Nets look to Rock the boat
January, 18, 2012
By Mike Mazzeo | ESPNNewYork.com
On Wednesday morning, the Nets did something they don’t usually do: they held a shootaround at the Prudential Center.
“We haven’t won a game here yet,” coach Avery Johnson said, pointing to the team’s 0-4 home record. “It’s good to get in here. I wanted to do it [Wednesday] and Saturday, but there’s a hockey game [the Devils are hosting the Flyers at 1 p.m.].”
The Nets have gotten off to a horrible start -- they’re 3-11 heading in their game with the Warriors -- so why not? After all, nothing else has seemed to work.
While the schedule-makers weren’t kind to any NBA team, the Nets took it on the chin early. They played a league-high 10 of their first 14 games on the road -- including five sets of back-to-backs; the Nets went 0-5 in the second half of those back-to-backs, losing those games by an average of 18.2 points.
“Not yet,” Johnson replied when asked if his team is heading in the right direction.
1. Lacking cohesion: The Nets have been at a disadvantage from the start. They signed several players late in training camp, and most of them have barely had any practice time. Injuries have also taken their toll, forcing Johnson to use nine different starting lineups. He has yet to be able to stabilize the rotation.
2. Talent gap: It’s easy to understand why point Deron Williams' body language has been so bad. He’s always won, and all the losing has been difficult to swallow. D-Will is averaging a respectable 18 points and 8.2 assists per game, but he’s shooting just 36.6 percent -- 111th out of 115 qualifiers -- and leads the NBA in turnovers (4.3 per contest). It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but when low post scoring threat Brook Lopez and his 20.4 points per game went down with a broken foot, Williams lost his partner in crime.
He’s had to force the issue a lot -- despite being blitzed on pick-and-rolls and constantly double-teamed -- which has resulted in poor shot selection and bad passes. Making things even worse, his teammates started off cold from downtown, but have since picked it up. The Nets rank second in the NBA with 132 3-pointers, and are shooting it at a 36.6 clip from beyond the arc. Rookie first-round pick MarShon Brooks has been the Nets’ lone pleasant surprise on offense, ranking second among all first-year pros in scoring (14.6 points per game).
3. Statistical woes: The Nets currently rank 28th in defense (100.7 points allowed per game) and dead last in both first-quarter scoring (19.2 points per contest on 35.6 percent shooting) and 3-point field goal defense (44.2 percent). While it is understandable why the Nets can’t score, their carelessness on defense has been unacceptable. Whether it’s defending the 3-point line, getting back in transition or picking the right time to double-team, the Nets have done an abysmal job.
Johnson hopes his team can turn things around, but the truth of the matter is they just aren’t good enough. And until Lopez comes back they are what they are -- which isn’t much.