assist a streaking Keith Van Horn. This is Marbury’s career-high scoring night, but you can’t overlook the fact that he also had 12 assists in this game, putting Marbury on the list of players who have scored 50 or more points and had at least 12 assists in the same game. The list? Marbury is the list.

The fact that he’s recorded one of the single greatest statistical outputs in NBA history should go a long way towards his case as a talent.

1:14 - Already the third powerful two-footed finish we’ve seen from Marbury. We're 74 seconds in!

Marbury’s modern day comparison is Derrick Rose, and that’s it. Nobody else can match Marbury’s combination of power and explosion. The scary part? Marbury was a better shooter.

He had the tools to be one of the game's greatest players, and he showed it in 2000-2001 -- specifically, in this game.

1:41 - That’s Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal “ICEing” the Marbury/Evan Eschmeyer (yikes) side pick and roll, only Marbury wisely pulled up before getting double-teamed.

2:19 - Marbury hits a pull-up three over Kobe, and for a brief moment, the atmosphere in East Rutherford was rarely electric. Marbury’s era with the Nets did not result in a lot of wins, but Marbury provided just enough individual acts of brilliance that have withstood time. Like this one.

3:00 - Ian Eagle...been killin’ it for 20 years now.

3:13 - There may not be a better example of the combination of speed, quickness and power that Marbury possessed than on this layup he converts right here. He goes full court, leaves two defenders on the ground, jumps around Kobe Bryant and gets a layup...in just five dribbles.

3:59 - The climax of the game and perhaps a perfect snapshot into Marbury’s career as a Net. His sheer talent was blinding, but he also possessed end-of-game gumption that allowed him to take and make both of those three-point shots. Say what you will about Stephon Marbury the basketball player, but he was not afraid of the moment.

Maybe nothing else shines a greater light on the state of the Nets during the Marbury era than this moment either. Here the Nets are, trying to take out the defending NBA champions, and they're finishing with a lineup that included Jamie Feick, Keith Van Horn, Lucious Harris, and a rookie Kenyon Martin. Yuck.

5:25 - Forgot that Marbury played primarily in And 1 Tai Chi’s. Such an underrated basketball shoe.

Maybe this is a fitting end to this game as it represents a microcosm of Marbury’s career: a great player, a rare talent...but just not great enough to lift his teams to victory.

Look, I don’t support Marbury’s attitude and actions as a leader, but there is a reason he famously wrote “All Alone” on his sneakers and that’s because he was... alone. The Nets had a severe lack of talent during Marbury’s three years in New Jersey and any analysis on his career has to be viewed through that prism.

So make sure he's not alone anymore. Vote for Marbury.


 
Next: Micheal Ray Richardson

 

Mason Plumlee

Mason Plumlee has shown flashes of success this season. (AP)

If you watched the Brooklyn Nets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 93-81 Sunday night, you saw the type of player Mason Plumlee can become.

With 22 points and 13 rebounds, Plumlee epitomized everything a modern NBA center should be and in turn gave the Nets a new dimension: vertical weaponry.

If you’ve been following the NBA over the past decade, you’ve seen a best case scenario for Plumlee’s career. Plumlee is the Nets’ cross-Hudson counter to Tyson Chandler: a freakishly tall human being who also happened to be blessed with freakishly good athleticism. That rare blend of size and power allows him to attack in ways on the basketball court that few others can and as a byproduct in areas that few others can: vertically.

A player unlike Plumlee, and thus bound to the laws of gravity, may spend their time attacking the horizontal space on a basketball court. Brook Lopez is one example. Lopez is tall enough to dunk, and does so often, but plays a below-the-rim game about as much as any successful center could.

At present moment, Plumlee’s greatest skill that he brings to an NBA game is his ability to simply set a screen, roll hard to the front of the rim and, most importantly, finish the play. That’s a skill no Nets big man has possessed since Kenyon Martin left town.

First let’s look at the roll: if basketball is a game of trying to create one-second advantages, then Plumlee’s roll to the hoop -- just the roll alone -- after setting a screen creates valuable advantages for the Nets.

Because he is such a threat to catch a lob or to throw down a thunderous dunk (as he did several times vs. the Pelicans), Plumlee’s roll attracts lots of help-side defensive attention, meaning long closeouts for those same defenders as the ball swings around the Nets’ perimeter. These long closeouts and one-second advantages Plumlee creates are immeasurably valuable.

The other element is Plumlee’s finishing. Plumlee lacks traditional back-to-the-basket post moves and his offensive game can be summed up by the words run-catch-finish. But there’s beauty in that simplicity. Plumlee demands no touches on offense, and on a team that’s ripe with players that do, its refreshing to have someone who can still be effective without the ball.

According to NBA.com, 84 of Plumlee’s 90 made field goals have come at the rim. 84! Of those 84, 84.3% have been assisted on.

Run, catch, finish.

The added aerial dimension that Plumlee brings makes his finishing all the more ominous. The option to catch and finish over the rim opens up all sorts of angles for Nets passers. Why try and thread a needle through an assortment of arms, when you can simply flip a pass over the top?

Plumlee still has a long way to go before he can be declared a game-changer, but as glimpses of potential turn to long, sustained images, the airspace above the Nets’ basket become that much more hostile for defenders.

 

It was December 28, 2000. The Nets led the Boston Celtics 111-109, with less than two seconds left, and had the ball at half-court. "Luscious" Lucious Harris was the inbounder. The anti-hero? An NBA journeyman named Milt Palacio.

That was a certified Nets disaster, and it was nearly topped last night.

When you're the NBA’s hottest team, holding a lead and the ball with only 12 seconds left, you expect that team to win. So a loss in a situation like that stings. But not only did the Nets manage to lose that game, but lost significant ground in the Atlantic Division standings: a win would have brought them within 0.5 games of first place, instead of sitting 2.5 games back today.

How did it happen?

Every end-of-game situation boils down to a series of split-second decisions. Nail most of the decisions, and you'll come out on top. Bungle just a few of those decisions, maybe you can recover. But treat those decisions as you would 10-day old milk like the Nets did, and you’ll experience a gut-wrenching loss.

Let’s take a deeper look at how that end of game played out, taking it from 17.4 seconds left with the Nets leading 103-100 and the Raptors with the ball.
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20140103-230849.jpg

Seeing the inevitable "Kirilenko listed as OUT" tweet on the afternoon of Nets game day was becoming a frustrating sight.

As days turned into weeks turned into months, Kirilenko's absence became just one more drop in the Nets' ever-cresting wave of disappointment.

But back healthy (relatively) and in the lineup again, it's easy to see why many teams were envious of the Nets inking the lanky Russian.

In one 4th quarter sequence, Kirilenko showed off the skills that made him the “steal” of the offseason.

On this particular possession, Kirilenko displays great effort on the defensive end and does what any effective NBA defender must do in today’s game - give multiple efforts.

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Deron Williams, Kris Humphries

The Nets got quick offense with Deron Williams Tuesday night. (AP)

It’s amazing what adding an All-Star point guard can do.

For someone who hasn’t played much competitive basketball since the start of the season, Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams looked to be near peak form for much of his return against the Celtics. In turn, the Nets offense finally resembled that of a competent NBA team.

One of the big added bonuses Williams brings to the game is his ability to create, and the Nets took advantage of this ability by using drag screens to help spring Williams into some early offense.

Drag screens are ball screens set in transition, usually by trailing big men. In the second half vs. the Celtics, it was easy to see the makings of what could be considered decent offense; in semi-transition, the Nets drag-screened for Williams, allowing him to freelance and look for early opportunities for himself or others. If that gets shut down or if nothing arises, then the Nets can flow right into their primary offense for that possession.

"I felt like we played a little too slow, and we definitely needed to pick the pace up," Williams said after Tuesday's victory. "That's why I was really conscious to push the ball and try to get things going and get some easy baskets."

Let’s take a look at a few examples from Tuesday night’s win over the Boston Celtics.
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This may look like just another play: Lance Stephenson misses a shot, and the Nets corral the rebound. But what's involved in this play defensively is so much more, and it's one of the major changes the Nets have made heading into this season.
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Jason Kidd, Lawrence Frank

Jason Kidd & lead assistant Lawrence Frank dishing strategy in training camp. (AP)


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Jason Kidd

Kidd ran as a player. What will he run as coach? (AP)

There's a few big questions surrounding the Brooklyn Nets hiring recent retiree Jason Kidd as their head coach, but this one may be the biggest: if handed the keys to a franchise, what offense would Kidd, the preeminent point guard virtuoso of his generation, use with Brooklyn's talented players?

To some degree, looking at potential offenses is speculative (that’s what makes it so fun!), but Kidd will certainly draw on his experiences spanning his 19-year NBA career.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at Kidd's career: where he's been, what he's run, and what he could do in Brooklyn.

Start Here: Kidd in Dallas, 1994-1997

 

Jason Kidd (AP)

NBA players and coaches, current and former, sounded off in the media and on Twitter on the prospect of Jason Kidd as head coach. Judging by their reactions, it seems like most of the league is in his corner, even his former coach, Avery Johnson. Though it appears Patrick Ewing Jr.'s not so happy. ... MORE →