The Nets Are Learning How To Win

I know that “learning to win” is funny to say now that the season is halfway done (especially when we are talking about a 4 win team), but after the Nets past road trip, the Nets were at an all-time low.  I mean, look what Mark had to say after the loss at Utah:

As it stands, and I hesitate to say it, but THIS might finally be rock bottom for the 2009-10 Nets. Because if it gets any worse that it’s been the past two games against Utah and the Golden State Warriors, the league should really consider contracting the organization, throwing Bruce Ratner in jail for fraud and blacklisting Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe from ever having a role with an NBA roster again.

And you know what?  I agreed with him, as did just about every single Nets fan.  In the past three games though, the INets have been able to keep games close winning 1 and losing 2 by a combined 6 points.  With all of the Nets losses this season, none of them have really been close.  So what has changed for the Nets?  I think that the Nets are now finally playing the type of basketball that will get them wins moving forward (or at least keep the games close).

Terrence Williams

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.


I touched on it briefly earlier this morning, but I think Yi is starting to finally “get it.”  What I mean by “get it” is that Yi is finally starting to learn how to combine his shooting touch with his newfound aggressiveness.  Last year, Yi exclusively shot the ball from the outside.  This allowed for teams to close out hard on him, not even worrying about the site.  Early this year, he was exclusively driving the basketball.  This allowed for teams to give him space and defend the drive, not worrying about the shot.  Over the past two games Yi has split his shots evenly between jumpers outside 10-feet and shots at the rim.  Let’s look at the shot charts from those two games.  First, vs. the Wizards:


Second, the Sixers’ game last night:


This even distribution between jumpers and lay-ups makes Yi tough to defend.  You can’t go into the game trying to take just one thing away, because he will do the other.  This turns him into a more efficient scorer.

The Pace

Despite the Nets’ inability to score during a stretch in every single game, Kiki came in determined to get the Nets running and gunning.  Over the past 3 games, it is obvious the Nets have settled down.  Over their past three games, the Nets have posted a Pace of 93, 87 (!), and 94 respectively.  These numbers are well below their average of about 96 possessions per game.  The result?  The Nets have not allowed over 100 points, with 87 being their highest point total during this stretch.  I think Kiki is finally realizing that with the team that he currently has, it is unrealistic to expect his team to outscore opponents.  The Nets can get wins by slowing things down, limiting possessions, and giving the defense a better chance by limiting transition opportunities.

The Coaching

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.