Diaries from an Unimportant NBA Preseason Game, Vol. 2

Brook Lopez
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

On Thursday, the new look Brooklyn Nets kicked off their preseason tour by defeating the Detroit Pistons 101-94 behind fresh-faced Jeremy Lin’s 21 points. While it’s always so tough to discern any valuable information from the preseason, there’s been fleeting glimpses of the Nets’ new-look offense and a defense that doesn’t bleed points at such a rapid rate.

(I’m just going to rip the bandaid off now — all that good stuff they did before? Yeah, nope, not tonight.)

Implementing Kenny Atkinson’s system will take some time, undoubtedly, but against a New York Knicks’ team missing Derrick Rose (trial) and Joakim Noah (hamstring), it was another opportunity for Brooklyn to get their feet wet before the games start counting — here are our thoughts:

The nitty gritty: the Nets had a strong first half showing, but with Lin resting and Brook Lopez only playing 13 minutes, they were run out of the gym in quarters three and four. Destroyed by self-inflicted defensive lapses and the hot shooting of Chasson Randle, the Nets ran out of ideas quickly and lost by the score of  116-98.

— Walt Frazier and Mike Breen, the Knicks’ commentary team, was in a midseason form reminiscent of Ian Eagle and Mike Fratello as the pair spent the first 5 minutes of the game discussing the merits of “Ring Around the Rosie.”

Preseason, baby — embrace it!

— Greivis Vasquez continued to look a bit rusty as he works himself back into basketball shape. Perhaps, then, this is why Atkinson brought back Jorge Gutierrez for training camp. Without Lin (rest, no injury), the Nets struggled to get into their offensive sets and left Vasquez and Randy Foye to chuck up some ill-advised three-pointers.

— Isaiah Whitehead made his preseason debut on the court he dominated on last year while with Seton Hall. The last time he played at Madison Square Garden, his 26 points carried the Pirates to their first Big East victory in 23 years — punctuated by this three-point play with just 18 seconds left.

Let’s hope Whitehead can make some more memories in the Garden.

Whitehead: 6 points, 2-5 FG%, 2 rebounds, 2 assists

— Joe Harris looks like he’s one of Kenny Atkinson’s favorites already and it’s not hard to see why. His tenacity on defense is the type of contagious effort that the Nets will need on a nightly basis to stay competitive. Harris might not be as talented a scorer as Bojan Bogdanovic or have as much experience as the aforementioned Foye, but his smooth shooting will get him plenty of burn this season.

Harris: 11 points, 4-6 FG%, 2 rebounds, 2 assists

— Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a three-pointer and that is all I have to say about that.

— Beautiful Basketball: Lopez split the defense in the second quarter with a bounce pass that Hollis-Jefferson converted after a nifty up-and-under finish. It’s been said before, but let’s toss it out there again: there will be moments of frustration surely, but pay attention because this Nets team is young, scrappy, and digging for moments of brilliance.

— It’s 2016 and I witnessed Lopez pump-fake on the corner three before trying to take it to the rim alone. Never let your dreams die, folks.

— Story of the preseason thus far has to be the Nets’ ball movement — and, boy, has it been pretty at times. Whether that’s a corner three from Bogdanovic off a broken play or an improvised Harris-to-McCullough alley-oop, they’re making plays that we went most of 2015-2016 without seeing.

Maybe Atkinson is a wizard, afterall.

— Brandon Jennings haunted Whitehead like a ghost in the third quarter, which included an eight-second violation for the rookie after he couldn’t get it past halfcourt. Frazier pointed out Whitehead’s penchant for dribbling with a straight spine and a high dribble, making it that much easier for Jennings to crowd his space.

It’s early, but Whitehead will learn quickly that much more aggressive guards will eat him alive during the regular season.

— No Beau Beech or Egidijus Mockevicius tonight and Gutierrez played just four minutes, even without Lin in the rotation. Yogi Ferrell continues to get his extended audition — although he was dominated by Jennings in the third quarter as well — but none of the training camp invitees have made a compelling case for the final roster thus far.

— Atkinson is likely to tinker and try, roughly, 14,000 different lineups this season, but his Ferrell, McCullough, Kilpatrick, and Bennett spread just did not work. Rod Baker — yes, that Rod Baker — nailed two threes, all before Chasson Randle lit the Nets up for 14 points.

— From Brian Lewis of The New York Post:

Not ideal.

— And, then, the floodgates opened. Defensive lapse after defensive lapse allowed the Knicks to run away with the game despite employing a bevvy of D-League-bound players, Louis Amundson, and Sasha Vujacic in the fourth quarter.

Hey, at least Trevor Booker kept hustling.

— The conclusion? Borrowing from the bard himself, Joel Embiid, you’ve just gotta trust the process.

3 Positives: Joe Harris’ shooting, the promising debut of Isaiah Whitehead, and some, at times, starry-eyed ball movement.

3 Bummers: Jennings baptizing Ferrell + Whitehead, getting destroyed by Chasson Randle, and having to wait for Linsanity II just a little bit longer.

The Nets will next play the Miami Heat on Tuesday, October 11th at 7:30 EST on NBATV.

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