Justin: You hit the nail on the head again, Max. What other options did P.J. have at PF?
Let’s not lose sight of the main reason Reggie Evans was paired with Brook Lopez as the power forward in the first place: rebounding. While Brook has improved in that area this season, going small with Wallace as the power forward would now make the Nets beyond vulnerable on the glass. It’s easy to imagine a scenario of a Wallace/Lopez front court getting assaulted on the glass by, say, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.
Also, it’s easy to knock Evans for his glaring flaws, (his ability to shoot/score), but his strengths (rebounding, defense, toughness) are harder to define. Let’s not forget that Evans was closing out games for the Clippers last season too, and there is a reason for that.
And Mirza? Well, I’m glad you went there with Mirza. One of the main criticisms of Carlesimo’s tenure as coach was his lack of development of the younger/new players such as Tyshawn Taylor, Tornike Shengelia, and Teletovic. Again, this criticism is unfair, and somewhat unrealistic. What exactly are we talking about here, two second-round picks and an unproven Euro star? The Nets are a veteran-heavy team. Taylor just happens to play the same position as our best player and someone who needs to play 36 minutes a night.
What do we really know about Teletovic? We know his scouting report from Europe, and we know he had some flashy highlights on YouTube. That’s about it. Maybe his game doesn’t translate well to the NBA. Maybe the language barrier was too much for him to overcome. Maybe he got himself so ingrained in the Brooklyn hipster culture that basketball just became an ironic hobby for him. Who knows?
What I do know is, besides a few fleeting moments, Teletovic looked lost on the court. He was a shooter that couldn’t shoot.
Juxtapose those unknown commodities with players that Carlesimo did develop this season. Brook Lopez had his best season as an NBA player and was selected as an All-Star. You could say what you want about the flaws in the Nets offense, but it was perfectly suited for Lopez’s game: A tantalizing mix of pick-and-pops, post-up isolations, and off-ball movement that allowed Lopez to thrive as a cutter.
Also, let’s not forget how far we’ve come with Andray Blatche. Blatche was a complete head case in Washington and amnestied, but the Nets and their coaching staff got the most out of Blatche’s talent and kept him motivated for the whole season. Feathers in P.J.’s coaching cap.
Max: We’ll agree to disagree.
Coming into this series, we knew Brooklyn was more talented, and Chicago had the better coach. And in this case, the coaching advantage outweighed the talent advantage.
The Nets’ simplistic, uncreative, isolation-heavy offense was no match for Thibodeau’s wondrous defensive schemes. It was like taking candy from a baby; the Bulls left Wallace and Evans alone, packing the paint, over-loading the strong side, and double-teaming Williams, Johnson and Lopez when necessary. But there was one way the P.J. Carlesimo could’ve countered this: play Blatche and Lopez more and put shooters on the court more often.
No lineup outside of the starting five played more than 14 minutes together in that series. I would think that when the Nets shot 1-25 at one point in Game 3, it would be a hint for Carlesimo to take Evans and Wallace off the floor. He didn’t. His stubbornness and inability to adjust in a timely manner did the Nets in. Their pick and roll coverage was just putrid, particularly in Game 7, as it didn’t seem like they ever had a real plan for covering them.
When I look at this series and the big picture, there’s only one thing that could’ve enabled them to lose to a team missing nearly half its roster: the coach. As has been said this week, “the playoffs are a chess match and P.J. Carlesimo thought he was playing checkers.”
Additionally, a large number of players spoke out against the coaching staff this season. Whether it was Wallace questioning his role, Williams questioning the system, MarShon Brooks questioning Carlesimo’s substitution patterns, Tyshawn Taylor questioning his playing time, Stephen A. Smith saying how Brook Lopez “can’t stand P.J.,” Mirza Teletovic questioning his opportunity… the list goes on and on. This year was a nightmare year for the Nets’ coaches.
Justin: While I can agree with you that P.J. was certainly out-coached by Thibodeau in the Bulls series, we differ on just how much of that blame should be shifted to the Nets’ coaching staff. I tend to put more of the blame on the players before I do the coaches.
If you were to look back at every single article previewing the Nets season, a majority of them would mention questions about the Nets defense and there is a reason for that — the Nets are a collection of horrible individual defensive players! A big reason the Nets’ pick and roll defense is so porous is because Brook Lopez has the lateral mobility of a shopping cart with bad wheels. If you watch over the final few possessions of Game 7, you’ll notice Andray Blatche in the center of most of the Nets’ defensive breakdowns.
I don’t think P.J. coached this team to its optimal ability and he was probably not the right fit for the Nets moving forward, but I also think this roster has serious flaws. Any coach could face similar challenges until they’re fixed.