I am being dead serious. Need proof? Well, there is a post that I did 16 days ago entitled “The Nets Are Learning How To Win.” I was pretty confident that the Nets were ready to turn the corner after coming off a close loss against the 76ers. Turns out the post was a little premature because after the Sixers’ game the Nets went on to lose 6 more games. 5 of these losses were close losses where the team just didn’t play well late.
But that doesn’t mean my post was wrong. The Nets were learning out how to win, but in true Nets fashion, it took a little longer than it should have. The result? A win 15 days later. I thought it would be fun to look at my old post and match it up to the game today to prove that the Nets are learning how to win (everything in block quotes was created 15 days ago):
15 Days Ago:
I have talked about how Terrence’s early minutes at every single position (mainly due to injuries) hurt his development, and that we start seeing the Terrence Williams that we saw at Louisville once he settles into one role. Well, we are starting to see that. Terrence has stopped settling for jumpers and is now attacking the basket stronger than ever. Kiki is also finding interesting ways to use him with the second team, he saw minutes playing the point-forward last night when he was in the game at the same time as Chris Quinn. During this stretch, Williams made two great passes you don’t usually see from a rookie. Oh, he also had another big jam, this is the result from him making so many good passes teams play the pass, allowing him to get to the lane strong.
Today, Terrence Williams’ boxscore didn’t really look all that impressive. 16 minutes, 2-4 shooting for 4 points, 5 rebounds, and an assist. Looking at his play though, you can’t help but be impressed. Terrence Williams had one amazing dunk (just a step inside the foul line) and he scored on a floater late with the Nets only up 4. The biggest takeaway though is that Terrence Williams finally looks comfortable on the court. Sure he had a few turnovers (those are going to happen), but they are off of bad passes (passes missing the mark) rather than him try to force things in there.
15 Days Ago:
Along with slowing the team down, Kiki is starting to learn how to become a coach. Coaching isn’t easy, and for someone becoming a coach for the first time at any level, Kiki has done an ok job. Early on, he had a tendency to stick with guys too long and he had a funky rotation. Also, Kiki refused to call timeouts. Now, Kiki seems to be playing the hot hand (he stuck with Humphries late against the Clippers, and in that game he called a timeout as the Clippers went on a run in the third).
Now, as the Nets start to play more and more close games, you should expect to see some improvement in his playcalling. Earlier in the year, when the Nets got their win in Chicago, Kiki was able to put the ball in Devin’s hands and let him work. The past couple games, Devin has been out, and he has had to draw up plays instead of running ISOs. Last night was a failure. Here was his take on it (from Ben Couch):
Nets coach and GM Kiki Vandeweghe took responsibility for the play call, acknowledging that the switches and the team’s lack of familiarity with the halfcourt version, fogged the execution.
When you are drawing up a play late, you have so many things running through your mind, it is hard to cover all your bases. And since this is his first time ever drawing up a set late in a meaningful game (remember that play against Chicago was an ISO), some things were going to slip past him. Now that he has that experience, you should expect to see some better sets late.
There were a couple decisions that Kiki made in the fourth quarter that really impressed me, and these decisions helped the Nets get their fifth win of the season. The first thing I liked to see was how Kiki managed Brook Lopez’s minutes. Brook went into the fourth quarter with three fouls and picked up his fourth very early in the quarter (with 10:17 left). Brook came out of the game close to a minute later, then Yi picked up another foul. You know what Kiki did? He threw Brook Lopez back in there. This team only has 4 wins at the halfway point. If your best player fouls out, so be it. If he doesn’t they get Brook on the court, which is better than anything they can throw out there. Yes Brook fouled out at the end, but Kiki is showing trust in him, and this is better than how Kiki handled Devin a few games back.
The second thing I liked from Kiki last night was that he went with the hot hand. Sometimes Kiki tends to fall in love with the player who played well a few games ago, hoping regain form (Yi is a good example of this), but with only 4 wins (now 5), Kiki can’t afford to think like this. He needs to play the hot hand, and tonight he did that. Josh Boone came in for Brook when he had foul trouble and instantly put in two baskets. So when Kiki put Brook in, instead of taking Boone out, he took Humphries out and had Brook and Boone play side-by-side. It worked, and Josh Boone played very well in the final moments.
Attacking The Basket
I didn’t write about this 15 days ago (I wrote about Yi, and well, I think that ship has sailed), but the Nets finally took their attacking mentality into the fourth quarter. This is something that they haven’t been able to do in the past 6 games, and that is the main reason they lost some of those games. I mean, look at this shot chart:
Only 2 shots from outside 20 feet? I’ll take that. Especially against a very good defensive team.