Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New Jersey Nets [Print without images]

Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Brooks gives Nets fans hope

By Mike Mazzeo

NEWARK, N.J. -- MarShon Brooks almost started on Monday night.

Nets coach Avery Johnson heavily considered starting his rookie shooting guard alongside point guard Deron Williams, but assistant P.J. Carlesimo talked him out of it.

The Nets eventually envision starting that dynamic backcourt tandem in the near future, though, and they gave their eager fans a taste of it at the start of the third quarter.

“I was a bit surprised,” Brooks said of starting the third quarter on the court instead of on the bench. “They just said, ‘Rookie, go in the game.’ That’s all I heard. And I was excited about that.”

The Nets are equally as excited -- because even though they’re just nine percent through the regular season, Brooks looks like an absolute steal. The 22-year-old, who was traded to the Nets on draft night after being selected 25th overall by Boston, has scored 82 points through his first six games of the season. According to the Nets, that ties him with Mike Gminiski (1980) for the most points scored by a Nets rookie, off the bench, through the first six games of a season.

In Monday night’s 108-94 loss to the Pacers, Brooks tied his career-high, scoring 21 points on 8-for-17 shooting, while also pulling down a career-best seven rebounds in 32 minutes. Even more impressive, his sparking performance came just a day after he went scoreless in 12 minutes of action in Cleveland.

“He bounced back well,” said Williams. “He has a lot of confidence in his ability. It doesn’t matter if he plays five minutes or he plays 30, he’s gonna be ready to go in, and that’s really good, especially for a rookie.”

The Nets are far from a good basketball team right now. They finished their opening string of six games in eight nights with a 1-5 record. With a roster laden with seven newcomers -- many of which have barely practiced at all -- growing pains are to be expected.

The Nets have shot over 40 percent just once this season and scored 90 or more points just twice -- the absence of post scoring threat Brook Lopez hasn’t helped -- and over the last two games, their perimeter defense has been absolutely shredded, surrendering 29 3-pointers.

So until Lopez returns -- and that won’t be for at least another five-to-seven weeks or so -- Brooks and Williams are pretty much the Nets only hope of putting the ball in the basket consistently. They combined for 43 points on Monday night, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Not when you allow the worst field goal shooting team in the NBA to drain 52.6 percent of its shots. Brooks didn’t help the cause, but he’s not asked to be a lockdown defender. Just a competent one.

That may take a while. Still, the Nets are very enthused about what they have in the 6-foot-5 high-volume scorer with the long wingspan who has a knack for taking a making shots from impossible angles. And when he’s not doing that, he’s using his high jumping ability to throw-down a put-back dunk -- just like the two-handed flush he had off Shawne Williams’ miss with less than a minute remaining in the first half.

“I’m just going out there and playing with energy,” Brooks said. “I got a couple good looks [Monday night], Deron found me on a couple 3s, and once that happened, I started playing more aggressively.”

Johnson has told Brooks pretty much from the start that he has free-range to take “bad shots” as long as he stays aggressive. So far, Brooks has. But his defense still leaves much to be desired.

“Everything,” Brooks replied when asked what Johnson wants him to improve on defensively. “Just keeping the ball in front, fighting through screens and getting better at that.”

Right now, there aren’t a lot of things for Nets fans to look forward to aside from Brooklyn and their all-in pursuit of Orlando center Dwight Howard. But in the near future, it’s going to be their starting backcourt, which will feature Brooks and Williams playing alongside one another for 35-plus minutes a night.

“That’s a backcourt that’s going to eventually be starting. But I’m not going to tell you when,” Johnson said.

Brooks said he didn’t know anything about it.

“I’m just going to go out there and play hard in any role they put me in,” he said.

Doesn’t sound much like a rookie, even though at times, he plays like one.

You can follow Mike Mazzeo on Twitter.