NetsAreScorching Posts Revisited: Lawrence Frank Broken Down

Posted on: July 14th, 2009 by Sebastian Pruiti Comments

Over the weekend, I got a very interesting e-mail from NetsAreScorching reader Smack Adams:

Sebastian,

Blog-worthy Nets stories must be hard to come by during this fallow part of the hoops year.  So I make this request:  Re-run your Frank breakdown, revised to the extent necessary to reflect changed circumstances.

1.  I expect that your readership has increased since you first posted the piece, so it would be new to many;

2.  Frank-related posts always draw heavy comments.  So many fans have an inchoate animosity towards the coach, but your post actually articulates the reasons you don't like him.  You would arm these people with weapons beyond the ridiculous (i.e., "he shoulda played Sean Williams 40 minutes per game"), obvious (i.e., "he stuck with Yi too long"), and the ad hominem (i.e. "Opie sucks" and "the Little General sucks") that sum up most of the anti-Frank sentiment; and

3.  I'm pretty sure my pro-Frank stance & analysis will agitate.

I live a land of Knicks fans who cannot see past the Hudson.  Help me.

Best,
(Smack Adams)

I think this is a fantastic idea.  After the jump, you will find my post Lawrence Frank Broken Down. After the post, I will add some thoughts that reflect the change in circumstance.  I think hope I now have some more regular readers, so I hope to generate a pretty solid discussion.  I am especially looking forward to Smack Adams' response.


Lawrence Frank…what to make of him…as you Nets’ fans are already aware, Lawrence Frank is coming back. I have already voiced my displeasure, but I haven’t really sat down and broken down Lawrence Frank as a coach. That is what I am going to do with this post, I am going to look at the pro (not a grammar mistake. I have racked my brain for days trying to think of things L.Frank does right, but I can only really come up with one) and the cons of Lawrence Frank the coach (for the most part, I am going to look at this season only, but there are some trends that go over his whole coaching career that I am going to take a look at as well).

Pro:

He’s a motivator: He always seems to get the most out of his players, and he has done pretty well without a lot of weapons. Look at this year for example, we were predicted to be a 15-20 win team, but we ended up winning 34. Now there are a lot of factors at play when looking at this (maybe nobody thought our rookies were any good - there was a whole lot of turnover from the previous year and many “predictors” thought we wouldn’t mesh too well), but Lawrence Frank has to be given some credit for this. He got a lot out of players like Jarvis Hayes, Keyon Dooling, and Bobby Simmons. Vince Carter seems to go out all for him, and it has been a while since Vince has pulled a “Vince” and sat out with a soft injury. He also got Devin Harris playing the best ball of his pro career, though some say he did that despite the team (we will get to that in the cons). This isn’t just about this year, Lawrence Frank’s teams always seem to over-achieve. To be able to say that you are a .500 (225-225) coach when you coach teams that have players like Jason Collins, Eric Williams, Clifford Robinson, and Mikki Moore IN YOUR STARTING LINEUP for over 5+ years…that right there is the definition of overachieving.

Cons:

Switches Offense Too Often: I am not talking about switching offenses in games, but I am talking about year-to-year. In his 5+ years, Lawrence Frank has implemented a whole new offense scheme three different times. When he first became the head coach, he started with with some sort of Princeton style offense (don’t even get me started on this. That kind of offense would never work in the pros, defenses are too athletic). A little later down the line (I don’t remember how long exactly) he switched to something else, I am not quite sure what offense it was, but i was some sort of motion style offense. This year, he switched the the dribble drive offense revolving around Devin Harris.

Some may say that having a coach play to his players strengths is a good thing, and his switching of offenses is an example of that. I completely disagree with that type of reasoning. Let’s look at the top coaches in the league:

  • Phil Jackson - Triangle Offense
  • Jerry Sloan - Pick & Roll
  • Mike D’Antoni - Run Up & Down most of the time
  • Donnie Nelson - Run ALL THE TIME

All of these coaches have their offense and stick to it. They build the team around the offense (An example is how the Jazz got Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer to replace John Stocken and Karl Malone). Another thing that you notice with all of these coaches (besides Jerry Sloan) is that they have moved to different places and their styles have been successful. That means you can bring a system to a group of players and implement it.

A disadvantage of what Lawrence Frank is doing (building you system around star players) is that if a key player gets injured you are pretty much screwed. Let’s look at this year for an example, imagine if Devin Harris got hurt and missed a significant chunk of the season. Who is going to run the dribble-drive? Keyon Dooling is a great backup, and he can play the point, but he would be terrible in the dribble-drive system. The Nets would be scrambling, inserting new plays, and looking for free agents that would fit the plays. It would be mayhem. Now if there is a roster built around a system and a star gets hurt, there is a backup who fills the role pretty well, knows what he is doing, and knows what is expected of him(not as good as the starter obviously). I hope that makes sense.

Roster Management: What I am talking about when I mention roster management, I am talking about how Lawrence Frank hands out playing time. When looking at this problem, three different situations come up. One, he sticks with the hot-hand way too much, as if he is afraid to make a move. Two, he seems to forget about certain players at times. And three, he just makes some bizarre moves in certain situations. I have an example of each one of these situations:

  • Situation 1 - Yi. Lawrence Frank stuck with Yi waaaay too long this year. He was pretty good up until the pinkie injury. After the injury though, Lawrence Frank put him in too soon, and played him too much. I have broken my pinkie on my shooting hand during a basketball season. It is honestly the worst, even after I was cleared to play, my shot wasn’t right for like a year. When Yi came back and started struggling, Coach Frank should have pulled Yi, and let him sit and rest the finger. Instead he kept playing him, let the team (and Yi individually) struggle, and now Yi’s confidence is DESTROYED. Plus once he made the move, he found out Ryan Anderson wasn’t half bad. If he would have made the switch sooner, I think we could have mustered a few more wins this year, and in the East, that could have meant the playoffs.
  • Situation 2 - Bobby Simmons. Bobby Simmons was pretty solid in the beginning of the season, but his minutes dropped every month of the season. Now I know he was hurt a couple times this year, but there are games that stick out in my mind where we needed offense, situations where Bobby Simmons would thrive, and he just didn’t get the minutes.
  • Situation 3 - Brookie Night. (Full disclosure, I didn’t watch this game, but I did thoroughly go through the play-by-play for this post) We all know about Brookie night. T-shirts were handed out and it was Brook’s big night to market him as a rookie of the year candidate. Brook comes out, and it is obvious he is amped up for this. In the first quarter Brook goes for 6 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block (against Dwight Howard). He gets pulled with 1:59 left in the first with one foul. He doesn’t get put back in the game until the start of the second half. This is Brookie night, he’s not in any sort of foul trouble, and he’s playing fantastic. You are going to take him out of the game? You have to be kidding me. I know we are out of the playoffs, and he probably wants to see Boone play, but you can’t wait until the second half, after most of the fans leave? It is a weird move to make, and it has to have disappointed Brook, him being a young guy and all. These are the kind of moves that get your “voice” lost with the players. This personally bothered me a lot (you can probably tell with how much I am writing about it) when I read and heard about it. Brook Lopez was a real big bright spot for us, and it just seems Lawrence Frank kind of just messed up his night.

Losing favor with the players: This is a biggie. It seems like his “voice” is starting to be lost with the players. This is the kind of thing that happens with motivational coaches. You wonder why Scott Skiles (I use Skiles as an example, because I still sort of follow the team from the Jordan days) has jumped from job to job? He gets so much out of his players that eventually the team just doesn’t want to give it to Skiles anymore. Right or wrong, that is what happens. I see this happening with Lawrence Frank.

Many saw our late season collapse as the Nets falling back to earth, back to what they should have been from the start (this is 100% off base though. Mainly because those who predict these kind of things didn’t account to how good our rookies would have been. The rookies didn’t get worse, so our expectations shouldn’t have). I didn’t see that. I saw a team giving up on his coach. Again, I am not saying that this is right or wrong, but it is what happened. I mean just take a look what Devin Harris had to say about it.

X’s and O’s/In Game Play Calling: I am a X’s and O’s guy. I love seeing great offensive play calling and late game execution (that double screen play to open up Ray Allen for a three this past Sunday was amazing). Lawrence Frank doesn’t seem to enjoy it as much as I do though…mainly because whenever we get in a must score position the Nets resort to ISO, give it to Vince or Devin, and watch. Now I know there are some situations when a player is hot and they want to do it, but we never…NEVER…run a late game play. There were a couple buzzer beater/game winning opportunities that were missed…and made. Each one of these came out of an ISO set. Don’t believe me? Let’s go to the video:

I already broke this down in-depth, but yeah there is the ISO. What makes this worse is that this came out of a time-out. I understand on a miss or a make sometimes you have to go with the ISO on the fly because there isn’t time to set anything up. However, when you are doing this out of a time out, that just shows your lack of play-calling.

What about that game at Toronto. We hit a shot to send it into overtime, surely they had to have run a great play to get the shot right? RIGHT??? Two late game situations before even getting to the buzzer beater and look at what we get. ISO for Devin:

Then an ISO for Vince:

And now on to the game tying three…coming out of a time-out:

I can imagine being in that huddle. “OK Vince. Just run really hard to the top of the key, catch the ball, and take a highly contested shot.” Now in this case, they worked. But far too many times, plays like this didn’t work (see Celtics-Nets video).

Wasn’t a NBA player: Now I will admit, this is a bit of a stretch (and I won’t get into this too much here. Eventually I do want to do a huge post about this and research it), but seriously lets take a look at the top NBA coaches. They all seem to have been players in the NBA. Pat Riley, Rick Adleman, Rudy Tomjanovich, Phil Jackson, and Mike Brown (this year’s coach of the year should be included here - plus these are the only ones I can think of off of the top of my head at 3:30 in the morning) all were players in the NBA. The one exception I can think of is Greg Popovich (although - he did play in college and many feel like he could have played in the NBA, but right after receiving his degree, he served his required 5 years of Military Service). Lawrence Frank didn’t play in the NBA.

Why is this important? Again, this is just my opinion, but I think a player in the NBA turned coach can just relate to his players better. He understands the situations he is putting his players in. During the game, he understands what his players are feeling. It is just my opinion that having had played in the NBA, coaches just have a better feel of the game.

Notice the positives I mentioned. These seem to be categories where Lawrence Frank is lacking. He is starting to lose his “voice” with the players, and as I already have mentioned, he just doesn’t seem to have a “feel” for the game. It just seems that Lawrence Frank has a knack for bizarre substitutions and uncreative playcalling.

Alright, I got this off of my chest now, and that is probably for the best. Lawrence Frank is the Nets coach, and I want the Nets to be successful, therefore via the transitive property I want Lawrence Frank to be successful. So…let’s go Lawrence Frank!

---

A lot has changed since this original article was posted, so let us look at these changes with respect to Lawrence Frank.

The offense. The roster now more suitably fits his new dribble drive offense.  No matter how awesome Vince Carter played, he wasn't really an "attack the basket" type of player that you need for this system to thrive.  Courtney Lee is.  Terrence Williams is.  And it is starting to look like CDR is determined to attack the basket more.  Last year I wasn't too excited about the dribble-drive offense because it seemed like Devin Harris was the only guy it would work for.  Now we have a couple guys who can make this offense exciting.  I am looking forward to it.

Yi. Ryan Anderson is gone.  We might as well accept it Nets fans, because no matter how much we wish, he isn't coming back.  This means that Yi is going to be forced into a lot of playing time (Tony Battie isn't going to be able to handle stater-type minutes).  I think Frank did a poor job of handling Yi last year (didn't give him enough minutes early/left him in too long after being injured).  I am going to keep my eye on this next year.

Frank's Staying. Let's say that the Nets start the year 0-15, Lawrence Frank isn't going anywhere.  Despite what the Nets' front office says, Bruce Ratner was definitly behind the decision to keep Frank, because there is no way that Ratner is going to pay two coaches' salaries next year.  Since we found out Frank was staying, Ratner's money situation has only gotten worse.  He is going to make sure Lawrence Frank earns his money next year.

Youth. For many fans of the New Jersey Nets, the biggest issue they have with Lawrence Frank is his development of younger players.  Last year he did a pretty solid job, but he is going to have to prove it wasn't just good players playing well.  This is a young team, and I think it is going to be a challange for Frank.  Why?  Well the main reason is his coaching style.  Lawrence Frank is the type of coach who will get in your face, yell at you, and throw you under the bus (kinda) to the media.  It is a style that many guys coming out of college isn't used to, so it is going to be interesting to see how he handles a team with very few vets.

---

The main reason I re-posted this is because I want to see what you guys think of the whole situation.  I assume that most of you reading this today read it for the first time, so please make your opinions heard!  This should be an interesting discussion.