Brooklyn Nets training camp was often the Lawrence Frank show, with the diminutive former head coach teaching, poking, prodding, and once again teaching every step of his defensive philosophy. His style contrasted sharply with Nets head coach Jason Kidd, who was a former player under Frank, and Kidd demoted Frank two weeks ago to doing “daily reports” on the team about whatever he wanted to write.
The Nets lost two straight games following the demotion, and have since won four of their last five. They’ve noticed a difference in how they play — some schematic, some communicative, and some just find refreshment in the change of pace in practice.
“Lawrence was always kind of the defensive guy, so he was talking on defense and he was definitely long-winded when it came to teaching,” point guard Deron Williams said of Kidd’s former top assistant.
“We’re a veteran group, we get things pretty easily. So at times when you’re just talking and we’re not practicing, it gets a little lengthy. But I think Kidd does a good job of getting his points across quick and easy, and then we move on.”
One of the questions heading into this season was if a veteran team like Brooklyn would even need much coaching, and if Frank was perhaps going to over-coach from his assistant’s seat. But Kidd sees his own approach, though less hands-on, as necessary. “They want to be coached,” Kidd asserted. “They want to be told what we’re trying to do, and when you tell them to go through it, not just once, but continue to go through it, they can get better at it.”
The Nets haven’t tweaked much schematically with Frank out; the guards play a nearly identical brand of basketball, while the bigs have been instructed to come up higher on pick-and-roll coverages, which they only do occasionally. Other than that, the word of the day is simplify, simplify.
If you ask three different Nets about the differences, you’ll get three different answers. Joe Johnson said it’s all about communication, which Kidd made a priority. Kevin Garnett says it’s about the small changes they’ve made since Frank left. But Deron Williams has what’s probably the most honest answer: they’re all on the floor.
“We’re more healthy,” Williams pointed to as the key reason for their success. “We’ve definitely cut things down offensive plays. We’re going with a certain number (of plays), not doing too much. But I think it’s just playing with each other now, getting used to rotations, and having fun out there.”
Williams has missed 11 of the team’s 24 games with various ankle injuries, only just getting to full health in this past week. With him sidelined, the Nets ran much of their offense through Johnson in the pick-and-roll, which Johnson acknowledged took its toll. “Over the course of time, it can kind of wear you down a little bit. So with Deron, he’s opened it up for everybody. … With me running the point, (it) makes me work that much harder to get in the paint and make plays for other guys. It’s just great to have him back.”