After an excellent start under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, the Brooklyn Nets have now hit the skids, going 3-5 in their last 8 games, with two of the five losses coming to teams below .500. Prior to this rough patch, the Nets were 17-0 against teams below that mark. After an 89-74 shellacking at the hands of the 14-35 Washington Wizards, the team looks starkly different from the one that blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder five weeks ago. There’s much blame to be shelled out for their lackluster play as of late; do you blame the players, the coaches, or the G.M.?
Blame all of them.
The players. No matter the system or the coach, there is no excuse to lack energy, competitive spirit, and leadership on and off the court. "We've talked about energy and effort a lot this year, and that's something that should always be there," Deron Williams said after the game. "We should always have effort. ... Maybe this wasn't a big game for us, but maybe it should've been."
The coach. Another issue, perhaps the biggest, is the case of fitting philosophy with personnel. It’s been well documented that a point guard in Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni’s system will flourish. It’s also been the case that a point guard in Avery Johnson/PJ Carlesimo’s system, from Devin Harris to now Deron Williams, will not put up numbers similar to what they are capable of. With very little ball movement, very little ball screening, very little spacing, it’s hard for talented point guards to operate.
The system this season involves a ton of dribbling and isolations; something that if you were to watch a team like the Spurs, you would see very little of (how ironic the coaches are from the “Spurs” mold). By sticking to this system, the Nets coaching staff has wasted the supreme talent of what was once a top PG in the NBA.
Even though Carlesimo is a new voice that the players may enjoy playing for more than that of Avery Johnson, the principles are still the same. For all the comparison between the resurgence of Carmelo Anthony under former interim Knicks coach Mike Woodson and the recent resurgence of Deron Williams under Carlesimo, there is one point that is consistently being missed -– Woodson’s system is a near polar opposite than that of Mike D’Antoni’s, while P.J. Carlesimo has "barely tweaked" the offensive system from Avery Johnson.
The G.M. General Manager Billy King put together a roster full of talent, but with numerous holes. Perhaps the biggest hole is the lack of a starting power forward. When the Nets gave Kris Humphries $24 million over two years, they almost certainly had the words “trade bait” in mind. But they also assumed (and miscalculated) that Humphries would be a capable starter on a good team. Now they are left with the task of trying to move what may be an attractive contract, but an extremely unproductive player along with it. One name that has come up is Ben Gordon. It is true that the Nets could use a shooter and scorer off the bench similar to Gordon, but as Zach Lowe of Grantland tweeted last night, “A team paying its three perimeter starters $47M combined this season really should not have to cash in a trade chip for a perimeter player.”
Things will get better. Players and coaches will adapt, personnel may be moved, and the Nets may get back to their November/January form. But each game highlights a specific set of strengths and weaknesses this Nets team has; when the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, things go well, but more often than not lately that hasn't been the case.