Interesting week in Brooklyn Nets land… three blowout victories, one semi-permanent benching of a former starter, and the resurgence of their franchise player. Let’s break it down, 3-on-3 roundtable style.
1. Kris Humphries is out of the rotation. Right call?
- Devin Kharpertian: Well… No. But yes. It’s hard to argue with the results — three consecutive double-digit wins — but he played well with the starters. Truth be told, his complete move to the bench just seems rather odd. He’s not even coming in with Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor in blowout, empty-the-bench-ha-ha-ha moments. It’s like he’s not a part of the team anymore. Part of me wonders if he’ll ever play for the Nets again.
- John Hood: Right now? Yes. In the long run? No. Unlike his counterpart Reggie Evans, Humphries is at least a minor offensive threat. Evans is a physical force, but without Humphries, teams have baited him into shooting the ball. One measure: Evans has only had two career 20-point games in his career, the last one coming seven years ago. Humphries had 12 20-point games last season alone.
- Will Rausch: Not only should Humphries be starting, the offense should be run through his jumpshots! Sorry, I’m a little disoriented from Daylight Savings. Yes, this is the right decision. Carlesimo don’t care about no bloated contract. Nets power forwards rank last in the league in scoring, and it’s finally time to unleash Mirza for more than a three game spurt.
2. The Nets have won three in a row, and the Knicks just lost Amar’e Stoudemire. Is the division now up for grabs?
- Kharpertian: It’s been up for grabs, but this doesn’t hurt. Stoudemire hasn’t given the Knicks an enormous boost — they’ve been the same team, plus-minus wise, with him on and off the floor in the new year — but the Knicks are relying on a lot of creaky knees to keep their division lead, which is only 2.5 games now. With the way Deron Williams is playing these days, the fight to the finish is coming.
- Hood: Sure, but it’s not new. The division has always been up for grabs, but it will take a deviation from the norm for the Nets to swipe it away from their cross-town rivals. The Nets have had multiple opportunities to snag first place from the Knicks, but have failed to capitalize. They’ve been streaky this season, so it will take a great late season stretch.
- Rausch: A wise man once said that the Knicks have the same production with Stat on the court as without him. Wait, that was Devin just now. The Atlantic is up for grabs, but it has nothing to do with this winning streak. Two of the three wins came against Washington and Charlotte, and the Nets have taken care of sub .500 teams all year. Rather, 2½ back with 19 to play is merely a reasonable deficit to overcome.
3. D-Will’s resurgence: real or blip?
- Kharpertian: For real. I generally try to avoid abusing small sample sizes because they tend to make you look ridiculous after a full season, and I certainly wouldn’t argue that Williams is going to hit over 50% of his three-pointers for the rest of the season. He’s riding unsustainably high. But since his detoxifying juice cleanse and platelet-rich plasma therapy, he’s been the best Nets player. He’s looked quicker with the ball, he’s attacked the rim more often — 2.6 shots per game from inside 5 feet before the All-Star break, 3.5 after — and his jumper looks fluid and fixed. He’ll probably settle into more realistic numbers come April, but I do think he’s “turned a corner.”
- Hood: Real. Williams used to take over games regularly in Utah, but injuries and mental blocks seemed to limit his ability to do that with Brooklyn. His decision-making in the second half of the season has helped improve the Nets. A point-guard that can single-handedly win a game in the first quarter by knocking down seven three pointers? Not bad.
- Rausch: Yes, with the operative phrase being “looks like.” It’s encouraging that D-Will has rediscovered his crossover and went into NBA Jam mode against the Wizards, but it will take more consistent All-Star production to “be” a max player. If anything can be extrapolated from the Nets floor general’s recent run, it’s that everyone needs platelet-rich plasma treatment. For all ailments. Trust me, I took the MCATs. Twice.