After 54 regular season games and one seven-game playoff series, the Brooklyn Nets will not bring back interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. After a 35-19 regular season record and a few bounces short of the second round, did he get the short end of the stick? Max Weisberg and Justin DeFeo debate.
Max: Here's how I see P.J.'s impact this season: P.J. Carlesimo took square peg and tried to force it into a round hole. It just doesn't work. I often imagine him trying so hard to pound it into the hole, that eventually it just breaks and goes in.
Here's an example of this: Gerald Wallace. A 31% three-point shooter coming into the season, Wallace's role on this team was often undefined, and Wallace himself had said just that. Wallace on the offensive end was often doing one thing: standing behind the three-point line. When Wallace lost his confidence with his jump shot (who wouldn't when they're asked to do something they're not capable of), it allowed defenses to simply let him roam free on the perimeter. It allowed teams to double-team Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez in their many isolation plays this season. Rarely did Wallace ever get any post-ups (8.6% of his total plays, per mySynergySports) or pick-and-roll plays (2.6%).
This is something Carlesimo could've corrected. He may have said that the offense the Nets ran under him was "mostly Avery's stuff," but when you see something isn't working, get creative and fix it.
Justin: There's no doubt that P.J. Carlesimo has flaws, and could have been more creative with managing the Nets roster and offense. But to address Wallace's concern about his role on the team, I'd say its bogus.Loosely quoting Devin here, but if Wallace could shoot, maybe his role would be clearer. What's a coach to do with a small forward who is openly admitting his confidence is gone and can't shoot? Bench him is really the only recourse, but then look Carlesimo's options to replace Wallace in the lineup: MarShon Brooks, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans. Talk about flawed.
Look at Wallace's play during the Bulls series - did his role really change all that much or did he just start making shots?
Focusing on the poor play of someone with an obviously fragile psyche as one of P.J.'s faults is missing the big picture. What about the fact that Carlesimo had to take over an under-achieving team midseason, and managed to coach them to a 35-19 record under his tenure? Carlesimo gets a lot of the blame for the Nets losing, but I think he deserves credit for them winning as well. What say you?
Max: I agree that Carlesimo took over a team that was in a tough position, but here is where the argument dissolves to opinion alone. You can say two things: 1) P.J. did a great job getting the team out of its funk and leading them to a 35-19 record the rest of the way, or 2) you could say that P.J. actually stunted the growth of this Nets team once he took over and that had a coach who was more qualified taken over, the Nets would've won more games than they did under P.J.
The talent on this team could have done better than 49 wins. You can make the argument that they weren't given a power forward -- which they weren't -- but as a coach, I believe it is your duty to try every possible avenue in an attempt to succeed. When I look back on the season, I think of all the possible power forwards who the Nets could've tried to see if they were able to maintain a starting role.
Did the Nets coaching staff this season give everyone a fair opportunity? Really, there were just two guys who flip-flopped at the starting four spot: Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries. While I do believe that Avery/P.J. were correct in starting Evans over Humphries for the greater portion of the season, I just would've liked to see a different look at times. I know Devin advocated for Gerald Wallace to be the team's starting PF (although he later backed off that notion when thinking about the pounding Wallace's body might take at the position). In such a dire situation to find a capable PF, Wallace was at least worth a shot.
Then there's also the case of Mirza Teletovic. If people don't know, I'm a Mirza fan. Though he didn't perform as well as anyone would've liked this season, had the coaches handled him properly from the start of the season, they could've gotten some solid contributions from him. This isn't 100% on Carlesimo though. Avery is to blame as well. It never seemed that Teletovic was given a fair chance from the start. He only played in four of the team's first 14 games, mostly in garbage time. For a player who is coming to the U.S. to play basketball here for the first time, confidence is an important issue. When Teletovic was given none of it from the beginning, it really hurt his development, and ultimately led to the Nets losing out on a possible rotation player for this season.
Justin: You hit the nail on the head again, Max. What other options did P.J. have at PF?