When is a win coming? After yet another poor second half showing, the Nets (0-5) dropped their fifth straight to open the season Wednesday night at Atlanta’s Philips Arena. The poor outside shooting has become a disturbing trend so far; the Nets shot just 3-for-15 behind the arc, which dropped their season percentage down to 24.4 percent. Not good. Joe Johnson struggled again, hitting just one of ten field goal attempts including all three from behind the arc. Also…not good. Eight of their next eleven games come on the road. Sense a pattern here?
If there was ever a remedy for early season malaise, the Los Angeles Lakers limping into town at 0-4 would certainly seem just what the doctor ordered. Head Coach Byron Scott’s squad has been a mess in the early going, especially defensively; they rank last in the league in points per 100 possessions yielded at 113. The new faces and young talent haven’t quite gotten onto the page just yet, so the opportunity is ripe for the Nets pending they don’t poke the bear.
Soon to be Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant — the aforementioned bear — is guilty of an awful start to his season so far. In what could be his last season, Bryant has failed to shake off the rust after playing in only 39 games the past two seasons due to injuries. He’s shot 32.3 percent from the field the first four games including some extremely poor shot selection, selfish ball control, and lack of patience. The latter came to fruition during Monday’s practice when Coach Scott sent Bryant home because he “was really angry.”
As for the supporting cast, the Lakers do possess a roster with potential and talent, but probably not ready for a playoff run. Second-year guard Jordan Clarkson has been the Lakers’ lone bright spot thus far, averaging 18.3 points per game while shooting a hot 53.7 percent from the field. Reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams has reprised his role of expertise in gold and purple this season after signing a three-year deal worth $21 million in the offseason. He’s averaged 16.5 points but has shot the ball erratically at 37 percent.
Julius Randle, last year’s seventh overall pick, is back after missing all but six minutes of last season due to a broken leg suffered in his NBA debut. He’s averaging 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. Second overall pick D’Angelo Russell, just 19 years old, has been thrust into the starting lineup and has showed growing pains in handling the offense. A stingy and demanding Kobe Bryant may not be the best thing for Russell, but it’s a long season.
The Lakers’ poor defense may be what the Nets need for a complete, efficient offensive game plan to be executed. Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young have looked solid up front, but Coach Hollins needs to see some production from the perimeter players who have failed to show any consistency thus far.
What to watch for: Joe Johnson’s breakout game? If you think Kobe hasn’t looked right, that’s nothing compared to the struggles of the Nets’ “go-to” guy. Over the first five games, Johnson has averaged just 8.4 points in 32.2 minutes, while shooting a putrid 28.3(!) percent from the field. He’s too good for those kinds of numbers; the fans hopefully will see the debut of “Joe Jesus” tonight.
Tip-off is at 7:30 E.D.T. at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.