Al Iannazzone gives a great breakdown of the Nets Chinese trip and notes while the team may talk of a great experience at practice today, there are scores of questions on the basketball side. Outside of Brook Lopez and Devin Harris, no one seems to know what the identity of this team is, and Iannazzone is spot on about Terrence Williams in his column:
The problem is that, aside from Terrence Williams, most of the other players are shooters. Also a problem is that Williams, who isn’t a shooter, tried to be one in China. He took eight more shots than Lopez and 18 more than Harris. That’s far too many for Williams, a spectacular athlete who is at his best setting up his teammates or getting to the basket. Williams didn’t do that enough in China, but scored 36 points, second most on the trip behind Lopez’s 42. Teams are going to let Williams shoot jumpers all he wants. It’s not a good thing for the Nets if he’s a volume shooter, as it's not his strength.
It's a delicate balance with TWill and I think he's on the wrong side of things right now. But he's also one of the few players on this team who seems capable of making his own shot.
Should all of this come together in a few years, the Nets would have pulled off something no other N.B.A. team could boast: transforming a downtrodden franchise into something akin to the Manchester United of global basketball. If not, they will still be the Nets, the team that went 12-70 last season and holds the record for the longest opening-season losing streak in N.B.A. history.
(Nets CEO Brett) Yormark earnestly insists that those Nets no longer exist, and that the building blocks for a renaissance are in place.
In typical Yormark fashion, he was slinging superlatives with the Times:
“I’ve been in the business now for 20-plus years,” Yormark said, “and I don’t think there’s a franchise in any sport right now that has the type of clarity and ‘runway,’ as I call it, over the course of the next couple of years, as we do.”
What Yormark and the Nets are attempting to do is quite fascinating - though I imagine it views better as a social experiment to outsiders than it does to fans of the New Jersey Nets. For full disclosure, I don't fell alienated by this, as I've lived in New York my entire life and currently live a few subway stops away from the site of their new arena. So I feel like I'm a rarity in that I still hold dear the past of this franchise in New Jersey, but I'm also part of Yormark's target audience as someone who can physically be part of something "new" in Brooklyn. But again, I acknowledge that not all fans feel this way, and when the CEO of the team goes around essentially saying everything we know about this team's past is dead - well, I can' imagine that sitting well for those out there who have stood by this franchise through thick and thin.
Although the Nets showed some very solid signs of life in spurts in this game, the final score reflected the same result as it did on Wednesday; that over the course of 48 minutes, the Rockets are ten points per game better than the Nets are.
For what it's worth, the Nets instantly looked stronger at the beginning of the game then they did on Wednesday. Maybe it was adjusting to the time difference, maybe it was just a few more days together, maybe it was skipping the shootaround to start. But the Nets started the game 6-6, and every shot was well created - three shots from Brook inside, two jumpers from Outlaw, and a Harris slash to the basket that looked like it came two seasons ago. They also simply looked more active - Joe Smith, in his first preseason start this year, looked like he'd turned back the clock defensively - moving around quickly and on one occasion blocking a shot with serious force. Devin was diving for loose balls, Terrence Williams was locking down on defense, and while the Rockets still had a very crisp offense the Nets did not look nearly as overmatched as they did early last game.
Well, until after that sixth shot. After starting the game 6-6, the Nets suddenly fell apart, hitting only one of their next 14 shots. Some of that was bad luck, some of it was bad execution, but one thing is for sure: it was bad. The main culprit? Terrence Williams.
It's clear that Terrence has carried over some of the issues that he had last season. Don't get me wrong, he's still chock-full of the positives that make him an exciting player - bouncing around all over the floor, showing off his elite athleticism and throwing laser-beam passes. His weaknesses, though, are still prominent: he was forcing contested shots and rushing through the offense. After Avery's first timeout, he seemed to get the message, stepping back to distribute and run through the offense, but that didn't last too long. He hit a wide-open three off a Farmar slash-and-kick early, and his form looks as good as ever, but Avery will need to work with him on his poor selection this season for him to really have a net positive scoring impact. I hope this is just preseason experimentation, because you can't justify some of the shots he was taking. With his court vision and passing ability, it's downright criminal.
To put it in numerical terms: In his first 12 minutes, T-Will took 13 shots, most of them self-called isolations. The rest of the Nets up to that point had combined for 14. He finished the game with 16 points on 7-18 shooting. God, he sure can dunk though; one a slam in transition and one Harris alley-oop that he caught high above the rim.
The Nets also showed some signs of laziness defensively. Much of their "activity" was at the end of plays, after the Rockets had run their plays, confused the Nets perimeter defenders, and gotten open looks. The perimeter defense was particularly bad; guards seemingly had no interest in running through screens and instead settled for letting the big men deal with their laziness. Good defense stops good offense at the source, not the end result, and while the blocked shots early were great they shouldn't all be help-side. One particularly egregious play found Brook Lopez and Joe Smith clobbering Kyle Lowry, who'd gotten a wide open lane to the basket without really doing anything to get it.
Another place the Nets consistently struggled was in transition. The Nets were consistently beaten out on the break, allowing easy layups & dunks throughout the game. While I don't have a record of the fast break points, it's surely a huge difference. It's clear the Nets have a lot of work to do defensively before they become effective on that side of the floor.
If Avery wanted offense from the power forward position, he's got to be upset after this game. The three true power forwards on this team: Joe Smith, Derrick Favors, and Kris Humphries - combined for a rock-solid zero points, missing four shots from the field in 31 minutes of play. I appreciate Joe Smith's energy and veteran leadership as much as anyone, but he is assuredly not an offensive weapon. It's becoming more and more evident that Troy Murphy's injury is going to hurt a lot to start the season. But hey, anything's better than Yi again, right?
I'm of the opinion that when run correctly, the pick-and-roll is probably the best play in the NBA. When two guys are really zoned in together offensively, it's unstoppable. One thing that's clear early is that Avery Johnson wants the Nets to run it - running with Favors & T-Will three times in the first quarter - but it never worked; twice Terrence made a poor decision (jacking a contested shot or just dribbling away frivolously) and once Derrick missed a layup. I really hope they keep working on it, because those are two absolutely ideal guys to run the pick & roll - two ridiculous athletes at their positions who can dominate when given the right look.
I think playing a team like the Rockets these past two games has been a good contrast. You could argue that the Nets have the more rawly talented players, but the Rockets run their system much more effectively - as they always do. The Nets turned the ball over 17 times and appeared to have no true game plan offensively other than "Give it to Brook/Devin/Terrence and get the hell out of his way." If this is what It's All New is supposed to be, I've certainly got some concerns.
Overall, the Nets looked just a little off all game. The offense wasn't perfect, the defense had lapses, but every now and then they gave us a glimpse of just how good they can really be. Devin slashing to the basket for a layup. Brook lofting the ball over Yao & Brad Miller for two. Morrow hitting jumper after jumper. T-Will destroying the rim with no regard for anyone or anything. Outlaw spacing the floor and knocking down jumpers with a man in his face. It's a good thing that we're in preseason, because right now the Nets are at a good starting point - one they can hopefully leapfrog off when the season kicks off in eleven days.
Good morning Nets fans! As if 8:00 AM EST wasn't early enough last time, today the Nets & Rockets are starting a half-hour earlier. On a Saturday, too. After dropping the first game on the Eastern Hemisphere 91-81, the Nets are looking for revenge in their last taste of overseas basketball until they play the Raptors in London on March 4th. This is the second Nets preseason game that will be televised, and I'm hoping that it goes better than the first.
A few things to watch out for:
Brook Lopez. Lopez was one of the lone bright spots in Wednesday's game, putting together a flurry of post moves and putting on an offensive low post clinic at Yao Ming's expense. Now that Lopez is finally surrounded by a real NBA basketball team, you've got to expect him to keep taking advantage of the 1-on-1 coverage he's receiving.
Ball Distribution. The Nets only made 11 assists in Wednesday's game, 7 of them coming from Devin Harris's hands. Meanwhile, Houston's offense was crisp, running plays and moving the ball quickly and instinctively. It was easy to see that Houston was more prepared - which is fair, since they've been together longer. Some of that we can chalk up to youthful inexperience - although it should be noted that 35-year-old Joe Smith is starting at power forward today. Still, the Nets need to start playing a 5-on-5 game much more often - when Jordan Farmar & Terrence Williams combine for one assist, there are going to be issues.
Bounceback games. Jordan Farmar, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, & Travis Outlaw - four of the biggest acquisitions the Nets made all summer - all had highly forgettable games. The four combined for just 14 points on 25% shooting from the field. (Weird coincidence: the four combined to shoot 6-24 and pull down 15 rebounds, which are the same numbers Kobe Bryant put up in Game 7 last year. Completely irrelevant, I know, but it still caught my eye.) Outlaw & Favors have been struggling all preseason, while Farmar & Morrow have been up and down - if those four can put it together, the Nets have a much better chance of pulling this one out.
Obviously, this is a New Jersey Nets blog, however, the NAS crew absolutely love the NBA in general. So, every week, Mark, Devin, Evan, Justin, Danny, and myself will answer questions regarding the L.
1) The Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas faked an injury recently to give Nick Young a start. Was this a noble gesture or just another way for Arenas to get shipped out of the nation's capital?
Mark: There are two things wrong with this scenario. One, Gilbert Arenas faked an injury to his knee, which given his history of injuries, is not something he should be making light of. Two, he ADMITTED he lied about the injury. It boggled my mind that a player could just be so tone deaf. He's obviously got the league's eyes watching his every move this season. Why is it impossible for him to just cease the ridiculous behavior and play basketball? It's players like Arenas who just ruin the image of the NBA for the casual fan. Who out there wants to root for this guy?
Devin: I don't know what to make of Emo Gilbert. It's a complete code switch: the former fun-loving blogger-athlete has basically become a shell of his former self. I appreciate his candidness with regards to faking the injury, but... come on, man. Even if you DO fake an injury, you don't tell the media that's what you did. Gilbert of all people should know how the media can run with a story. One thing he said was especially true: the team is definitely loaded at the guard spots, and if the Wizards can find a suitor for his massive contract, there's no doubt they'll take advantage.
Evan: If I were a Washington Wizards fan I would want to trade Gilbert Arenas for a rack of basketballs at this point. While he may have thought it was a noble gesture to fake an injury and allow Nick Young to get some PT, it was just another example of Arenas’ immaturity and constant need to be in the spotlight. His action completely undermined Coach Flip Saunders, who was well within his right to fine Arenas. Despite being one of the best players on the team, Gilbert Arenas is not the coach, and he should not be making decisions on whether or not Nick Young should be playing. His act with the media the next day was also laughable. After he got suspended for 50 games for carrying a gun into an NBA locker room, he really thought that this incident with the injury wasn’t going to be a big deal? If the Wizards and new owner Ted Leonsis want to be taken seriously, they need to get rid of Arenas; even if that means simply releasing him.
Justin: Maybe in Gilbert's head this was a noble gesture, but in reality this was just another antic in a long line of antics that will lead to Gilbert's departure from DC. He has to understand the professionalism that comes with his job, and though his intentions may have been okay, he needs to know there were better ways to get the same result (Nick Young starting).
Daniel: It was Arenas being Arenas. As much as I want USC athletes, Nick Young in this case, to get their chance in the professional ranks, doing something like this completely undermines your coach, your front office, and the team as a whole. Gilbert Arenas is lucky that Flip Saunders is playing him at all right now, let alone starting him, so he needs to be more appreciative of that opportunity instead of just sitting around and cashing in on the rest of his $111 million contract. Fortunately, karma has come back to bite Agent Zero; he left Thursday's preseason game with a groin injury.
DV: Arenas is crazy like a fox. He obviously wants out of the Wizards organization because he's not getting hugs from mommy and daddy (ownership and fans) anymore. It's John Wall's team and in Arenas' world, it's obviously not a good look, so how do you get your way? You do the equivalent of a Vlade Divac flop and hope you get the call in your favor.... MORE →
It was the fall of 1992, and I was looking for a hero.
A few months earlier, the Dream Team had just blown through Barcelona and the Summer Olympics. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were about to start their campaign for their third consecutive NBA Championship. Some rookie out of LSU nicknamed “Shaq” was being compared to Wilt Chamberlin.
Up until that point, I had always been a casual fan of basketball. I would always watch a few games of the NBA Finals and I remember being captivated that winter when an HIV positive Magic Johnson was playing in the All-Star game. But the sport was always in my periphery until that fall, when it was clear to me that a lot of special things were going on in the NBA and I was missing out on something by not tuning in regularly.
Little did I know that it would be a Croatian sharpshooter with a million dollar smile and a competitive streak to match that would ultimately capture my heart and make me a true fan of both the sport and the Nets. That it would be the number “3” – not “23” or “34” – that would end up being sacred for the rest of my existence.
The topic dujour after Wednesday's loss to the Rockets where the possible chemistry issues of the teams. With only four returning players from 2009-10, the early struggles of newcomers like Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw may be the byproduct of them not gelling with their teammates yet.
"We've only had five games together as well as numerous practices," Harris said. "It's going to take a little time, but we're definitely moving in the right direction."
“It’s my job to get him open looks,” Harris said. “My penetration is going to be very vital to him getting open 3-point looks.”
I was admittingly a little harsh on the new Nets in my recap of Wednesday's game. I understand that we as fans need to give them more time. However, I don't see these chemistry issues being solved anytime soon. The team is trying to break in a raw rookie while their starting PF Troy Murphy likely won't suit up until some time in November because of injury. While I appreciate the chemistry lesson, after last year, I don't think this team and fanbase can afford to get off to another dreadful start this season. As we learned this summer, free agents want to go where they can win with each other. They're not going to be seduced by a Russian billionaire, a rapper and a new arena.
Hello everyone, this post will hopefully give you a little flavor of the type of analysis I will provide as part of Nets Are Scorching. I am truly honored for the opportunity to contribute towards the Nets, and am thankful for a chance to talk to Nets fans like myself everyday.
What I took away from the Nets pre-season game against the Rockets was the play of Terrence Williams offensively. While I do agree that for the Nets to be successful, Williams would be thriving more as a play maker rather than a "scorer" but I think its a nice sign in TWill's development that he was taking what Houston was giving him, and knocking down shots.
Let's take a closer look at ways Williams found the hoop:
Its always a luxury when you have a guard who is capable of handling the break go in and rebound, and the athlete Williams is, he is able to do. This also triggers our break. Here's what I liked, Williams decision making in two break situations.
This first one came off a Williams defensive rebound. As he pushed the ball up into the front court, the Rockets do a poor job of stopping him, as they allow TWill to dribble almost to the foul line before picking him up. In the picture below you'll see Shane Battier (guarding Williams with the ball) dropped below the foul line.
This past week, ESPN has been inviting TrueHoop team bloggers to talk about the teams they cover on Daily Dime Live. Today is the Atlantic Division Previews, and two of us - myself and new writer Daniel Savitzky - will be there to talk New Jersey Nets.
If you're interested in checking out the other Atlantic Division previews, the schedule is as follows: