I had the pleasure of going to Nets practice today, and I came away with some real good stuff. First and foremost the thing that I noticed was that this team is still playing hard, the media only gets to sit in on the final few moments of the actual practice, but they were still going hard, and just by the look on all of the guys faces, you can tell they were really going at it the whole practice. Courtney Lee was working too, but I couldn't tell if he went the whole practice or if he was just participating in the drills at the end. Either way it looks like he is still struggling with the injury a bit (at least to me), so I wouldn't expect to see him playing either of the next two games. Anyway, here is some stuff I took away from Nets' practice today.
This guy is a true professional in every sense of the word. Sometimes fans see a guy who hasn't played a lot of minutes in a week (Trenton logged just 8 minutes in the first 3 games), and when they go on the court, they just expect them to be ready. It isn't like that. A good number of guys wouldn't be ready to step in because they would be too busy sulking about their lack of playing time. Not Trenton though, when I asked him about his lack of playing time early he told me, "It's not frustrating man, this is a long season and things happen. I knew before the season started I was out of the rotation. We got a great group of young guys, you know, so I always think positive. You just gotta stay focused and prepare yourself." Now that he is getting minutes though, is he doing anything different? "Same routine," Trenton says, "I'm not doing conditioning everyday, that's the only thing different. Everything else is the same. The same mental aspect of the game." The thing I took away there is that he was doing extra conditioning even when he wasn't getting minutes preparing himself in case he needed to play, and when the situation presented itself, he was ready to take full advantage.
I was also able to talk to Trenton about his low-post game which seems to be a revelation right now, but if you ask him, he has always been able to do work in the post. "I always had a post game, but I've been on a team with great scorers where my job is to defend. We got a lot of guys out right now so I get to do it a little more, because we need other options. I'm comfortable down there and coach is showing a lot of confidence in me too, and that helps.
Devin Practicing Again:
For the first time in a while, Devin has been able to practice with the team. He participated fully in everything, and when asked about how the groin felt, he said "Felt good. Side to side movement felt good." Devin is also happy to be practicing again, "It feels good, it feels good to be around the guys."
Just because he is practice doesn't mean he will be playing soon though. "I want to get a few more practices under my belt," Devin said, "It's tough now, but I talked to Rod and I talked to Kiki and the key thing is that me coming back and being reinjured doesn't help the team. So I will take the time and miss the games now so I can be 100% instead of being back at 70/80% with a chance of being reinjured." The big test for his groin, Devin said is going to be tomorrow when he sees how he feels after working out for the first time in a little while.
When the media talked to Lawrence Frank today, we got a sense that he was starting to get excited about getting players back. "We actually had 10. We had 10 bodies out there and it was good to see some guys back." Just because these guys are practicing, it doesn't mean they will be back anytime soon. When asked about what the roster would be like for the next couple games, coach Frank told us, "We only have 9 for the next couple games. Let's just see how it goes. When you have guys injured like this, they gotta get practices under their belt and you don't want a timetable on it." When asked if he felt pressure to bring back some guys early, coach Frank explained, "You never rush a guy back from injury. You never let the situation determine a guys health. That would be a foolish thing to do."
I have to agree with him here. The Nets aren't going anywhere this season (and they weren't before the injuries), so there any sense in bringing back guys like Devin, Yi, and Courtney (key pieces to the Nets' future plans) early just to see them get hurt again. You want all of these guys at 100%, and if that means sitting him a few extra games to be positive he is 100%, so be it.
Looking ahead to Indiana, coach Frank isn't taking the team lightly. "They won four in a row, beating Boston the way they did." For coach Frank, it is all about the Pacers' defense, "They've signed defensive minded guys, and Dante Jones offensively is playing the best he ever has, in addition to his defense."
Also looking ahead, with Sean Williams playing so well next to Brook Lopez, I had to ask if coach Frank planned on doing it more often. "It could happen, yeah. I think Sean the last two games has really earned himself some minutes, so I think we will continue to look at it." As coach Frank explains, "A lot of times the situation dictates in terms of combinations. Because we're so challenged to shoot the ball, it's a little bit harder to play Sean and Josh together because we don't shoot the ball great and those guys aren't primary scorers you better pitch a shutout defensively. Sometimes it isn't a knock on an individual when he doesn't play. It is more a result of the combinations you are putting out there."
It seems to me when Lawrence Frank is deciding who to play alongside Brook, he is kind of looking for the "hot-hand." The first couple games after Yi's injury, it was Eduardo and Josh Boone splitting minutes, but both have struggled a little bit as of late, so coach Frank threw Sean out there, and now he is giving them meaningful minutes. It will be interesting to see how well Sean plays from here on out though, because as of right now, this has been his career arc. Playing well a few games and then taking steps backwards. Let's see if he can be more consistent this season.
The point Lawrence Frank hammered home in his interview was how happy he was of the team's effort. "I love the spirit of our guys. As an example, I came out here a half a hour before practice and every one of these baskets were full of guys working. I just really really like the spirit and the fight," coach Frank continued, "Those signs up there where it says our culture, it ain't window dressing. These guys are really working hard and this group is a real pleasure to be around. Nobody enjoys being 0-10, but I have enjoyed the process."