Brooklyn Nets: kevin garnett
Garnett ventured over to the Clippers bench and gave a hug to his former coach with the Celtics, Doc Rivers.
Rivers was reunited with Garnett a day after the Nets’ big man was asked by reporters if he would consider a buyout if one was offered by Brooklyn.
But sources said Garnett, who is in the final season of his contract worth $12 million, isn’t looking for a buyout. And he pretty much said as much, citing his family and how he is “all-in here” with the Nets and teaching youngsters such as Mason Plumlee.
Garnett may not be playing for the title contender he envisioned in Brooklyn when he waived his no-trade clause to be traded here from Boston before last season.
Garnett was supposed to play at least a couple of seasons with Paul Pierce in Brooklyn with Jason Kidd as coach. Of course, much has changed since last season and the Nets’ original title designs have been altered.
But once Garnett opted to return in the summer for one more season with the Nets, the loyal veteran committed himself to Brooklyn despite the Nets losing more than he probably can stomach.
“Well, he doesn’t like losing, period,” Rivers said of Garnett before the Clippers faced the Nets. “In anything. We all know that. But he is such a pro. I know he is dealing with it in the right way. He knows where he is at in his career.
“Plumlee I think is the biggest beneficiary of having Kevin around,” Rivers continued. “I can’t imagine the tutelage and experience that Plumlee gets from Kevin every single day. Kevin is a great teacher.”
This was the first time Garnett has played against his old coach without Pierce, who now is in Washington, by his side. Garnett did not play in Los Angeles when the Nets and Clippers met in January.
With Rivers watching, the 38-year-old veteran moved past Nate Thurmond for eighth on the NBA's career rebounds list; he had 11 rebounds and six points against the Clippers.
Rivers admitted it is still strange to see Garnett on the opposing side.
“You know, I think it is weird seeing KG without me, forget Pierce,” Rivers joked when asked how odd it is to see Garnett without Pierce. “No, it is just weird seeing all of us [former Celtics without each other]. We were together for a good bit and had a lot of success together.
“We still talk and all that, but it is different when you play against those guys. It is competitive because I just know them, they always want to beat you. And vice versa. But it is for sure different.”
The return of LFrank: Former Nets head coach and assistant Lawrence Frank was back in Brooklyn for the first time as an assistant on Rivers’ bench.
Rivers was asked before the game about Frank’s departure from the organization after Kidd demoted Frank early last season.
“It was handled very smoothly if I remember correctly, right?” Rivers said when asked about Frank’s short second stint with the Nets. “We talked about it last year. We don’t bring it back up much. I am sure some guys had some wise cracks for him today on the bus [on the way to the arena] or something like that.
“But not much [talk about last year]. Lawrence and I, I have known him for so long now. That is old news for us.”
“I haven’t really thought about the intangibles on the side. I don’t know what management is going to do,” Garnett said Sunday.
“When my situation comes up, I’ll obviously give it some attention. Other than that, my attention is trying to get us on a winning streak, get us on a road where everybody’s playing together. If you have another level, go to it. I haven’t even thought about my own personal [situation].
“I’m all-in here," he said. "You understand what that means? Mase [Mason Plumlee], the young guys, Cory [Jefferson], I’ve been trying to help them develop. I haven’t really, obviously, coming in, I knew it was going to be a challenge this year with Paul [Pierce] leaving; every time you give away experience like that it’s going to be difficult. The younger guys, the Europeans, all that. Chemistry, transition. All those variables go into a lot of things.
“So it’s not like I came in here thinking one thing and then it being another," he said. "I understood. I came in here ready to play, having a different mindset. But for the most part I never put myself above the agenda of the team, which is winning, helping young guys progress. That’s me. I give. I haven’t thought too much of my own personal [situation]. When that road comes, I’ll cross it and I’ll deal with it. A lot of things with family, situation and things, it’s not just convenient to get up and move, to change things. It’s not as convenient as it once was when I was younger. I have a lot more responsibilities and things to take into account.”
When asked a follow-up question trying to clarify things, Garnett responded, “See, this is why I don’t talk to y’all.”
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov is attempting to sell the team, while center Brook Lopez is expected to be dealt prior to the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
Like Lopez, guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson have also been on the trade block since early December, though their massive salaries make it likely that they are in Brooklyn to stay.
In the meantime, the Nets, who have the NBA’s highest payroll ($91.2 million), are on pace to win just 34 games. They have lost eight of their past nine games and sport a 3-17 record against teams with .500 or better records (at time of game played).
“I thought we would be much better,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said following Monday’s practice.
Can they turn the 2014-15 campaign around?
“That’s a good question,” Hollins responded. “I don’t know. I hope we can. That’s what we’re striving for.”
It will be difficult. Thirteen of Brooklyn’s next 17 games are on the road. Eleven of those 17 games are against playoff-bound teams (if the season ended Monday). The Nets are just one game in front of the Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
And missing the playoffs would be disastrous for Brooklyn. The Atlanta Hawks have the right to swap this year's first-round picks with the Nets as a result of the Johnson trade.
“Well, we could be better,” Kevin Garnett said. “Obviously every season presents its ups and downs, and we’re no different from that.
"I’ve always said when you’re trying to perfect your craft, there’s always room for improvement. But we’re a hard-working group, we’re a young group and we’re a group that wants to be better, but we have pluses and minuses like everybody else.”
One positive to come out of practice: Williams was seen getting some shots up on the far court. Since Jan. 4, Williams has logged just four minutes. He’s currently sidelined with a rib cartilage fracture and will be re-evaluated Wednesday, when the Nets begin a three-game West Coast road trip through Sacramento, Los Angeles and Utah.
Even though Williams has shot just 39.9 percent from 2-point range, the Nets miss their starting point guard. With him on the court (1,000 minutes), the Nets are averaging 101.8 points per 100 possessions. That total drops to 96.8 with backup Jarrett Jack on the court (1,188 minutes) and 88.5 with third-stringer Darius Morris running the show (143 minutes).
Another positive of late: Mason Plumlee. In 22 games since joining the starting lineup, the second-year forward is averaging 15 points and nine rebounds on 65.2 percent shooting. He’s hitting 56.3 percent of his free throws, though Hollins says he wants to see that number up to 75 percent.
Hollins also wants to see Plumlee improve his face-up game. Developing a jumper to about a range of 10 feet would be nice, as well.
“He’s just scratching the surface,” Hollins said of Plumlee’s potential.
And then there’s Bojan Bogdanovic.
The 25-year-old rookie is averaging 11.6 points on 46.5 percent shooting over his past five games -- though he’s made just two of his past 11 attempts from 3-point territory. The Nets have tried to get Bogdanovic to play closer to the basket, which he’s doing with some success.
Lopez has also been better of late, though inconsistent overall since returning from injury. Over the 15-game span (four starts), he’s averaging 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds on 52.1 percent shooting.
As for negatives, well, there are several. Mostly, they reside on the offensive end.
We’ve written about this before, but Johnson’s January stats cannot be forgotten. He’s averaging 13.9 points on 35.8 percent shooting in a staggering 38.5 minutes per game. And in the last five minutes of games in which they are tied or trailing by three or fewer points, the Nets are shooting 30.6 percent from the field. Only two teams are worse.
In Saturday’s loss to the Washington Wizards, the Nets missed six of their final seven shots.
Hollins has been consistent in his message that he wants to get things figured out by February. That’s when teams really need to be in peak form.
“I have a pretty good sense of how we are and who we are,” Hollins said. “We just keep battling. I’m not gonna tell you exactly who we are, but I do know, and I understand perfectly.”
What needs to change?
“We have to execute both offensively and defensively for 48 minutes to win,” he said. “We gotta be consistent in what we do.”
With so many question marks facing the organization, is it even feasible?
“I wanna say, ‘Yeah we can turn it around,’ and I hope so,” Garnett said. “But it’s about the work you put into this and that’s what we’re trying to do here: practice and get better.”
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."
Garnett received a rest day and did not play Wednesday night in Toronto. Teletovic re-aggravated his right hip pointer against the Raptors and was limited to 21 minutes. He had missed three straight games due to the injury before returning Tuesday night against Miami.
Center Brook Lopez made the trip, but will miss his seventh straight game due to a lower back strain. There is expected to be an update by the team on Lopez’s status Saturday. The Nets close out the week by taking on the Detroit Pistons Sunday night at Barclays Center.
Asked where his team’s psyche is, Hollins responded, “S---, I think it’s in the locker room.”
Asked how to keep LeBron James from flipping the switch and taking over the game, Hollins responded, “Hide the switch and turn the lights off so he can’t find the switch. I mean, seriously, what are you gonna do”
Asked what he can take away from the last time the two teams played each other -- the Cavaliers routed the Nets in front of the royal family -- Hollins responded, “The same thing I take from every game that we’ve played: Nothing. It’s a different game tonight. We can’t go back and say well we did this and we did that, and if we do it again we’ll win. Because this game will have its own identity.”
When a Cavaliers reporter tried to get Hollins to compare his former teammate Bill Walton’s ability to make outlet passes with Kevin Love, Hollins responded, “Kevin Love can’t even compare to Bill Walton.”
It is actually interesting to consider that Deron Williams could’ve been the point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. But he decided to pass on the opportunity in the summer of 2012, signing a max deal to remain in Brooklyn. Here’s something crazy: Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Williams all make more than any of the Mavericks starters.
It’s time to slide Kevin Garnett to center, insert Mirza Teletovic at the stretch-4 position and try to exploit opposing defenses through matchup problems. It’s time to run a lot of offense through Joe Johnson again and let him operate and make plays in the post. And maybe it’s time to experiment with playing Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack in the same backcourt more often than usual.
The Nets are 8-10 overall and 1-8 against opponents .500 or better. What they’ve been running offensively hasn’t worked. In their last 12 games, they rank 28th in efficiency, averaging a meager 96.1 points per 100 possessions.
Lionel Hollins has always liked to play big, but there are no Marc Gasols or Zach Randolphs on this roster. He’s a good coach, and good coaches can adapt to any situation.
The Nets can’t rebound this season, but they couldn’t last season either. Still, they were able to make the most of it because Kidd, out of necessity, was able to bring out his team’s strengths and somewhat hide its weakness by utilizing a smaller lineup.
Will it work? Who knows. But the Nets don’t really have much of a choice here. When Lopez missed the first two games of the season, Hollins went with Mason Plumlee and Garnett up front, and the duo wasn’t all that effective.
Eventually, the Nets are going to need to make 3-pointers. And it would be nice if they could switch on defense and force turnovers the way they did when they had long-wingspaned Shaun Livingston -- although given their current personnel, that appears unlikely.
But Lopez’s absence may enable them to space the floor and pass more often than they did when he was in the lineup.
Then, when Lopez does come back, the Nets could ease him back by bringing him off the bench and operating with the second unit, something it could be argued they should’ve done at the beginning of this season.
Coming off yet another foot surgery, the Nets elected not to bring Lopez back slowly, playing him a ton of minutes. This past week alone, he logged 35 minutes against the New York Knicks, 45 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs and 27 minutes against the Atlanta Hawks -- although he did not play at all in the fourth quarter of that game because it was already a blowout. Did this contribute to his most recent injury?
This is yet another setback for a 7-footer who has already missed 136 games since 2011-12. He has had a history of foot injuries, and underwent back surgery in September 2006 when he was attending Stanford. His immediate future is uncertain, as is his long-term future. Lopez holds a $16.7 million player option for 2015-16.
The Nets are going to have to make a decision soon as to whether they believe Lopez can be a building block going forward, or whether it’s time to part ways with their longest-tenured player.
Can Lopez still be a dominant force on the block given his injury history and deficiencies when it comes to rebounding and defense? Should Brookyn consider adding another big man as insurance?
These are questions Nets GM Billy King has to address, as another injury hits a franchise that has had to deal with far too many in recent years.
It is the second game the Nets have rested Garnett for this season. He also missed the team’s loss to the Spurs Nov. 22.
Both games mark the second half of back-to-back sets, and the Nets want to keep the 38-year-old as fresh as possible over the duration of the 2014-15 campaign.
The Nets (7-9) are 0-2 in the second half of back-to-backs.
Garnett, a 20-year veteran, is averaging 7.3 points and 8.5 rebounds on 44.2 percent shooting.
The Spurs (13-4) are expected to have a lineup that includes everyone except Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills. Tony Parker (ribs) will play, coach Gregg Popovich told San Antonio reporters.
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.
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."
The Brooklyn Nets coach got to the point when asked what he has seen from Lopez this season.
"The same Brook," Hollins replied after practice. "He can score. He needs to be better defensively, he needs to be better rebounding, he needs to be better passing the ball to his teammates."
Lopez did not play during the fourth quarter of the Nets' 99-87 loss in San Antonio last Saturday. It was the second time this season Lopez hasn't played in the fourth quarter when available, the first being a 104-96 win over the Orlando Magic on Nov. 9.
He also played only 1:58 during the fourth quarter of a 95-83 loss to the Miami Heat at home on Nov. 17.
Lopez said he hasn't talked to Hollins about his most recent fourth-quarter inactivity. But Lopez knows Hollins has made it clear he will go with the lineup he believes is best for each game down the stretch.
"It's typical, it's the usual from game to game. There's different lineups depending on who we play," Lopez said. "So I think it is pretty standard at this point."
When asked what he needs to do to be able to play in the fourth, Lopez replied, "I don't know, he is going with the looks he wants. He's the coach and that is how he controls it."
Lopez, who is averaging 15.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 29.3 minutes per game, said he has plenty of room for improvement.
"I guess it's just more reading the defense," Lopez said on how he can improve his passing. "Seeing who's open, where guys are when you are being doubled, stuff like that."
"Absolutely," Lopez added when asked whether he believes he can still improve. "I'm not playing well right now, I know that. I know that even when I have been at my best, I know there's tons of room for improvement. There's always room for improvement. That's a ridiculous question. Every player in the league can improve."
Hollins said he saw Lopez work on some of the things he is looking for during Monday's practice.
"If you had been able to see practice today, you would've seen some really nice passes," Hollins said. "It's just being aware and trusting that your teammates are going to make plays, and understanding the game better."
Like the rest of the Nets, Kevin Garnett says Lopez needs time to adjust to a new coach yet again.
"Brook obviously has the obligation to learn the system and to be better," Garnett said. "But if you're breaking it down from a basketball standpoint -- I don't know how many of you have played basketball professionally in the NBA and been through seven, eight different systems, [then maybe] you can relate. If not, take it from that standpoint.
"It's just not an easy thing. If you guys had seven different bosses in seven years and each boss has something different, it's no different from this."
Hollins, though, thinks Lopez can still improve despite this being his seventh season.
"There's people that come into this league and their whole life they're only asked to do one thing," Hollins said. "And when you get to this level, it takes a little more to win. I'm trying to ask him to do those things."
Bogdanovic had 22 points and six rebounds -- both career highs -- during Sunday’s 104-96 win over Orlando.
And the rookie got a big helping hand from Kevin Garnett as the Big Ticket assisted the Nets rookie on six of his nine made baskets.
“KG, I am lucky to play with him,” Bogdanovic said. “It is my pleasure to be with him. After this game, he is going to be my best friend because he finds me.”
Garnett had seven assists, his highest total as a Net. And almost all of them went to the rookie forward. After a game like this, Garnett may be looking for Bogdanovic even more.
The 6-foot-8 Croatian is still learning the nuances of the NBA game, but he is quickly figuring out there could be more games like Sunday.
“I know that I am going to have the shots, so I have to practice a lot,” Bogdanovic said. “Especially because all teams are thinking about Deron [Williams], Joe [Johnson] or KG, so I have to work hard to score.”
Sunday’s win over Orlando was a glimpse of why the Nets have been so high on Bogdanovic. The Nets traded for him on draft night in 2011, when Bogdanovic was selected with the 31st overall pick.
It’s been a long wait to get Bogdanovic over to the NBA, but the timing may be just right. Bogdanovic said that at 25 and with his seasoning overseas, he felt this was the right time to join the NBA.
“He is a rookie but he’s not because he has played at a high level for so long,” Williams said. “He is 25 years old. He knows how to play the game. He didn’t have much of a weakness. He can pass, he can shoot, he can dribble and post up. He is very versatile. He has meant a lot to this team.”
Surrounded by veterans like Williams, Johnson and Garnett, Bogdanovic is in a situation that many rookies don’t find themselves in. He is starting on an experienced playoff-caliber team.
The Nets, though, understand they need to be patient with their rookie, who is literally feeling his way through the NBA game.
“Obviously he has gotten used to the NBA balls, that was the first problem with him,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “He felt like the balls were heavier, and then just learning the NBA game and learning schemes.
“Coming to the NBA, there are a lot more sets, there’s a lot more screening, a lot more cutting, things that you don’t necessarily see in the college game, even overseas [where] there’s a lot of motion.”
Bogdanovic’s big game was only the second time he has scored in double figures. But in his last four games, he is averaging 12.7 points on 9.2 shots per game.
“Our offense is the kind of offense where if you cut hard and move, you are going to get open,” Williams said. “And also teams are keying in on myself, Joe and Brook [Lopez], and he is benefiting from that. He finds himself getting wide-open shots, and he is also doing a great job of attacking the defense.”
And perhaps most important, Bogdanovic is getting the minutes to learn. Hollins has played Bogdanovic 32 minutes in each of his past two games and the rookie is averaging 10 points and 27.3 minutes on the season.
“I feel more comfortable, especially because I play a lot of minutes,” Bogdanovic said. “That is the key -- my confidence.”
If Bogdanovic had come overseas last season, he would have played sparingly with veterans like Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston playing key minutes for former head coach Jason Kidd.
“This is the right time to come here,” said Bogdanovic, who signed a three-year, $10 million deal this summer. “I am 25. In Europe, I was a top scorer over there. This was the perfect time to come overseas and try to play in the NBA.”
Players of the game: Bojan Bogdanovic had 11 of his career-high 22 points in the third quarter. Deron Williams filled up the stat sheet quite nicely: 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Nikola Vucevic burned Brook Lopez all afternoon to finish with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Stat of the game: Lopez played zero minutes in the fourth quarter, and the Nets were just fine without him. Still, it’s telling that Nets coach Lionel Hollins decided to sit his max center down the stretch and play a small lineup. Lopez is still getting in shape after being out, but Vucevic punished him inside. With Lopez out, Kevin Garnett was at center and helped neutralize Vucevic, who was held scoreless in the fourth. Earlier in the week, fellow Nikola, Minnesota's Pekovic, dominated Lopez.
Plays of the game: In the second quarter, Mason Plumlee blocked Aaron Gordon’s alley-oop attempt. Shortly thereafter, Plumlee skied to finish an alley-oop of his own from Williams. In the fourth, Plumlee put Gordon on a poster with a two-handed rim-rocker.
Up next: The Nets begin a three-game West Coast swing in Phoenix on Wednesday night.
Lopez had 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes during Monday’s 116-85 win over the Thunder. It was Lopez’s first game since breaking his foot on Dec. 20 at Philadelphia.
The 7-footer said he is back.
“That is why we took a few extra days just to make sure,” Lopez said. “Now that I am back on the floor, I am playing, I am one of the guys.”
Net balance: When talking about his team’s decision in recent months to not re-sign Paul Pierce and add more younger talent to develop, owner Mikhail Prokhorov repeatedly cited the need for a balance of veterans and youngsters.
It was as if this was the Nets’ new mantra after a year ago saying they were all in to win now after mortgaging the future and sending three first-round picks for Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
When asked about his reaction to not re-signing Pierce, Prokhorov mentioned the Nets’ new approach.
“I think Paul Pierce is a great player but we think like [we need] some kind of a balance,” Prokhorov said on Monday. “We need very strong, experienced players but we need to leave some space for the youngsters. So now we keep that balance.”
The Nets added Bojan Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev while also acquiring second-round picks to take Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson. The average age of those four is 22.
While the core of the team remains older with vets like Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams leading the way, the Nets have some more youth and athleticism to develop that they didn’t really have a season ago.
“I think it’s important,” Williams said of having a mix of young and old. “You need that youth, those young legs to get up and down the court, to provide energy, depth. And of course you need veterans to win.”
“Even though Bogie is a rookie, he’s still 25 so he’s not a young guy,” Williams later added. “He’s been playing basketball at a high level for years. So we still have a lot of experience out there. Our young guys are coming along. We haven’t seen much of them but they’ll be ready to play.”
His 14 rebounds? That tied his high in black and white.
His 35 minutes? The most he’s played in regulation with Brooklyn.
“My mindset changed June 1,” Garnett told reporters after the Nets' 102-90 victory over the Pistons. “I got back to my regimen. I got back to what I know. I got back to what made me great over these years. I got back to who I am. I’ve been ready from Day 1, from camp, for whatever it was. I didn’t want to tell the world because, obviously, you never know what tomorrow is, but I’m ready this year.
“I’m not messing around. I’m here. I’m here.”
Garnett is taking his jump shot with conviction. Although plus/minus might not be the best stat, the Nets were 15 points better than the Pistons with the 38-year-old veteran power forward on the court -- and you could tell.
Brooklyn led 75-65 lead when Garnett came out for a rest. Nets coach Lionel Hollins wanted to give him a breather, but the Nets blew the lead, so he couldn’t.
Hollins commended Garnett for “being a warrior in the fourth quarter.” The Nets coach said he doesn’t want to play Garnett 35 minutes every night. But on Saturday, he had to.
Joe does it again: It’s become customary at this point -- swingman Joe Johnson carrying the Nets down the stretch.
Johnson had 15 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter Saturday night. He had 13 points during a 17-2 run in the final period that gave the Nets and Hollins their first victory of the season.
“Joe, Jesus, you know what it is,” Garnett told reporters. “It felt like he had 100 [points] or something.”
As Hollins told reporters, “Joe got hot. What can you say? He took charge and took over the game.”
“I told the guys if they give me the ball, I was gonna get to the rack,” Johnson told the YES Network.
D-Will’s shooting: Deron Williams is shooting just 37.1 percent from the field (13-for-35) and 12.5 percent from 3-point range (1-for-8) through the first two games of the season.
Williams has made his presence felt in other aspects, however. He had six assists and no turnovers in 41 minutes Saturday, and he played solid defense on Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings.
“He played well,” Hollins said. “You guys get into stuff that has no bearing on winning or losing. Deron was a force tonight.”
"Detroit pretty much had their way with us last year -- especially in the paint," Johnson said Friday.
The Nets went 1-3 against the Pistons in 2013-14. In those four games, they were outscored by 74 points in the paint (220-146) and outrebounded by 51 (190-139). Andre Drummond, Detroit's cornerstone in the middle, averaged 17.5 points and 15.8 rebounds in the season series.
"We just gave up  points in the paint to a [Boston] team that really didn't even post up," Nets point guard Deron Williams said. "So we'll have trouble with Detroit if we play the same way."
"I was optimistic every day, and when he doesn't come out and practice, I'm not optimistic anymore," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said.
That means the "huge challenge" falls on the trio of Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee and Jerome Jordan to contain the Pistons inside.
"It's gonna put a big stress on our bigs," Hollins said. "You have to guard without fouling and stay in the game. It's important to have big guys on the court. But beyond that, we were counting on Brook to be a big part of what we're doing offensively, and he's not here to take that part, so we'll have to make adjustments."
Plumlee got in early foul trouble against the Celtics, committing a pair of fouls that forced him to the bench in the first quarter.
"A couple times I was overhelping a little too much and leaving my guy, and then I was rushing to get back and picked up a couple like that," Plumlee said.
Plumlee said he still wants to use his fouls but be smarter with them.
Overall, after watching film, Johnson believes the Nets have to communicate better on the defensive end. The bigs and smalls need to help one another, and the pick-and-roll coverage needs to be better.
"We've gotta be on the same page," Johnson said. "We haven't been on the same page."
Talking about solving their problems won't solve them.
"It's just about going out and doing it," Williams said.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams recently offered a critical assessment of the team's defense during the preseason.
"We were a little disappointed in our defense," Williams said. "At times, I think we were a little lazy, we were standing up. There's definitely a lot of things we can improve on the defensive end. I'm not even looking at offense, really. What we need is defense.
"So when we're putting that type of effort up or kind of standing this early, it's going to be a problem."
Since 2007-08, the Nets have finished 25th, 23rd, 25th, 22nd, 29th, 18th and 19th in defensive efficiency. But if they're going to go where they want to go in 2014-15 -- which means a deep playoff run -- they're going to have to be better on D.
A lot better.
Enter new coach Lionel Hollins.
In 2012-13, Hollins' Memphis Grizzlies were the epitome of a defensive force. According to data obtained from Synergy Sports, those Grizzlies ranked second overall in points per possession allowed and first in points per possession allowed while playing man-to-man defense.
Synergy Sports ranks how teams defend 11 different types of plays (spot-ups, P&R ball-hander, transition, isolations, post-ups etc...). The Grizzlies ranked in the top-5 in seven of those 11 categories. Bruising center Marc Gasol was named the Defensive Player of the Year, while tenacious guards Tony Allen and Mike Conley made All-Defensive teams.
"He does not do anything magical on defense," one NBA scout told ESPN.com. "Many teams have similar defensive concepts, Lionel just held everyone accountable. Everyone knew their defensive responsibilities, and he created a culture where a lack of execution and effort were unacceptable."
Unfortunately, Hollins doesn't have that caliber of talented personnel in Brooklyn.
Despite being a solid post defender, the slow-footed Brook Lopez is no Gasol. Williams and Joe Johnson aren't Allen and Conley. Thirty-eight-year-old Kevin Garnett, a brilliant defensive coordinator throughout his career, can no longer play 30-35 minutes on a consistent basis. And rookie Bojan Bogdanovic has a long ways to go on that end of the floor.
So how will Hollins compensate?
"I think it is about trying to instill that same culture in Brooklyn," the scout said. "It is going to be tough, though. There are a lot of bad habits the Nets have that he is trying to change. Especially the guards, it is obvious that they are struggling at times with fighting through screens that they would have just switched last year."
Under Jason Kidd, the Nets found their identity after the New Year with Lopez out, going small, switching and wreaking havoc on defense. They forced oodles of turnovers and ranked 12th in efficiency after Jan. 1.
That won't be the case this season.
"In a more traditional lineup, it's a little harder [to switch], and Lionel doesn't like it," Williams said. "He likes you to know who your man is and stay with your man.
"A lot of times, when you start switching, it gets out of hand, and it starts to be the blame game. Like, 'I said switch, but you didn't switch.' So when you're not switching, you don't have that problem. You know your man scored, it's your fault."
The scout added: "A lot of their success is going to be dependent on the guards and wing defenders. One of the main defensive principles in Hollins' system is 'no middle' and forcing the ball along the sidelines and towards the baseline. This combined with no switching creates a lot of work for the guards and determines how successful they can ultimately be."
"You can guard for 23 seconds, the shot goes up, you give up an offensive rebound, you're back on defense again," Williams said. "So that's not a stop."
"Part of rebounding too is [guards] not allowing straight-line drives and penetrations, which causes guys to help, which leads to big guys on the glass with smaller guys," Hollins said.
Before Lopez went down with a foot sprain, the Nets looked really efficient running their new motion offense. Williams looked comfortable running the pick-and-roll with Lopez. There was a lot of player and ball movement, with plenty of shooters to space the floor.
If the Nets are healthy, scoring shouldn't be a problem. It's their defense and rebounding that could be.
"We've had moments where we look really good, and we have moments when we have two or three guys doing well and then a couple of guys are resting," Hollins said. "It has to be all five guys every defensive possession."
Can the Nets be a top-15 team in terms of defensive efficiency in 2014-15?
"I think top-15 is possible for this team and should be a good starting goal," the scout said. "I do not think they have the talent to be a top-10 defensive team, but if everything goes right for them, top-12 isn't out of the question."