Diaries from an Unimportant NBA Preseason Game, Vol. 1
It’s hard to believe that Brooklyn Nets basketball is back already. Strangely enough, it feels like it was just last month that the Nets signed Jeremy Lin and traded Thaddeus Young. Before the games start counting, however, there’s the small issue of preseason ahead of us.
Currently, the Nets have 15 players signed to guaranteed contracts and an additional 5 on training camp deals. While fans are most likely most interested to see how new faces like Jeremy Lin and Anthony Bennett fare, tonight also marks Kenny Atkinson’s debut as the Nets’ head coach, preseason or not.
While this game, as the Detroit Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy put it this morning, is rather pointless, it’s still nice to get the basketball juices flowing once more! So, without further ado, here are our notes from a basketball game that doesn’t matter but is still basketball nonetheless.
— First off, the surface level highlights: the Nets won 101-94. Lin lead the way with 21 points on 7-11 from the field and 5 three-pointers. 9 players for the Nets hit a three-pointer and they shot 34 of them as a team — so, yes, a bit of a digression from last season.
— Every offseason in recent memory has seen the Nets chat about Lopez’s potential as a long-range shooter. Then, by mid-season or so, the idea is canned until our imaginative summer months strike again. 2016-2017 seems no different as they opened up their preseason campaign with a Lopez bomb from downtown.
As he said to Sarah Kustok: “Well, I’m glad that little birdie has confidence in me, I just need to have the confidence in myself.”
— Jeremy Lin Hairstyle Update: Man bun
— Ball movement, ball movement, ball movement! Atkinson made it clear this summer that moving the ball and hustling would be the Nets’ calling-card and, although early, we saw that in spades against the Pistons. Obviously, the talent gulf will be an obstacle to overcome all season for Brooklyn, but if they’ve eliminated the days of the iso-offense, then everybody will be much happier.
— The Nets ran quite a few high PNRs for Booker where the action started just inside the three-point line, which is interesting because he isn’t really a playmaker. One possession was clumsy, another led to a wide open three for Lin, and then they just missed on a corner attempt for Lopez. Booker was dragged into more PNRs than Lopez, actually, and they’ve used him like Draymond without a shot so far. — Ryan
— Brook Lopez three-pointer alert! Luis Scola three-pointer alert! Justin Hamilton three-pointer alert! Ring the alarms! 19 first half attempts from beyond the arc — new era indeed.
— Speaking of shooting, the Nets got off to a scorching 70% start — they’re going to stay that hot until June right? Let’s start planning the parade down Atlantic Avenue…
— Defensively, the Nets used some varied coverage that utilized Lopez icing the PNR, Scola has switching like a madman, and Booker is playing to the touch and quite aggressively in general. Not perfect, but who is against Andre Drummond? — Ryan
— Late in the half, a hustling Kilpatrick poked a ball away and then promptly dove on it before flipping it over his head to a sprinting Joe Harris. Yes, it’s safe to say that this Nets team might be a little different this year.
— Well, none of this will likely matter if Jeremy Lin decides to play like Stephen Curry all season long. 21 points, 5-8 from three — OK, then.
— For those that endured all 82 games last season, they’ll know that the defense was a disaster. The youngsters would miss easy rotations and get caught flat-footed more often than not, leaving the less-than-quick Lopez to protect the rim alone. Thus far, Atkinson has them grinding out possessions, switching on cue, and looking more like a unit than they ever did in 2015-2016.
— From WSJ’s Alex Raskin:
Jorge Gutierrez told me at media day that he considers himself among the best defensive guards in the East. Pac 12 DPOY in 2012. #Nets
— Alex Raskin (@alexraskinNYC) October 7, 2016
— The Nets were one of the league’s slowest teams last year as players like Joe Johnson and Lopez forced them to plod along at times. Tonight, the Nets did their best to get out and run whenever Lopez was getting a rest — with assets like Scola, Vasquez, and Kilpatrick coming off the bench, presumably, the dreams of a speedier team are alive and well.
— The Nets attempted 34 three-pointers tonight (14-34, 41%), and they attempted more than that just once in 2015-2016 — a 129-105 loss against the Indiana Pacers in April in which they fired 37 times from behind the arc.
— Yogi Ferrell was the first rookie off the bench for Brooklyn tonight and impressed. He canned a three of his own and navigated the lane on occasion like he did at Indiana University. Beau Beech, Egidijus Mockevicius, and Isaiah Whitehead did not feature.
— On the crowd: Lin received, by far, the loudest ovation during introductions. Although it was empty near tip-off, it looked closer to half-full by the game’s end. Most of the crowd stayed until the final two minutes and cheered on the genuinely impressive effort earnestly. — Andrew
— And, finally, from Alan Hahn of MSG Network:
#Nets get dribble penetration, move the ball exceptionally well, loaded with workers and have shooters. Vegas said 20 wins? Take the over.
— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) October 7, 2016
The Nets pay a visit to the New York Knicks on Saturday — will they be able to build on their fine start to the preseason?