It’s been two weeks since Kiki Vandeweghe has taken over as head coach of the Nets, and while he’s had to deal with assorted injuries to Chris Douglas-Roberts, Tony Battie and Keyon Dooling (not to mention Yi Jianlian and Jarvis Hayes, who haven’t played since the very beginning of the season), there are a few early trends worth noting in how Kiki likes to pair players together:
Small Ball Lives
One of the big knocks on Lawrence Frank in his last days with the Nets was his over-reliance on “small ball.” In training camp, there was talk of a “wildcat” offense of Devin Harris, three wings and Brook Lopez, that never really seemed to click once the season started, in large part because Devin and so many of the wings were injured, but also because even when opposing team went small, the Nets guys rarely played well together.
We’ve seen a lot of small ball from Kiki so far, especially against teams that are weird matchups for the Nets. In their December 6 loss to the Knicks, the Nets only played their starting five of Devin-Courtney Lee-CDR-Josh Boone-Brook Lopez together for 7 minutes in the first quarter and 3:30 in the third quarter. That probably had a large part to do with the Knicks having an undersized center in David Lee, and using guys like Jared Jeffries and Al Harrington at the center and PF slots throughout the game. In the game’s final 6:30 seconds, Chris Douglas-Roberts actually played the PF while David Lee, Al Harrington and Jared Jeffries were all on the floor. Needless to say, the Nets finished the game with a -4 and lost by 9.
Similarly, Kiki ran CDR out as the four during an 8 minute stretch against Golden State earlier this month. Golden State is notorious for going small, and was using Corey Maggette throughout the quarter, another combo guard/forward who’s got about 15 pounds on CDR. The rotation posted a -8 in that stretch, as the Warriors padded their lead and made it tough for the Nets to come back in the second half. Meanwhile, the “big” lineup including both Boone and Lopez together, was able to jump out to a 9 point lead in the game’s first eight minutes. While it’s understandable to go small to try and match up better, it’s routinely been ineffective, especially when using a guy like CDR, who is a physical question mark at SF in my opinion, at a power position against teams who are built to effectively go small.
Lots of Guards
Kiki went with Devin Harris, Rafer Alston and Keyon Dooling together during two short spurts in the second and third quarters against the Knicks with mixed results. In the second quarter, the three help lead to a 13-1 run. In the third, they put up a -4 in three minutes of play.
Devin Harris and Rafer Alston have also played a lot together. They played about 8 minutes together during the second quarter Sunday night against Atlanta, and put up a -2. This is something Lawrence Frank played with a lot. It seems with Devin’s shoot-first mentality, coaches want to try him out as a combo guard. It’s hard to really say if this is a good way to go down the line, say if a certain point guard from Kentucky were to get drafted by the Nets.
Bobby Simmons at the Four
Still. Why do they keep doing this? He’s not a power forward. He was even matched up with Carlos Boozer for about 2 minutes Wednesday night against the Jazz and Paul Millsap for a few minutes in the second quarter. I can’t file this under “small ball.” I think someone in the Nets organization has got it in their heads that Simmons is legitimately a four.
Sitting Devin and Brook Together
Kiki wasn’t doing this his first few games, but I’ve noticed it the past week. With about a minute left in the third quarter Wednesday night, Kiki sat Brook and Devin together, and the didn’t return until about 4 minutes elapsed in the fourth. It so happens the Nets went on a bit of a run at the start of the fourth without them, posting a +4. Of course, the Jazz were comfortably ahead at this point, anyway. On Tuesday night, during a closer game against Cleveland, Kiki sat the two together for about 2 minutes in the fourth. The posted a -1.
Now, I know you can’t play these guys 48 minutes a night, but I think this is really playing with fire, sitting your two best offensive players simultaneously in the fourth quarter. You want to try and get them rest together in the first half, maybe. But not in the fourth. One of them has to be on the floor at all times. I hope Kiki gets over this little trend.
Youth is Important, Sort of
“Twittergate” was an opportunity for Kiki to make a statement with Terrence Williams, and he went halfway with it. He was benched for two games, following missing the bus and making derogatory comments about his teammates on Twitter, but returned last week against Indiana. Since then, Williams has made a real effort to get closer to the hoop. He’s been incrementally awarded with more playing time, but Kiki is still shying away from him in crunch time. With about 7 minutes remaining Wednesday night, and TWill playing well, Kiki pulled him for Trenton Hassell.
Sean Williams playing time has evaporated under Kiki. While he’s not expected to be with the team next year, Kiki appears to have very little interest in seeing what Williams brings to the table. Eduardo Najera, Simmons and Tony Battie, have all gotten the calls to back up Boone at the four before Swat. In some of Kiki’s “small” lineups, I’d be curious to see what Williams brings to the table, but I’m not holding my breath.