It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t count, but there was Nets basketball for the first time since April. And even though it’s the first preseason game, and you can never read much, if anything, into the first preseason game, there were things to take away from this 115-107 loss to the New York Knicks up in Albany, that were both positive and negative signs for the upcoming regular season.
All summer long, the talk was about if Devin Harris was going to be able to carry the scoring load with Vince Carter now suiting up in Orlando. It was almost as if the prognosticators forgot that Brook Lopez proved he could be a dynamic offensive force in his rookie year last season. The Nets went to Brook early and often this afternoon. He ran the floor better than I’ve seen him do before, and by the end of the first half, he already had a pretty nice scoring line for himself with 19 points, including 9-11 from the free throw line. The way Lopez dominated the smaller Knicks frontcourt made you forget just how special Devin Harris is in his own right. But Harris reminded us on a few occasions. With about 6:10 left in the first quarter, Harris unlocked just a filthy spin move, breaking down the Knicks defense and laying the ball in for two points. It felt even more special because it happened as the Knicks play-by-play team on MSG was touting the new and improved New York defense. Yes, the Knicks had 7 blocks in today’s game, and the Nets look inept on the offensive end for long stretches, but they certainly didn’t resemble the Pat Riley/Jeff Van Gundy defensive bruisers of the 1990s, so let’s calm down MSG.
Another guy we heard a lot about this summer who made a good impression today was Yi Jianlian. The “muscle devil,” as he’s being referred to now after putting on some bulk in the offseason, chipped in 9 points and 5 rebounds in 25+ minutes of play. But it was a few individual plays, which showcased some of his newly found aggression and confidence that caught my eye. With about 9:30 left in the second quarter, Yi gave a little head fake at the top of the key and then took it strong to the interior, getting the bucket and the foul. Did Yi ever make a play like that last season? Early in the third quarter at the 11:13 mark, Yi grabbed an offensive rebound off a Jarvis Hayes missed jumper and put the ball back in. It was a surprising play since I grew accustomed to watching Yi lingering on the perimeter during plays like that last season.
Then there was the up-and-coming sophomore Chris Douglas-Roberts, subbing for the injured Courtney Lee, but also trying to make a case to coach Lawrence Frank that he deserves significant minutes this coming season. CDR had his typical instant-offense type performance, 21 points on 5-11 shooting, most of it from the interior. He was aggressive, taking it to the hoop on nearly every possession, and getting himself to the foul line 15 times, converting 11 FTs. CDR never looked fluid or easy on the offensive end, but he got the job done. I want to see more of him on the floor this preseason.
And since he’s already become a cult hero amongst Nets fans (and NAS own Sebastian), let’s talk a little bit about Terrence Williams. His lack of jump shot, and tweener positional status, still scares me, but TWill gave credence to the idea that he’s one of those “little things” type players. His was clearly nervous early, missing some defensive assignments on the perimeter and getting a bit too antsy on the offensive end. He got his “welcome to the NBA” moment courtesy of Wilson Chandler at the 10:25 mark of the second quarter, when TWill’s shot was blocked back in his face by the Knick. But Williams settled in, netting 11 points, granted on 4-13 shooting, but he also grabbed 7 boards.
On the defensive end, the Nets were still their nightmarish selves. Granted, the Knicks are a run and gun type team, but when a guy like Jared Jeffries drains three three-pointers on you in the second quarter, that’s a problem. Al Harrington, who always seems to be headache for the Nets, got 23 points on 3-4 from beyond the arc. Overall, the Knicks were 13-31 from three-land, good for 42 percent. Granted, Courtney Lee may end up being the Nets best perimeter defender and he was out today, but considering Lawrence Frank didn’t even let the Nets practice offense this week in favor of defense, it would have been nice to see some kind of dedication to the cause from the players today.
For regrettable reasons, I want to talk about Sean Williams. People love this guy’s ahtletic abilities, but is he ever going to “get it.” The guy fouls out after playing 13:38 in a preseason game… does that sum up his career? With about 3:15 left in the first quarter, Williams gets called on a questionable offensive intereference. Does he argue? Of course not. Maybe he needed a computer to throw? But seriously, folks. What was up with that play at the end of the first quarter? He gets the ball, all alone, down low, and he waits for what seems to be an eternity before dunking the ball. What was he waiting for? If this was any team but the lazy-defense Knicks in the preseason, that would have been a gimee basket lost by Mr. Swat.