Welcome to 2011 Nets fans and my first Monday Musings of the new year. It was another awful week for the Nets and just like that they are back on a five-game losing streak. The worst sign of this particular losing streak is that aside from the Bulls game on NYE, none of these games have been competitive. I’m not even going to get into the disaster in Minnesota the other night, because it’s almost hard to believe that they got blown out in the second half by the T-Wolves.
The aspect of this team that I’m going to focus on today is the lack of a clutch scorer. If you all remember I wrote about this in one of the game recaps during the preseason and hoped that a guy like Travis Outlaw could step up and fill this role. He had made a few game-winners for the Blazers and I had some false sense of optimism for him. Well I know when I’m wrong and this was clearly one of those times. Outlaw has been a huge disappointment this season, most notably his pathetic shooting percentages. He is currently at just a 38% clip from the field and 32% from the three-point line. So while the team needs a player to take big shots, it’s hard to blame Avery for not going to him.
The Nets two best players are Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. There is no issue about that. But I don’t think of the word clutch when either guy comes to mind. Brook should be a player the Nets go to down the stretch and they have tried at times this season (against the Lakers when he actually made some good moves against Pau Gasol), but he has the tendency to fade too many times in games. He is still a very young player but one thing I’d like to see from Brook is for him to go to Avery Johnson in the final minutes and demand the ball. The guy has strong post moves and most importantly he can get to the free throw line. He shoots over 80% from the charity stripe, which is always a good thing down the stretch.
Now when we come to D. Harris, he is clearly the guy on the Nets that can most create a shot for himself. He can break guys down off the dribble, hit an occasional jump shot and also get to the free throw line. But the problem with Harris is that he’s been inconsistent throughout the season, especially with his shot attempts. One game he’ll take 25 shots and the next he’ll only take 12. If the Nets are going to be successful, he needs to take anywhere from 15-20 shots per game. Currently he and Brook are averaging just over 27 field goal attempts per game. Here is an idea. Take some attempts away from Mr. Outlaw and Jordan Farmar and give them to the team’s best players.
All of this talk about clutch players and making big shots makes me think about a Net of the past: the one and only Vince Carter. Did VC have a great career with the Nets? No. Did he fade in crunch time during the Cleveland Cavs playoff series? Absolutely. But the one thing I will always say about Carter is that he could hit a big shot in the regular season. Whether it was a dunk against the Raptors or a 35-footer against the Hawks, he had the tendency to make the dramatic shot. Sometimes fans don’t realize the impact of a player until he’s gone and Carter is one of those guys. He never brought the Nets close to a championship, but he did hit his fair share of big shots during his New Jersey career.
Will the Nets losing streak still be ongoing when I write this next Monday? Well the Nets have another one against the Bulls at home this week, then at the Wizards and back home to the Rock for the Bucks. None of those are easy wins (let’s be honest, there are no easy wins for this team right now) but they better get at least one of them. After Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, they go out West for four straight that they could easily lose. The last thing I want to see is this team start losing 10 games in a row again…