Here’s four things we learned from Brooklyn Nets media day. (On a laptop? Click the next button above.)
Jarrett Jack is going to be himself. When asked if he felt he had to change his approach as the de facto starter, Jack replied with a flat no.
“The only thing that’s different is just the personnel I’m on the court with,” he said. “You try to just incorporate that into the overall gameplan as far as how you start off games and matchups you want to take advantage of, playcalling, but other than that, it’s the same preparation that I use for every game, no matter whether I’m coming off the bench or I’m starting. Just come out there and control the tempo, and read & direct situations.”
“If I can get multiple ballhandlers involved, then there will be times where he won’t be on the ball, and he’ll be on the weak side coming off the ball,” Lionel Hollins said about Jack’s new role. “I’ve told Jarrett before, I know he can do a lot of things. It’s just a matter of setting a priority, and if he’s a starter, obviously his priorities have to be to the team.
“If you go back and look at him when he did start, he did play the way that I would like for him to play. But coming off the bench he had a different role. I think everybody looks at his role off the bench and thinks that that’s the only way that he can play.”
As a starter, Jack averaged 15.9 points, 6.6 assists, and 3.3 turnovers in 35.6 minutes per game, which were all per-possession increases over his numbers as a reserve (yes, turnovers too). His plus-minus was also slightly better as a starter (-5.7 points per 100 possessions) than off the bench (-8.1), though that might have to do with quality of teammates.
Deron Williams had to adjust his game when his body no longer could support his old methods. So he turned from an attacking guard into a pick-and-roll prober, finding Brook Lopez with quick pocket passes for easy shots in the paint. Jack will have to find his clicking spot with Lopez and the rest of the Nets scorers, but he doesn’t see himself as a Williams replacement.
“I’m just gonna be myself. I don’t know how to try to be a clone of another person or another player, personality or game-wise. You know what I mean?
“I don’t mean to speak in the third person, but being Jarrett Jack has worked pretty good for me.”
Brook Lopez is working on being a more complete player. Brook Lopez was a dominating force down the stretch last season, averaging close to 20 points and 10 rebounds per game after the All-Star Break. But he also averaged fewer assists per game than ever before. This season, he wants to do more.
“A lot of times in my career, I’ve been the end point, the termination point of a lot of plays, just scoring the ball,” Lopez said. “I’d like to be in a position to have plays run through me and share the ball, make plays. Still score, obviously, but make plays, as well.”
There’s a lot riding on Lopez’s success. The team has more money invested in his future than anyone else, after signing him to a three-year max deal worth a little over $60 million. After seven years of time on the trade block — about which Lopez joked, “I’m not gonna let my guard down too much, but I’m here today!” — The team wants him to be a leader, both in vocality and by example.
The Nets found success rolling Lopez to the basket for short floaters down the stretch, and Deron Williams was a particularly good partner for those plays. But with Williams gone, the Nets might have to find a new method, one that could require Lopez to spread the ball around more than ever before.
“I’ve been working on making myself a more complete player, leading is something I’m harping on, and being that playmaker,” Lopez added. “That’s something I’ve focused a lot on when we’re out here playing together in 5-on-5. A lot of these guys are young, and want to play in the open court. They cut very well, move very well. So it’s just finding where they like to get the ball, and since they’re always moving, always be looking for them.”
The Nets see this as a “redshirt” year for Chris McCullough. This is something that we’ve known for a while, but was more solidified Monday afternoon. The team expects McCullough to be back on the court in January — for training and activity, not NBA games — while rehabilitating from a torn ACL he suffered in January.
“Basically, this is a ‘redshirt year,’” Lionel Hollins said Monday morning. “Somebody said it, he’s like our lottery pick for next year and I agree with that.” Hollins’s boss, GM Billy King, was the one who referred to McCullough as the team’s lottery pick.
McCullough is an intriguing talent. He measured at 6’9″ with a 7’3″ wingspan at the draft combine, though he couldn’t do athletic testing due to his injury. In 16 games as a freshman, McCullough averaged 9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, and 1.7 steals in 28.1 minutes per game. He was one of just four NCAA players and the only freshman to average more than two blocks and two steals per 40 minutes of playing time (when adjusted for pace), per DraftExpress‘s NCAA database.
Despite the team’s cautious approach, he expects to play this year. “I expect to see myself on the court this year, but I’m not going to rush it,” McCullough said. “I’m going to take my time with it, and hopefully I get my feet wet.”
McCullough says as of right now he feels “great,” but that there are good days and bad days. “A good day, I come in here, lift weights, shoot, get my rehab in. Bad day I come in here, and my knee’s just not there. Some days I can do certain things, some days I can’t.”
The Nets haven’t quite moved to Brooklyn… yet. Thaddeus Young may have made the first step in buying a condo for him and his family in Brooklyn Heights, but nobody else has followed suit yet. The team is planning to officially move the facility in February, and only five players — Young, Brook Lopez, Bojan Bogdanovic, Chris McCullough, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — have guaranteed contracts for next season.
Hollis-Jefferson elected to live in New Jersey near the facility for now with his brother Rahlir and a friend, but told The Wall Street Journal that he would consider a move to Brooklyn when the new facility opens. McCullough said he would move next year.
Shane Larkin secured a six-month lease in New Jersey so he could consider his options when they move, according to the New York Times. Also per the Times, Sergey Karasev cringed at the price of homes in New York, saying “it was double the price of Jersey.”
As for Lopez? He’ll make it there eventually. “I never do anything unless I absolutely have to,” Lopez joked. Back in July, Lopez told WFAN that he would consider a move to “DUMBO or something.”