Now that 2011 is upon us, I’ve taken the liberty of deciding what the resolutions of our favorite basketball team should be. Am I a few days late? Maybe. But better late than never, right? … Right?
Without further ado, in no particular order, your 2011 New Jersey Nets New Year’s Resolutions:
Brook Lopez: Much has been made about your rebounding woes this season, but in all honesty it’s the scoring inconsistency that has me worried. There are some games when you looks like the dominant force we all expected – destroying interior defenses with your dizzying array of post moves & counter-moves, and utilizing your ridiculous reach to loft a right hook above any defender. Then there are games where you struggle to get position, forces bad shots, and spends the entire game drifting around the perimeter. I know that mononucleosis can take a long time to recover from, so I’ve given you the benefit of the doubt up until this point. But shooting the way that you are, that excuse is beginning to wear thin. I know the Nets aren’t running enough sets for you inside, but you also have to post up there with more strength. Get inside and get your offense going within ten feet, every single game.
Point Guards: I’m lumping you two (well, three) together because you all suffer from the same issue. For the facilitators of the offense, there have just been too many times this season where it’s clear that none of you trust your teammates, instead looking out for yourself above all else. With the scoring talent of our bigs around the rim and our widely spaced offense when Anthony Morrow comes back, Farmar & Harris (and to an extent, Uzoh) have got to be the guys who look to pass first, and shoot second.
With Harris, this rule is a little less hard-lined because Harris’s biggest strength is his ability to slash and create scoring opportunities by getting to the rim. But let me paint you a picture. Go back to the recent Bulls-Nets game. With 9:45 remaining in the second quarter, Harris, dribbling at the top of the key, specifically called for a pick & roll with Derrick Favors. After receiving the pick, Harris dribbled lazily off to the left side, without even looking at Derrick (who rolled well and had his hand up looking for a pass), the basket (which is where you want to look if you’re going to score), or anything else that might have helped the Nets run something even resembling an offense. It was an absolutely disgusting few seconds from a guy who’s supposed to facilitate – and it wasn’t an isolated incident.
Sasha Vujacic: Sasha, you’ve been a bright spot in this team’s dark cloud this year. You’ve exceeded my low expectations. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and don’t let the depressing stink of New Jersey seep into your brain.
Travis Outlaw: Guess what I’d ask from “Mr. Pump Fake”? Outside of shooting the damn ball in rhythm, I know that most folks consider your signing a massive disappointment – given your lackluster production, you’ve been a pretty easy scapegoat & lightning rod for all things bad about this year’s Nets. Truthfully, I still think you can be a very valuable weapon off the bench. At the very least, you have to remember the mentality that made you such an effective bench weapon in the first place. There have been comments from Avery that your conditioning’s not where it should be – and given your dubious history with conditioning I hope something clicks there soon as well.
Anthony Morrow: You made a career out of transition three-point shooting in Golden State, spotting up on the wings and just letting the ball fly out of his hands the moment you caught it. This year, you’re hesitating before shooting on too many occasions, which usually results in being forced to pass out or shoot a long contested two-pointer – the most inefficient shot in basketball. Having a guy who can make 2-4 threes a game on 45% shooting is highly valuable – and when you come back from injury, you’ve got to be that guy.
Carmelo Anthony: Just kidding.
Kris Humphries: You’ve been the surprising silver lining in the Nets rotation, shooting 53.6% from the field with a ridiculous 31.7% defensive rebound rate. (How ridiculous is it? It’s 3rd in the NBA, behind only Marcus Camby and Kevin Love, and ahead of names like Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, & Blake Griffin.) But for everything you bring on the glass, you don’t bring in system defense – the Nets are a full nine points worse defensively with you on the court. Given my subjective eye, you seem tentative playing help D, often refusing to leave your man to help out on slashers who have somehow broken through the Nets’ matador defense. You have certainly had your share of eye-popping blocks – LaMarcus Aldridge and Eric Maynor may never be the same – but defense is about every play, not just the highlights.
Damion James: Incomplete.
Derrick Favors: Assuming you’re not traded yet, Avery Johnson said it better than I ever could: you’ve got to dunk on three people a night. I get that you’re a mostly passive, laidback guy and that this team doesn’t exactly breed aggressive players. But you’re not going to be a great player – or even earn a starting spot – until you show a little fire on the court. Dunk in someone’s face. Pound your chest. Yell at Jordan Farmar when he doesn’t pass to you when you roll off the screen. Get the competitive juices flowing. You’re just too good to fit in this well with a team this bad.
Troy Murphy: Truth be told, I don’t blame you for being frustrated. Avery really bungled your situation, and given your back injury and completely volatile position in the rotation you still doesn’t really seem to be used to game-tempo situations yet. That being said, Avery’s not the one missing his shots; you are. A 32% field goal percentage, 17% three-point percentage and 53% free-throw percentage isn’t any coach’s fault, and it’s hard to justify giving you minutes if that’s your level of production.
Quinton Ross & Stephen Graham: I appreciate what you guys can bring to the table defensively, but don’t be upset when Damion James & Anthony Morrow come back and your minutes disappear. It just needs to be that way.
Johan Petro: Enjoy every dollar of your paycheck.
Avery Johnson: While my colleague Mark has had a little trouble with your, shall I say, Calipari-like stranglehold of this team, I think that’s exactly what the Nets have needed from their head coach. Your no-nonsense personality assures the players that YOU are running the show – and for a franchise coming off a 70-loss season, that force of personality makes a huge difference.
However, it would be foolish to deny that you’ve definitely had some issues dealing with his personnel. Although he’s gotten a little more playing time recently, Troy Murphy has essentially been blackballed from the rotation with little explanation and increasing frustration. Even when he’s getting position, Brook Lopez isn’t getting nearly enough touches in the post. The offense essentially seems to be “pick & roll, dribble around for 15 seconds without so much as glancing at the roll man, and launch the first shot you can get.” Given the amount of talent the Nets have in their coaching staff and on the floor, this kind of lackadaisical offense makes no sense.
Billy King: Hi Billy! Keep showing some cojones in the ‘Melo sweepstakes. Even though it was just an anonymous report, I appreciated the candor. The way Ujiri has treated this deal is nothing short of absurd. If they really want five first-rounders, laugh and hang up. Remember: the Nuggets have much more to lose in this than the Nets do.
I know that Carmelo’s going to bring the Nets – a team currently dead last in attendance and probably also dead last in jersey sales – a lot of money. The force of star power, combined with a market like Brooklyn in two years, is huge. Just make sure that what you win in the box office isn’t equated by what you might lose on the court. & remember, my e-mail is always open if you have any “anonymous” tips.
Finally, Mikhail Prokhorov & Jay-Z: Keep ballin’, my friends. Keep ballin’.