To improve in the future, the Nets will have to learn from the mistakes of the past. In this weekly series, Nets are Scorching writers Justin DeFeo and Devin Kharpertian take a look at how the Nets performed in different sets on both sides of the ball during the 2010-11 season.
In 2002, the Nets were transformed from a laughingstock to an Eastern Conference force, all with the help of one acquisition: the addition of Jason Kidd. The pre-Kidd Nets to post-Kidd earned the best "worst to first" mark in NBA history up to that point, doubling their win total from 26 to 52, winning the Atlantic Division, and locking up the number one overall seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Still, even after that dazzling regular-season performance, the Nets still needed to clear significant hurdles and demonstrate success in the playoffs to really be considered a force. Heck, even Jason Kidd had some demons to exorcise as up to that point: for all his regular season success, Kidd was just 1-5 in the playoffs for his career.
Their opponent in the first round was the Indiana Pacers. That year the Pacers finished 42-40, good enough for the eighth seed, but little did we know as Nets fans that this was no ordinary eighth seed. This same exact core would go on to win 61 games two years later and, if not for the Ron Artest melee, could have been NBA champions.
After the Nets took a 2-1 series lead, Indiana forced the deciding game by thrashing the Nets, 97-74, in game four. Heading into game five, the series turned into a dogfight and could have gone either way.
Game five itself was an electric atmosphere. Up to that point I had been to a lot of Nets games, but I don't remember a crowd like that (I would know, I was there!) and haven't heard one since. As the pressure mounted and as the clock went from regulation, to overtime, to the second overtime, the game morphed from a basketball game into a heavyweight championship bout. Each team trading blow after blow.
It was a classic hero vs. villain story.
The antagonist was one the metro region was familiar with. Reggie Miller had long been a thorn in the side of playoff hopefuls around the Hudson River, except normally it was the Knicks he would torture. On this night and in this series, it was the NJ side of the river that felt his powers. His overtime-forcing, hail-mary three-pointer was one of the most dramatic shots I've ever experienced firsthand.
The hero? None other than Jason Kidd. He was brought into New Jersey to turn around a struggling franchise. Everyone laughed at him when he declared the Nets could win 40 games in his inaugural season, but Kidd delivered on that and so much more. I think tape of this game should go in Kidd's career vault, as it showed his true capacity to affect a basketball game. Offensively, the game dictated Kidd to be more aggressive, and the consummate pass-first PG looked to score at the rim and with pull-up jumpers. On defense, Kidd was everywhere; guarding bigs in switches, zigging and zagging around screens as he tried to stay with Miller, and taking charges. It was a truly virtuoso performance.
There was so many ups and downs in this game, so many "moments", here are just a few:
Kenyon Martin's pre-game "crowd pump up" tradition was born in this playoff series. No roar was ever louder than the one on this night.
Keith Van Horn's wild run of three-pointers in the third quarter.
The near-automatic from the free throw line Reggie Miller missed a free throw with a chance to tie the game with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Then-rookie Richard Jefferson earned "playoff experience" right before our eyes as his two missed free throws failed to clinch the game and allowed for Reggie's miracle three-pointer.
Down a point with 29 seconds left in OT number one and out of a time-out, Jason Kidd sliced through Indiana's defense before dropping off a pass to K-Mart - who threw down a monster dunk.
Down by two at the end of the first OT, Reggie again tied the game with a two-handed dunk.
The Nets finally took over in the second overtime, led as usual by "Captain Kidd". His feed to Kerry Kittles for a breakout lay-up and the foul was the first time in the entire game I actually felt comfortable and at ease with the proceedings.
After the game, I remember walking through the parking lot with nearly 20,000 Nets fans, all of us realizing what a truly great game we had just witnessed.
As it was, this win was the type of win that catapulted the Nets through the rest of the playoffs, as they advanced to the NBA finals that season. Below is a video I put together of some of my favorite moments of that game as highlighted above:
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Why Billy King Should Be Texting Him Right Now: Shane Battier is a great example of a player who is going to bring lots of positives to your team, without a lot of negatives. At this point in his career he is what he is – an elite wing defender who can space the floor for you on offense with his ability to hit the three point shot – that’s what Battier is and has been for a longtime. There is much more that Battier brings to the table, however, and that can be summed up with one word, intangibles. Battier brings all the things that winning basketball teams need – leadership, toughness, basketball IQ and high character. Battier ranks 24th in the league in two year adjusted +/-. (Plus-Minus results adjusted to account for both the teammates and the opponents on the floor with a player over the course of the season. This value is based on two years of data including the playoffs. Playoffs are weighted at 2x the weight of the regular seasons with each regular season rated equally. via basketballvalue.com) His 2.44 +/- puts him ahead of players such as Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony to name a few. There is simply no denying the type of impact a player such as Battier can have a locker room, especially one with young players on the roster, such as the Nets.
Don't Risk the Fine: Quite honestly in terms of his on the court and off the court contributions, there aren’t a lot of great reasons to not pursue Shane Battier. Simply put, adding him to your roster will make your team better. What I will say is this, though. Shane Battier seems to be the type of player that is added to a team already poised to make a deep playoff run. The final piece if you will. Adding Battier to the Nets roster today, maybe, puts them in contention for the 8th seed in the playoffs. I would argue, that the money it’s going to take to sign Battier could go to a younger player, one who has more room to grow and develop into a potential all-star, (such as a Thaddeus Young), or dividing that money up and spending less on a player or two who may be able to provide the same type of contributions that Battier would(such as Luc Mbah a Moute).
And the Winner is...Avoid:At the end of the day, as I said earlier, Battier is only going to improve your roster. But I believe the market will be pretty high for Battier. It’s not just the Nets who are looking to add elite defenders. Therefore the money it may take to sign him, could be better spent being dispersed among a few free agents, or ones to potentially develop into major contributors down the line.
Why Billy King Should Be Texting Him Right Now: With wing players such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony currently residing in the Eastern Conference, it's going to be important for the Nets to possess players on their team who can defend those like. I believe Luc Mbah a Moute (LMaM) is just that. At 6-8 LMaM is a live, athletic body to throw at the elite wings of the world. Last season LMaM ranked 58th in the league in isolation situations, holding his opponent to just over 32% shooting. LMaM also allows improves the depth of our frontline with his versatility as he is able to defend SG's, SF's and PF's on most nights. He's also a good leaper and an active offensive rebounder (2.1 pg).
Don't Risk the Fine: For his great energy and defense he provides, LMaM is rather limited offensively. With Milwaukee, most of his offense pertained to spot up situations (35.2% of his offensive plays). With that, his range is fairly limited. In his three year career he's attempted 28 three-pointers (seven last season). It may be unwise for the Nets to give money to another player expected to play a swing position for us who can't shoot. (See Outlaw, Travis).
And the Winner Is...Tamper: If the price is right, I would absolutely be thrilled if the Nets were able to add a player like Mbah a Moute. However, it would need to be understood that LMaM is just once piece to a much larger puzzle. Adding Mbah a Moute alone would not make us a playoff team, but Mbah could be a valuable role player to a very good team - which is what we're trying to become. Despite his limitations on offense, LMaM would have the luxury of playing with a point guard who can make anyones game look nice, especially an energetic and athletic player such as Mbah a Moute.
The story of the Nets 2010-11 season was supposed to be that of the Nets acquiring a superstar player from the Western Conference. We all felt that that player was supposed to be Carmelo Anthony. When reports surfaced on September 24, the Nets and all players involved in the rumored deals were put in a long, elaborate game of “he said, she said”. The hype of this deal seemed to be even more amplified due to the growing presence of NBA writers on twitter, each tweeting anything and everything in regards to Carmelo Anthony, the Nets and the Knicks who was the other suitor of Anthony and his desired destination.
As the trade deadline approached, the Nets kept sweetening their deal, thus putting heavy pressure on the Knicks to add pieces to their deal they were originally reluctant to include, like, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov. Potentially a stroke of chess playing genius by Mikhail Prokhorov and the Nets front office brass.
When the Knicks completed their deal for Anthony on February 22, the Nets again looked to be the losers of the deadline, left with a roster full of players who had been in open trade talks all season, and lacking a true superstar which their owner desperately coveted.
This year’s Executive Move of the Year, in an absolute no-brainer, was the acquisition of Deron Williams. Anytime you can land a player of Williams’ caliber, you pull the trigger and worry about the rest later. The Nets know this, having turned the franchise around in a similar fashion when they acquired Jason Kidd in 2002. A dynamic point guard can mean wins for your organization, now it’s time for Williams to prove the Nets made the right choice.
In the deal, the Nets received Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz. In return, the Nets sent the Utah Jazz Devin Harris (who’s time in New Jersey was wearing thin, and there was rumblings of tension with him and Avery Johnson. The parting of Harris was welcomed by both sides.), Derrick Favors (Lots of upside, but ultimately an unknown commodity. Trading an unknown for a known commodity is always something that makes sense, and that’s what the Nets did.), two first-round draft picks (including the Nets pick for this year’s draft, which is being viewed historically as one of the weakest draft classes.) and cash considerations.
From a basketball standpoint, the Nets got a top shelf point guard. He’s able to create for others as well as himself. The Nets instantly became a better basketball team the moment Deron Williams entered the lineup. From a business standpoint, the Nets have a “face” to their franchise. Someone they can build a team around and someone fans can attach themselves to.
With the elimination of Dwight Howard's Orlando Magic last night, the story now turns to where will Dwight land next?
Matt Mitnick, a close friend and personal trainer for Deron Williams began tweeting his thoughts last night in regards to the situation.
Below is the screen grab from those tweets.
Others weighed in on the Dwight speculation today too, among them our friend and Nets beat writer Al Iannazzone. His tweets:
Now, what does this all mean? Well...virtually nothing. As stated in the title, there is nothing actually being reported here, just merely speculation on Dwight Howard's possible desire to be playing elsewhere, namely a big market.
It's always easy to speculate about a star player wanting to leave his team after a playoff ouster, especially one that reeks of a lack of a supporting cast being the reason for the ouster, as is the case with Dwight Howard and the Magic.
With their pending move to Brooklyn, the acquisition of a pass happy point guard in Deron Williams and the, an owner willing to spend and a glut of young, tradable assets at their disposal, the Nets figure to be players in any star players willingness to relocate.
We will keep tabs on this as things progress, but its possible we are in for a big off-season.
After the debacle that was 2009-2010 Nets season, Avery Johnson was the coach hired to pick up the pieces and rebuild this franchise from the ground up. In what certainly can be called a process, you can definitely make the case that with Avery leading the charge, the Nets took positive steps forward this season.
Personnel moves aside, the Nets overall wins doubled, going from 12 in 09-10 to 24 this season. Some of their simple numbers like point differential, offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency all improved and while some of that goes to an improved roster, a lot of that improvement has to get credited to Avery. On a night in and night out basis, Johnson had the Nets playing much harder and with a young and changing roster, that was a good accomplishment.
The Pink Shirt: Avery Johnson gave us a lot by way of X's and O's. While no one would put AJ on the par of wizards like Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers (yet), Avery certainly held his own. Nets Are Scorching looked at this play back in January, in which the Nets drew up some creativity to secure a win over the Chicago Bulls.
The Paper Bag: With another chance to knock off a playoff team, the Nets held a three point advantage over the Oklahoma City Thunder late in double-overtime. Coming out of a time-out, Avery Johnson and the staff elected to foul immediately, instead of just playing straight defense, and it led to Jeff Green getting fouled in the act of a shooting a three-pointer. The foul was committed by Stephen Graham, who also earned a paper bag for this play. Green hit all three foul shots to tie the game in which the Nets eventually went on to lose.
Final Thoughts: Avery brought respectability and stability back to a franchise that, at the time, desperately needed it. Towards the second half of the season, Brook Lopez seemed to be back on the path towards the all-star caliber center we all hope he can be and Kris Humphries played the best basketball of his career. Avery Johnson has to get credit for some of those career developments. Deron Williams had great things to say about Coach Johnson in his post-season comments, but now the question will be can Avery get the Nets to the next level and begin contending for playoffs again.
After being subjected to nearly a season worth of Carmelo Anthony trade rumors, Nets fans were rewarded on February 23, when the Nets acquired one of the NBA's top point guards, Deron Williams. Almost immediately the story turned to: "Will Williams re-sign with the Nets longterm, before his contract is up in 2012?" And while those concerns are still out there, in the short term we got to see some brilliant point guard play.
His time with the Nets was not all gravy however, as a nagging wrist injury kept Williams out of a lot of games, and hindered his shooting. Since the season has finished, Williams has had successful surgery to repair that wrist. We've also heard reports of Williams giving the Nets franchise his seal of approval, which are signs for optimism. Getting him to commit long term will only help in our future financial planning, and could go a long way in the recruitment of future talent.
The Pink Shirt: All great point guards are expected to make the players around them better, and Deron Williams certainly did that. (See: Early Benefactors of Deron Williams). But when we got DWill, we knew we were also getting a player not afraid to take the big shot. In 12 games with the Nets, he didn't have a ton of chances for big moments, however, I had to go with the back breaking three-pointer DWill hit against the Celtics capping off a five-game winning streak, which, gave us one of the great moments in Nets fans' history. I'll let the video speak for itself:
The Paper Bag: After beating the Celtics and riding our five-game winning streak, the Nets were set to face the Bulls and their MVP favorite point guard Derrick Rose. With a chance to make a huge statement, Deron Williams well...didn't. He put up a clunker: 1 for 12 shooting, five points, four turnovers and an overall -12 in a Nets 84-73 loss. He also seemed to have a hard time dealing with Rose's on ball defense.
Final Thoughts: The acquisition of Deron Williams has been a breath of fresh air to our franchise. Re-signing Deron Williams is THE absolute priority for this franchise moving forward, and all subsequent moves hinge on it.
If the Nets win but aren't on TV...did it actually happen? The answer is of course! The Nets picked up their 24th win of the season, beating the Timberwolves by two.
A quick recap of the game:
With this win, the Nets crawled to just one game under .500 at home (19-20). Going forward this is obviously a number we'd like to have over .500, but with some of the dismal crowds we've seen this season, I'm not surprised our home court "advantage" isn't better.
DERON WILLIAMS. He's had a few opportunities to make big shots for us in his early Net career and I'm glad he came through tonight, because there is no doubt Williams is a clutch player. His jumper with 1.7 seconds left was the eventual winner and there is certainly no one else I'd want to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.
Williams simply was the best player on the floor tonight, scoring 18 points and handing out 21 assists. But will this be the last we see of him for this season? The Nets beat was tweeting after the game that Williams will not make the trip to Detroit and is likely out for the season, but then later said he's a possibility to play against New York on Friday.
He's doing all this with one hand, I can't wait to see his production when 100% healthy.
Brookie Monster was in full effect tonight. 13 of 23 from the field for 30 points and 12 rebounds. Great to see Brook being effective and quasi-dominant. Brook's season has been up and down, but his play as been steadily good, especially since the addition of Williams. Plus its always a great sign when Brook puts up good rebounding numbers as that has been a huge area of concern for him this season.
Sasha "The Machine" Vujacic grabs a career high 10 rebounds. I did not see that one coming.
Pretty surprised Mike D'Antoni had no use for Anthony Randolph. The new T-Wolf showed plenty of energy and an array of skills in a tall and long package. Secured a double-double in 30 minutes off the bench. I would have to imagine he will be in Minnesota's long term plans as a guy that skilled in that type of body is hard to find.
Here is the live look of Deron Williams' go ahead jumper:
I won't say the Nets are limping to the regular season finish line here, because I don't think it does justice to the word limp. The Nets have been losers of 10 of their last 11 and tonight welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves to Newark. With six left to play, you'd have to imagine Avery Johnson would have liked to end this season with some momentum to carry into the off-season, although at this point that seems unlikely.
Here are some story lines to follow:
Who will actually be playing for the Nets? At the time of posting, Kris Humphries and Damion James are definitely out. Anthony Morrow and Deron Williams each did mostly watching at today's shoot around. Morrow is a game time decision, although Williams is expected to play. Brook Lopez, Travis Outlaw and Deron Williams are going to be starting, but the other two spots are still open. All these things are subject to change, however, as the Nets injuries continue to pile up. Kevin Love and Darko Milicic did not make the trip for the Wolves.
Will anybody actually "see" this game? Ahh the joys of our games being broadcast on YES network. With the Yankees playing tonight on YES, the Nets game will not air. Therefore, unless you are at the game, your best way of catching the action live will be to listen on 1130 am. You also have the option of the following the game live on NBA.com's TV companion. Our friend, Ben Couch (@viewfromcouch), will be live chatting.
Top of the Lottery: With neither of these team's going to make the playoffs, the TWolves are in the dubious position of potentially having the league's worst record, thus getting the past odds to win the NBA's draft lottery. Right now the TWolves have 17 wins and are two up on the Cavaliers with 15. The Cavs also are in action tonight, hosting the Charlotte Bobcats.
For more on the Minnesota Timberwolves, check out A Wolf Among Wolves.
In what can easily be called the Nets best win this season and it came during the best stretch of basketball the Nets have enjoyed in two years, but it wasn't easy. Late in the Nets' 88-79 victory over the Eastern Conference leading Boston Celtics, the Nets were clinging to a two-point lead, but used some excellent execution to get some breathing room.
Let's take a closer look.
Probably one of the most skilled pick and roll players in the game today, the Nets wisely opt to put star point guard Deron Williams in another such situation. It wasn't just your classic 1-5 or 1-4 high ball screen, instead, the Nets used lots of motion and had plenty of options out of this set.
As you see here, the play is beginning with Deron Williams setting a cross screen for Brook Lopez. After screening, Deron Williams cuts to the top of the key and runs of a Kris Humphries screen. As you can see Humphries waiting to screen at the top of the key.
This screening the screener action is used quite regularly in set basketball plays.
After Williams comes off the Humphries screen and receives the ball, Hump immediately turns around and sets a ball screen for Williams. As you can see at the bottom of the screen, Brook Lopez's defender, Glen Davis, has his head turned and loses sights of Brook. Lopez takes advantage of this, and cuts behind him, beating him to a spot directly under the rim.
Brook does a great job sealing off Davis in the paint. There is a great window for Williams to pass into, and Williams, the master creator does so, executing a picture perfect one-handed bounce pass. His pass was perfectly timed, and perfectly placed, leading Brook right into his jump hook shot.
A thing of beauty and an encouraging sign of chemistry between two of our cornerstones.
"Two doesn't beat us guys...three does beat us," was what "The Czar" Mike Fratello was saying Avery Johnson should be pointing out to his team, moments before Channing Frye's dagger three put the Suns ahead by a point (the eventual game winner) late in overtime. The Suns were aided by a well drawn up play that was executed perfectly of course. Let's take a look.
The Suns have the benefit of a great clutch shooter on their team, Steve Nash. Nash draws so much attention, that he can be used as a decoy so set someone else up, which is exactly what the Suns do.
Below you'll see the Suns set up with Grant Hill inbounding and Steve Nash is located in the far corner, opposite the ball.
The initial action for the Suns, Nash curls off a screen set by Channing Frye. Again, this action was used as misdirection. The beauty of this play was in the second action.
If you notice, Suns center Marcin Gortat (No. 4) is waiting at the opposite elbow. After Nash clears the screen, he and Gortat stop and immediately screen down on Frye's man, Kris Humphries.
I put the two different colored arrows (blue and red) to show the different paths Humphries could have chosen to navigate this screen. As stated earlier, only a three pointer in this situation kills the Nets. In my opinion, Humphries should have locked onto Frye's hip and chosen the blue route. By going over the screen, Humphries would have encouraged Frye to curl and maybe chase him off the three point line, or into a more contested shot. Humphries instead attempts the red route, and gets hung up on the Gortat screen, thus giving Frye the wide open look. Frye did his job by drilling the shot and in the process spoiled Deron Williams' home debut.