Brooklyn Nets: Brooklyn Nets

D-Will does some contact but out vs. Raps

January, 29, 2015
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Deron Williams participated in most of Thursday’s practice and did some limited contact but remains out.

Williams will miss his 11th straight game against Toronto on Friday night at Barclays. But the point guard is making progress with his fractured rib cartilage injury.

“I only did like two plays of contact,” said Williams. “It wasn’t like I did a lot. Those guys are playing heavy minutes right now and some guys are banged up so there’s not much practice we can do.”

Williams, though, couldn’t do much of anything for the first couple of weeks that he was out due to the painful injury. So this is a step in the right direction.

After the Raptors game, the Nets play the Clippers on Monday at home and then at the Raptors again next Wednesday before a home showdown against the Knicks on Friday.

“It’s a pain thing, a tolerance thing,” Williams said. “I guess when it feels I’m not feeling the pain when I’m out there playing, you know, then I guess that it’s healed.”

No place like home: The Nets (18-27) will try to avoid being shut out at home in the month of January without Williams. The Nets are 0-6 at Barclays in January with one final chance to win a January home game against Toronto (31-15) on Friday.

The Nets have lost 11 of their last 13 games but head coach Lionel Hollins still plans on grinding away and not altering his approach.

“Do you change your approach when life doesn’t go the way you want it?” Hollins said when asked if he ever changes his approach in the midst of a slump like this. “There’s some people that change their approach –- they go kill themselves. But we’re trying to compete, and play.

“I’m not trying to equate basketball with death -- life and death,” Hollins clarified. “But still, there’s adversity and you have to fight through it. You could go lay down under a bridge and beg for money -– you could do a lot of things other than keep fighting. Competition is about keep fighting. Playing sports, there’s going to be bad moments and you keep fighting.”

D-Will out at least two more games

January, 15, 2015
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Deron Williams will miss at least the next two games with a rib injury.

The Brooklyn Nets said Williams, who has a fracture of the cartilage portion of his left 12th rib, is progressing but is still experiencing pain. Brooklyn will play a home-and-home against the Washington Wizards on Friday and Saturday without its former All-Star point guard. Williams has missed four straight games due to the rib injury.

Williams
The Nets have a three-day break after their back-to-back against Washington before heading west to play at the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz.

Williams will be evaluated again on Wednesday when the Nets play at Sacramento. So it's likely that Williams could miss that game and most, if not all, of that western trip simply because the point guard has yet to do any physical activity.

Williams said on Tuesday that he was improving but that he still felt pain in almost everything he did, including when he tries to reach for something. He said he did not know when he could begin working out let alone return to play.

IZOD CLOSING: With news of the Izod Center reportedly due to be shut down, Nets center Brook Lopez reminisced about his old home.

Lopez came into the league in 2008 when the Nets were still playing at Izod, which was formerly the Continental Airlines Arena. The Nets went to two consecutive NBA Finals while at the CAA.

"It's pretty crazy," Lopez said of the building closing. "It's weird. I played my rookie and second year there. A lot of memories. Very surreal."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Deron Williams didn’t have many answers about his rib injury.

And the point guard didn’t sound like he was anywhere near a return to the court, either.

Williams said he hasn’t been able to do any exercise at all as he continues to treat a fracture of the cartilage portion of his left 12th rib.

“Still pretty sore,” Williams said. “I don’t have a timetable, just take it one day at a time.”

Williams has missed the past three games since suffering his rib injury Jan. 7 after playing four minutes against the Celtics. He had missed the previous game with a rib injury that he suffered on Jan. 4 in Miami as well.

“They say it is separate,” Williams said of the injuries. “I find it kind of weird that I have two rib injuries on the same side. I have never had a rib issue in my life.”

Williams said he did not get hit in the rib area. He thinks he suffered his most recent rib injury with Celtics point guard Marcus Smart on his shoulder as he was trying to make a move. He felt spasms in his rib area similar to the one he experienced in Miami.

The point guard says he feels the injury with “everything -- breath, sneeze, cough” and that it hurts to try to reach in certain areas. But he adds that it has gotten better.

Hollins still seeking a spark for Nets

December, 30, 2014
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Mason Plumlee and Lionel Hollins Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesLionel Hollins has recently relied on Mason Plumlee as a starter to spell a hobbled Brook Lopez.

NEW YORK -- Lionel Hollins had some preconceived notions about his players heading into his first season as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. But given what has transpired since the 2014-15 campaign began, Hollins soon realized his perceptions were far from reality.

“I thought coming in that we had some nice pieces that were capable of scoring a lot of points, that we had a high basketball IQ, that we had a high-skill basketball team,” Hollins said prior to Monday night’s victory over the Sacramento Kings. “But that turned out not to be as broad as I thought it was. It’s narrow.

“We have some guys that have high basketball IQs, high skill levels. But for whatever reason we haven’t gotten all that we -- or I should say, that I anticipated we would.”

GM Billy King believed -- despite the losses of Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston in free agency –- that the Nets could be a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. At least that was his goal, anyway.

But with just one game -- Tuesday night’s matchup against the mighty Chicago Bulls, who have won seven straight -- remaining on the 2014 portion of the schedule, the Nets are 14-16, which translates to the No. 7 seed in the depressing East.

Since Nov. 12, when their flaws began being exposed by better competition, the Nets rank 27th in offensive rating and 13th in defensive rating. They rank 29th in 3-point field-goal percentage, 25th in defensive rebounding and 25th in blocked shots. The Nets are a great first-quarter team, and -- for the most part -- a poor team after that. Against .500 or better opponents, they are 1-13. A lack of athleticism and speed has also proved costly.

“We just haven’t shot the ball as a team as well as I thought that we could, and that’s hurt us in a lot of games where we just don’t make shots,” Hollins added. “Then we haven’t been able to finish around the basket. (And) defensively, we haven’t been able to be as good as I think we need to be in order to win.”

Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, two former All-Stars currently playing on max contracts, are coming off the bench, struggling in their new roles as they attempt to regain form following injuries. Is it temporary? Or will it become permanent? Will they be traded? Only time will tell. Williams is shooting just 32.1 percent in December, while Lopez, frequently a target of honest criticism from Hollins, has struggled to rebound (5.8 per game) and defend.

“Confidence is something that’s inside you and your belief in what you can do,” Hollins said. “There’s players that are supremely confident, no matter what the game looks like, and there’s other players that, when it’s not going well, they tend to back up, and that’s just part of human nature. How you manage that, I don’t know.

"I thought Deron started off extremely well, playing well. And as time has gone on, his shooting percentage has gone down, but he still is able to score and get to the free-throw line. Brook’s been hurt a couple times and hasn’t been able to fully get back to the way he wants to be.”

The good news is a once makeshift starting lineup – Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Mason Plumlee -- has really developed some nice synergy, going 4-1 as a group. They are flourishing using a stretch pick-and-roll type offense, different from the flex/post-heavy offense the team featured earlier in the year.

Against Sacramento, Hollins seemed to have his rotations down. Williams and Jack logged just one minute together, while Lopez and Plumlee logged just one possession together. But given the roster, Hollins may be forced to keep trying those combinations, hoping they finally begin to gel.

In the previous two seasons, the Nets have been able to turn things around. It’s not preferable by any means; it’s just what they do.

Their January begins with five of six against sub.-500 opponents. Then things get difficult. They close out the month with eight of 10 against teams with winning records.

In the meantime, the Nets can benefit from playing in the East while they attempt to figure it out.

KG dunks, proclaims 'I ain't dead'

December, 30, 2014
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NEW YORK -– Kevin Garnett beat DeMarcus Cousins to a loose ball near half court and started a two-on-one fast break.

Garnett gave the ball to Sergey Karasev, who returned the favor by throwing an alley-oop lob. The 38-year-old Garnett looked like he was 18 again, soaring and flushing the dunk with ease.

The Nets' bench exploded as Garnett's giddy teammates all celebrated.

The dunk gave the Nets a 13-point lead at the end of the third quarter en route to a 107-99 Brooklyn victory over Sacramento at Barclays.

Afterward, Garnett couldn't believe he was asked about the alley-oop, jokingly giving reporters a hard time for bringing up the dunk.

"Look, look, I can actually dunk, all right?" Garnett said. "If you start in the NBA, you should be able to dunk. I can dunk. Get the hell out of here with that. Gimme something else. It was a great pass by [Karasev]."

"I ain't dead," Garnett added.

Then another reporter joined the Garnett media scrum a few questions later and apologized before asking about the alley-oop.

"Oh stop it," said the prideful Garnett, who was in a good mood. "Are you serious? Hey listen, I know I am like 150 years in dog years. But I can actually dunk the ball.

"God, do I look that bad out there?" Garnett continued.

When reporters told him it was more about the impressive alley-oop, Garnett interjected.

"Nah, this is a low moment for me," Garnett said as reporters laughed along. "Everybody is like, 'Oh, you dunked!' That's a bad moment for me. My daughter is like, 'Daddy, you dunked!'"

"I'm like are you serious? I start in the NBA. I am hoping I can dunk. You can't start in the league if you can't dunk."

Nets head coach Lionel Hollins agreed, wondering what the big deal was.

"He's 7-foot tall," Hollins deadpanned. "So I would expect him to be able to dunk. He'll be dunking when he's 68."

While Garnett's alley-oop was highlight-worthy for sure, it wasn't the dunk of the night. Not even close. That honor belonged to Cousins, who threw down this nasty dunk over Mason Plumlee.

But Garnett deserves love for his dunk. Just don't bring it up to him next time you see him.

"I was in the moment," Garnett said. "Y'all just haters right now."

Jack hopes to continue to make noise

December, 29, 2014
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When the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings square off tonight, there certainly will be a lot of attention on the Nets’ point guard.

There has been a good deal of talk surrounding Deron Williams, who has been the subject of trade discussions recently between the Nets and Kings.

But the Nets’ other point guard, Jarrett Jack, has made noise of his own as the starter while Williams makes his way back from a calf injury.

Entering Brooklyn’s game against Sacramento, the Nets have gone 3-1 with Jack starting the past four games. During that stretch, Jack averaged 20.2 points, 6.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds and shot 57.1 percent in 37 minutes per game.

Jack has certainly shown that he is a capable starting point guard, but this is something the Nets were banking on when they traded for him during the offseason.

The Nets were considering a deal for Jack last season before the trade deadline, but the Nets ended up acquiring Marcus Thornton. Former coach Jason Kidd was a big fan of Jack.

The Nets felt Jack could play both guard positions, provide a scoring punch and aggressive play off the bench and be able to start if needed. The Nets also believed he could play alongside Williams if need be and is capable of hitting clutch shots.

At the moment, Jack is playing his best basketball of the season, averaging 18.8 points, 5.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds and shooting 56.7 percent in his last five games.

Despite how well Jack has been playing, the point guard thinks Williams will be back to his old form and perhaps old starting spot soon.

“He’ll be fine,” Jack said. “I think whenever you’re dealing with an injury, especially a lower extremity injury, it doesn’t allow you to explode like you want or attack like you want. … It takes a little bit of time.”

“Deron is a top, high-level point guard,” Jack added. “And I think he’ll get back to that as soon as he gets back adjusted and I look forward to him getting back to that form.”

It remains to be seen whether Williams will regain his All-Star form and if that will happen with the Nets this season. Brooklyn has been looking to see what it can get for its high-priced point guard.

The Nets could get a starting-quality point guard in return in any potential deal for Williams. But if not, Jack is showing the Nets what he may be capable of as a starter.

“[Jarrett] has had good pace and he’s a good mid-range shooter and he’s a good prober in the pick-and-roll," head coach Lionel Hollins said after Jack scored 27 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished five assists in a win over Boston last Friday. "So he gets in there and engages a big guy and forces a big guy to have to stay and next thing you know [Mason Plumlee] is at the basket getting a lob or a big falls back and Jack gets the little jumper, and so that’s kind of his game and it’s been effective.”

"Our pace and tempo has been really good,” Hollins added. “And we’re starting to find out how we need to play to win."

So while all eyes may be around Williams tonight when the Kings face the Nets, Jack may be the Nets point guard who makes some noise with another solid game.

Nets 'good enough' for winning streak

December, 26, 2014
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BOSTON -- Just 10 days ago, Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins bluntly stated that his team “wasn’t good enough” to win three games in a row.

They are now.

Winless in their first four attempts at stringing three consecutive victories together, the Nets finally got it done on their fifth opportunity, overcoming an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Boston Celtics, 109-107, Friday afternoon at TD Garden.

“We obviously weren’t good enough then, but now we’ve won three straight, so we are good enough,” Hollins said, laughing, after his team improved to 13-15 overall and 12-2 against sub-.500 opponents.

Down 95-84 with 8:53 left, the Nets outscored the Celtics 25-12 the rest of the way. They shot 55.6 percent and had no turnovers during the stretch, while limiting their opponents to just 33.3 shooting and three miscues.

“I saw a lot of heart, tenacity and perseverance,” Hollins said. “We’re just growing.”

Alan Anderson had 10 points in the final period, while Jarrett Jack delivered the game-winning shot -- a floater with 27.5 seconds left, capping off a 27-point, seven-rebound, five-assist performance.

“We earned this tonight. We battled and we overcame a lot and we kept coming back until we finally got the win,” Hollins said.

Gerald Wallace threw a perfect 90-foot pass to Jared Sullinger in the corner, but his jumper wouldn’t fall at the buzzer, and the Nets were able to exhale.

Once again, the Nets completed their comeback without Deron Williams and Brook Lopez on the floor. Both players, who are trying to recover from injuries, came off the bench. Williams, in his first game back after missing the previous two due to a strained right calf, had eight points, four assists and four rebounds in 21 minutes. Lopez, who has now come off the bench in consecutive games after missing eight straight due to a strained lower back, had eight points in 13 minutes, but contributed little on the defensive end.

Williams said he’d be comfortable staying in a reserve role as long as the starters keep playing the way they are -- and there’s no reason for Hollins to get away from the Jack-Sergey Karasev-Joe Johnson-Kevin Garnett-Mason Plumlee combination at this point.
Since moving into the starting lineup, Jack (three games) is averaging 19.7 points and 7.7 assists, while Plumlee (nine games) is averaging 16.6 points and 10.4 rebounds.

“(Jarrett) has had good pace and he’s a good mid-range shooter and he’s a good prober in the pick-and-roll,” Hollins said. “So he gets in there and engages a big guy and forces a big guy to have to stay and next thing you know Mase is at the basket getting a lob or a big falls back and Jack gets the little jumper, and so that’s kinda his game and it’s been effective.

"Our pace and tempo has been really good and we’re starting to find out how we need to play to win.”

It will be interesting to see how Hollins decides to play things Saturday night against Indiana. Garnett has rested the previous five back-to-back sets. In seven minutes together, Plumlee and Lopez produced a net rating of negative 56.1.

Still, the Nets have something good going on right now. They haven’t proven they can beat anyone of note -- except, somehow, the San Antonio Spurs -- but at least they’re taking care of the teams they should be taking care of, so that’s something.

It’s just a matter of Williams and Lopez buying in and embracing their new roles -- whether they’re temporary or long-term. It seems like both are willing to do so.
“We’re developing game-to-game. I think you see Mason playing at a very high level right now. Confidence is high. He’s finally listening,” Garnett said, jokingly. “More importantly, his confidence is very high and we’re playing together, on both ends.

"This team, they got us down, we continued to fight and execute, we got stops and hit buckets when we needed to. We just need to continue to do the things that we’ve been doing, continue to work like we’ve been doing and then try to put some consistency with that.”

Nets 109, Celtics 107: Winning streak!

December, 26, 2014
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Jarrett JackBrian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesJarrett Jack led the way in the Nets' matinee against the Celtics with 27 points.
BOSTON -- A three-game winning streak! No way!

The Brooklyn Nets, who had been 0-for-4 when going for three wins in a row on the season, finally broke through with a 109-107 comeback win over the Boston Celtics on Friday afternoon at TD Garden. Jared Sullinger missed a turnaround jumper at the buzzer that could’ve tied the game.

The Nets (13-15) are now 12-2 against sub-.500 teams. They trailed by 11 with 8:52 left, but stormed back and took the lead when Jarrett Jack hit a floater with 27.5 seconds left.

Deron Williams and Brook Lopez both came off the bench. It was D-Will’s first game back after missing two straight due a strained right calf. Lopez, who missed eight straight games due to a strained lower back, came off the bench for a second straight game. Both, of course, happened to be on the bench while the Nets made their comeback.

Player of the game: Jack had a season-high 27 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. He has been terrific since moving into the starting lineup.

Stat of the game: The Nets had one turnover in the fourth quarter after having seven in the third.

Play of the game: Kelly Olynyk’s block from behind on Mirza Teletovic late in the third quarter as Brooklyn’s stretch forward was trying to finish a fast-break layup.

Nice ovation: Kevin Garnett was introduced last and received a nice ovation from the crowd. Was this his last game in Boston?

Up next: The Nets complete their latest back-to-back set Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center.

Lopez will play whatever role Hollins wants

December, 22, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Brook Lopez participated in practice on Monday, but his status remains uncertain for Tuesday’s game against Denver.

Lopez has missed eight straight games with a back injury and still needs to be cleared medically to return to action. But he says his back feels good, and he lobbied to play on Tuesday.

“I was winded out there,” Lopez said after practice. “I feel once when I get back out on the court, it’s gonna come and I’ll be out there playing basketball. I’ve done it all my life. Jump back in and get back into it.”

But will Lopez jump right back into his starting job? Coach Lionel Hollins won’t tip his hand about whom he will start, with Mason Plumlee's emergence in Lopez’s absence.

Plumlee is averaging 18 points and 10.1 rebounds in the past six games.

“It’s gonna work out,” Lopez said of his returning to the mix with the way Plumlee is playing. “We don’t have any selfish guys. We’re not concerned with that, so I’m not worried about that at all.”

“I would do whatever coach does,” Lopez added regarding if he would come off the bench. “I don’t know how he’s gonna do the lineup if I play tomorrow or [at] Boston, whatever. He writes the lineups. I go out there and do whatever I do.”

Brook: 'I'd love to be a wookiee'

December, 22, 2014
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Lopez/ChewbaccaGetty ImagesSci-fi fan Brook Lopez says he has a strong desire to play a Wookiee in the next Star Wars episode.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Brook Lopez lobbied for two things on Monday.

First, he made it clear that he would like to return from a back injury and be cleared to play on Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.

The second request, though, is going to be a lot more difficult for the Nets center. Lopez, a huge comic book and sci-fi fan, would love to make a cameo in the latest "Star Wars" episode, “Star Wars: Episode VII -- The Force Awakens”

Lopez even made the perfect suggestion for the character he would play.

“Seriously, though ... I’d like to be a wookiee,” Lopez said after Nets practice. “I’d really like to be a wookiee. They don’t need my ugly face in there. They don’t need me acting. I’m not going to blow anything, guys. Come on, Mr. [George] Lucas. I just want to be in the movie.”

Certainly, the 7-footer has the right size to play the species that produced Han Solo’s sidekick Chewbacca.

“Right? Exactly,” Lopez said in agreement when told he already met the height requirement. “I feel like I could do it, I’m a huge 'Star Wars' fan. I just want to be a part of it. I grew up watching him, and I’d really like to be in the movie. ... I’d love to be a wookiee. I would love to be a wookiee.”

In case you have been living in the remote Hoth system and didn’t know, J.J. Abrams is directing the seventh episode of the 'Star Wars' saga, due to open on Dec. 18, 2015. The first trailer was released recently to the delight of fans worldwide. (Full disclosure: Disney owns both ESPN and Lucas Films, which created the “Star Wars” films.)

“I got chills when I saw the Millennium Falcon,” Lopez said.

So how did we get to talking about "Star Wars" with the Nets’ big man? Lopez has been trying to make his way back from a back injury and participated in practice on Monday. After practice, he was running on an anti-gravity treadmill with a mask on.

So, naturally, Lopez was asked if he felt like one of his favorite superheroes wearing the mask. That’s when the Stanford product gave a smart philosophical breakdown of comic-book villains.

“You guys are searching for the super-villain, right? Bane, right?” Lopez said when asked about wearing the breathing mask. “That’s the one everybody goes to immediately. Not really a hero. He may be a hero in his own mind, but that’s always the philosophical debate about these superheroes and super-villains. He’s the hero in his story. I don’t know. He’s doing what he thinks is right.

“There’s some of these villains that are just crazy and they do it just to do it,” Lopez continued, rattling off his assessment in seconds. “Then you got The Joker, who says he’s an agent of chaos and he comes back in different forms every time, comes back to fight Batman he’s a different character, different guy. Whatever. So I do feel like a superhero when I wear the mask, to answer your question, yes.”

And then the conversation turned to Darth Vader, and that’s how we got to Lopez lobbying to be a wookiee.

“You guys think I’m kidding,” Lopez said. “But I’m not. So let’s do this. Get it going.”

Starting is now a 'Plum' role on the Nets

December, 18, 2014
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PlumleeAP Photo/Kathy KmonicekMason Plumlee has made his mark in his short time in the Nets' starting lineup.

Recently, Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins was describing a conversation he had with second-year center Mason Plumlee.

After a game in which Plumlee played well, Hollins picked up one foot and put it down -- as if he were taking a step forward.

That’s one step in the right direction, Hollins told Plumlee. Now, you just have to keep it going.

The 24-year-old has.

In his past four games -- all starts -- Plumlee is averaging 18.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 35.6 minutes on 66 percent shooting from the field (44 percent from the free throw line).

“Having that time on the court I think has given my teammates confidence in me, so like I said, it stems from that,” Plumlee told reporters in Toronto Wednesday night. “But your teammates start getting a feel for you, looking for you, and it’s a great opportunity for me. If we can add some wins to it, it would be even better, but I think just the teammates finding me and having a comfort level with me on the floor.”

In Plumlee’s first 20 games, he produced just 5.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 14.2 minutes on 40 percent shooting from the field (40 percent from the free throw line).
Hollins made it clear that Plumlee needed to be better in all facets of the game. It seems like Plumlee is thriving while playing within his limitations recently.

With Brook Lopez (back) out, Plumlee, who has tried to expand his low-post game to include a hook shot, has really gotten back to his strengths as a big man, getting buckets on pick-and-roll actions and dives to the rim. His athletic, finishing style of play certainly benefits from a one-in, four-out system as well.

Plumlee is giving up 54 percent at the rim and has hit on just 2 of his 17 jump shots this season. His free throw shooting has been woeful, but, as YES Network analyst Mike Fratello pointed out during a broadcast, Plumlee no longer keeps his guide hand on the ball before letting it go -- a tweak the Nets hope will allow him to make more freebies moving forward. He has also had his shot blocked a lot inside, another thing he needs to work on.

Still, Brooklyn’s offense flows nicely with Plumlee manning the middle, and he's going to make it tough for Hollins to pull him from the starting lineup when Lopez returns. You would think that the Nets will go back to a Lopez-Kevin Garnett frontcourt once both are healthy, but maybe not.

There are few reasons to be optimistic about the Nets right now, but Plumlee’s recent play is certainly one of them. If he can keep it up he may force Hollins to make a difficult decision down the road.

Hollins: 'We're not a very good team'

December, 11, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Brooklyn Nets have gotten off to a terrible start -- and their coach wants more.

[+] EnlargeLionel Hollins
Winslow Townson/USA TODAY SportsNets coach Lionel Hollins hasn't been happy with his team's play this season.
“We’re not a team that can play poorly and beat somebody,” Lionel Hollins said Thursday. “We’re not a very good team at this stage of our development.”

Asked if he expected an 8-11 start when he took the job, Hollins responded, “I didn’t know what to expect. I thought we would be better. I didn’t know when. We have some deficiencies. The rebounding one is huge, and defensively, the quickness against most teams is huge and just being able to execute and play at a tempo that keeps us in games versus letting the other team having their way of playing. That’s important, too.

"But with this group it’s a learning process of how to play that way, and I think most of the guys would like to play quicker, but it gives the other team too many opportunities.”

The Nets have to slow it down with center Brook Lopez in the game, and his teammates have struggled playing with him. Lopez has a minus-3.3 on-court net efficiency rating (100.2 points per 100 possessions for vs. 103.5 points per 100 possessions against). Brooklyn is only slightly better offensively with him on the court (98.9 offensive rating on bench). The Nets are much better with Joe Johnson (103.2 offensive rating on vs. 93.0 offensive rating off) and Deron Williams (101.3 offensive rating on vs. 94.5 offensive rating off) on the floor as opposed to the bench.

Johnson explained the difference in the team’s playing style.

“When Brook’s on the floor we just try to play through Brook so much, maybe force-feed him at times,” Johnson said. “But when he’s not on the floor, I think collectively as a team everybody kinda takes it upon themselves to make plays, to be more aggressive, to assert themselves a little more into the offense. We just have to find that fine-line to where we all can be effective playing with one another.”

Recently, the Nets have gotten off to good starts, only to get blown out after porous third quarters. They rank sixth in first-quarter scoring margin, but 25th in the NBA in third-quarter scoring margin.

“I can’t figure it out,” Johnson said. “We’re a really good first-half team, I would say. Third quarters are just killers for us, for whatever reason, whether it’s us not warming up properly at halftime. I don’t know. Third quarters are bad, and we get behind that 8-ball and there’s no coming back.”

Johnson added: “We look great in the first quarter. Everybody’s fresh, moving fast, executing on both ends of the court. It looks fun, it’s great, we great results. And, then, I don’t know, man, for whatever reason, second half, we’re just not that good.”

Does fatigue play a factor, too?

“Maybe so. I don’t know. I think it has to be something dealing with that because, starting games, we just don’t give ourselves a chance in the second half,” Johnson said.

Joe on being on the trading block: “This is what comes with the territory,” he said. “It’s part of it. And us as players, we still have jobs to do. And that’s to come out, try to get victories and help this team be successful. We just gotta stay focused with that.”

Quotable: Hollins was asked what he knew about newly-acquired forward Brandon Davies: “I just know that he broke the honor code at BYU. That's what he's famous for. I don't know him very well.”

Minor move: The Nets signed combo guard Darius Morris to a non-guaranteed contract.

Nets are searching for their identity ... again

December, 1, 2014
12/01/14
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- While the season is only 15 games old, the Brooklyn Nets already have several issues.

The NBA's most expensive team, with projected payroll and luxury taxes totaling about $130 million, has a 6-9 record. They are 0-7 against teams that are .500 or better.

Chemistry has been an issue. Shooting has been an issue. Spacing has been an issue. Rebounding has been an issue. A lack of athleticism has been an issue.

“We're on the phones, we're talking to people, but nothing is imminent,” Nets general manager Billy King said Monday when asked if any changes were on the horizon. “This group has proved that they can play good basketball, and so at this point, it's up to them to figure it out, how to play better.”

The Nets are on their fourth coach in three seasons, which means the players have been forced to learn yet another new system and formulate yet another new identity.

It has all led to yet another slow start.

Different season. Same story.

[+] EnlargeDeron Williams, Joe Johnson
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesDeron Williams, Joe Johnson and the Nets are once again searching for the right combination on offense.
“We're playing a different way,” Nets point guard Deron Williams said. “We learned to play one way, and then we scrapped that. We learned to play another way, we scrapped that. And we learned to play another way.

"So we're still learning how to get what we want out of this offense -- share the ball, move the ball, and get everybody the ball.”

Since Nov. 9 -- the day swingman Joe Johnson first alluded to his teammates being selfish -- the Nets rank 26th in offensive rating and 16th in defensive rating. They also rank 24th in field goal percentage, 29th in 3-point field goal percentage, 22nd in rebounding, 22nd in assists and 23rd in turnovers.

“I think it's just going to take time for us to just figure it out,” King said. “And then we may have to make some tweaks.”

Can Brooklyn's Big Three of Williams, Johnson and center Brook Lopez figure things out?

“We'll see,” King responded.

Williams is finally healthy and playing his best basketball in years. But Lopez, still rounding into form following a litany of foot injuries, is averaging 5.2 rebounds per game and has been benched frequently in the fourth quarter. Johnson hasn't looked like the same player recently.

In his last 10 games, Johnson is shooting 41.8 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range. He has finished with single-digit point totals in three of his last six games. Johnson hasn't looked like the same player since calling out the team. He was asked five questions following Sunday's blowout loss to Chicago and answered them with a total of 47 frustrated words.

Nets coach Lionel Hollins' criticism of the mild-mannered Lopez has also been a frequent topic of conversation early in the season.

“Everyone thinks I'm upset at Brook,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. "I'm just trying to help Brook grow, and I'm trying to help Joe grow as a player and be more consistent. I talk to Joe. I want Joe to tell me, 'How can I help you? What do you need?' You don't offend me when you say, 'Coach, I ain't had a shot in three or four [possessions].' OK, we'll go get you a shot.

“I've done that when I played, and I've had people come to me as the point guard and tell me, 'Man, bring the ball around to my side a couple times.' It's part of playing the game, and I want Deron to be better and grow.”

[+] EnlargeBrook Lopez
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesBrook Lopez has been on the receiving end of tough love from coach Lionel Hollins.
The Nets went small last season after Lopez went down, and it saved their season. By going one in and four out, it allowed them to spread the court. They shot a ton of 3-pointers and switched on defense, creating a ton of turnovers. With Lopez back, they are no longer that team anymore.

Sometimes, the Nets run good motion offense and are able to get easy baskets. Other times, they are throwing the ball in to Lopez and waiting for him to take a shot. The offense becomes stagnant. And on D, a lack of rebounding, rim protection and athletic wing defenders are hurting the Nets.

“We're not a good rebounding team right now,” King said. “I think that [tends] to hurt your defense. Because when you're not rebounding the ball as well, you make a great stop, you don't get a defensive rebound, it hurts you. So that's an area that we struggled last year, thought we could get better this year, but it's still a hole.”

Hollins, who thrived in Memphis while playing two bigs, said he has tried to build the system around his players.

“I never come in and try to impose something that guys can't do, because I saw that in L.A. with Pau [Gasol] and Dwight Howard,” Hollins said. "You just can't do it. If the two best players on the team [in Memphis, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph] like to be in the black [the paint] and want the ball in the black all the time, then you throw it to them in the black. I'm not going to make them play a different style.”

Hollins has been honest in his criticisms of Lopez and Mason Plumlee, who thrived under Jason Kidd. Andrei Kirilenko, thought to be a valuable piece going into the season, is currently out of the rotation and his future remains uncertain.

Do Hollins' players fit his old-school, no-nonsense personality?

“No, not yet,” Hollins said. “That's the challenge.”

Will they ever?

“I don't know,” Hollins said. “That's the challenge of trying. We'll see.”

It's a process.

Nets try to avoid becoming 76ers' first win

November, 25, 2014
11/25/14
5:15
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Coach Lionel Hollins says he doesn’t have to inform his team of the Philadelphia 76ers’ record.

Hollins believes the Nets are well aware of the situation they’re facing Wednesday night in Philly against the 0-14 Sixers.

“They know what it is,” Hollins said. “I don’t have to mention it. Hell, everybody’s got Twitter and people [are] on Facebook and the news.

“It’s not a big deal. Not having a win doesn’t mean that they can’t beat you. They just haven’t beaten anybody yet.”

The Nets (5-8) want to avoid becoming the first win of the season for lowly Philadelphia. If Brooklyn can extend the Sixers’ misery, Philadelphia would be one step closer to the Nets’ record for worst start in NBA history when the team opened the 2009-10 season at 0-18.

“All those records in the record books, nobody that’s playing now was on that New Jersey team,” Hollins said when asked about the Nets’ record.

When Hollins was told that Brook Lopez was on that record-setting Nets team, the first-year Brooklyn coach could only laugh at his honest oversight.

“Brook was? Oh!” Hollins said. “You know, you just go out and play and try to be as good as you can be and try to compete every night and not worry about what the other team’s record is.”

The Nets hit Philadelphia with plenty of their own concerns. They’ve have won just once in their last seven tries and a loss to the Sixers would certainly be the low point of a slow start.

The Nets are still adjusting to having to learn a new system and coach, some players have yet to find a rhythm and Lopez, who did not talk to reporters on Tuesday, has struggled returning from foot surgery while seeing his fourth-quarter minutes fluctuate.

Meanwhile, Hollins said he also has to adjust to his new team as he learns about his roster with each game.

“Oh, a lot,” Hollins said when asked how much he has had to adjust to his new team. “A lot. I mean, I can't play the way I would totally like to play because that's not the personality of this team. But also, after these first 13 games, I've learned a lot about the individuals.

“I've learned a lot about the team as a group. And so I've kind of changed even what I started out with, with this group, system-wise, because it seems like we need something a little different.”

Hollins would not elaborate on what he’s altered in his system. The Nets are still a work in progress, but they know what they have to do on Wednesday -- take the air and hope out of the Sixers right away.

“Yeah, anytime you play a team that’s on a losing streak, searching for a win, those are desperate teams,” point guard Deron Williams said. “They really have nothing to lose, so they’re a dangerous team.

"We have to impose our will early.”

Joe Johnson hopes the Nets know what kind of effort it will take to avoid becoming the Sixers’ first bright spot of their season.

“If they come out and lose tomorrow, it is nothing to them,” Johnson said. “They are going to play hard, we get that.”

“We just can’t take it for granted, can’t take those guys lightly,” Johnson added. “And it is going to take every man for us to get this win tomorrow.”

Staying home: Markel Brown (hip pointer) and Andrei Kirilenko (personal) did not make the trip to Philadelphia.

KG's top three trash talkers has one surprise

November, 24, 2014
11/24/14
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When it comes to trash-talking, Kevin Garnett has a reputation for being one of the best.

So when Garnett lists the top smack talkers he has encountered, you listen and take note. KG was asked who are his top talkers.

"Gary Payton and Michael Jordan, by far," Garnett said.

[+] EnlargeGarnett/Olajuwon
Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesHakeem Olajuwon's trash talking was a lesser known part of the Hall of Famer's game, says Kevin Garnett. "He was a nightmare some nights, man," Garnett said.
OK, no surprise there as you can see those two talking to each other here. "The Glove" might as well have also been "The Mouth." And MJ could light up defenders and their ears as well.

But then Garnett offered up a third trash-talker -– one you might not have suspected.

"And, believe it or not," Garnett said, "Hakeem Olajuwon."

"The Dream" talking smack?

"Yeah, man," Garnett replied. "And he played with a mouthpiece."

And you could still understand him?

"I definitely could hear it, articulate it, understand it, comprehend it," Garnett said. "Yeah. Hell yeah."

"He was a nightmare some nights, man," Garnett later added.

Something tells us David Robinson probably agrees with KG.

"Look," Garnett said when asked to elaborate on his choices. "Jordan was a great trash-talker. All three. I thought Gary Payton controlled the game with his trash-talking because he talked to the refs, talks to the fans.

"He was similar to Charles Barkley, but under control a little more," Garnett added. "I don't think, not as public. I don't think -- you know, Charles was a little [forward] at times, and [it] kind of carried him off the floor. Thought GP did a great job of just controlling the game with his trash-talking."

And what about KG's own trash-talking skills?

"Me?" Garnett asked. "You just hear stories about me talking trash. You never have living [proof] that I talk trash."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Joe Johnson
PTS AST STL MIN
15.8 3.6 0.9 35.8
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 6.9
AssistsD. Williams 6.3
StealsJ. Jack 1.2
BlocksB. Lopez 1.7