Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 122-117 Win Over The Bulls, Including Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs Participating in #NBAAllStar Weekend (Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets 122-117 win over the Bulls on Tuesday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
1. Surprisingly compelling game
Maybe it was the injuries or the fact that it was the second night of a back to back, but the hapless Chicago Bulls hung with the Brooklyn Nets the entire game. Poor shooting for both teams to start the game, and some less than stellar defense in the first half. But the second half was pretty good. Neither team gained much separation, 5-7 points at most, and then the other team would make a run.
The Bulls are in full tank mode, but the opportunity to beat the Nets – one of the league’s surprising teams – would have been a nice feather in the cap for the young Bulls in an otherwise dismal season. Both teams played hard – cue Rasheed Wallace – and really wanted to win. You could see it on the rebounds, box outs, and urgency on offense. No moral victories in sports, so this is just another loss for the Bulls, but a needed win for the Nets. They matched their entire win total from last season (28) tonight.
Pregame, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson talked about the team’s focus on each game and not looking ahead or lamenting the injuries.
2. D’Angelo Russell closed the 4th quarter
Dlo has spent a lot of the season on the bench during the fourth quarters of games, and lately, during the Nets’ current streak of good play, (20-6 since December 7th) he has seen more 4th quarter action. Now, that time fluctuates based on how he’s playing and Atkinson’s high standards for the position. But, he has been seeing more court time in the 4th. He was benched during Monday night’s 4th quarter road loss to the Celtics, due to some ineffective defensive and “hustle” plays.
Atkinson has always stressed that Dlo is a young (22 years old) point guard who is learning, but he is coachable. Because of Dlo’s willingness to take constructive criticism, Atkinson coaches him hard and as a result, we have seen some improved play over this stretch.
Tuesday night, in the win against the Bulls, Dlo finished with 30 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 0 turnovers. He made clutch plays and smart decisions down the stretch of a very tight game. Dlo has been playing like an All-Star and he is reminding people why he was a #2 overall pick.
Late in the 4th quarter, Dlo calls for a flare screen and Joe Harris comes off for an easy layup at the rim. Tweet posted by Nate Duncan.
3. Shabazz Napier had back to back 20 point games
“Bazz” scored 20 points in the loss to the Celtics on Monday, he was 4-8 from three-point range. He followed up with 24 points in Tuesday’s win, matching a career-high in made threes with 5. Bazz will need to be big for the Nets over the next seven games heading into the all-star break.
The Nets’ are dealing with a depleted roster, and until they start getting guys back Bazz’s role will be critical for extended periods of games. Some night’s he’ll be needed to play great defense or set up his teammates, or score, or gang rebound. Then there will be nights where he’ll need to do everything.
He’s not quite a veteran, but the 4th year player has a maturity and understanding of the game that the Nets will lean heavily on.
Following the game, Bazz talked about doing whatever it takes for the team to succeed.
4. Winning plays down the stretch
Whether it was a loose ball, a box out, a rebound, or drawing a foul, the Nets did the little things down the stretch to win this game. It bears repeating, Tuesday’s game against the Bulls is the type of game this team would have lost earlier this season. The Nets have come a long way in terms of their in-game maturity and decision making. To a man, each player points to the “players only” film session earlier this season as a turning point.
The younger Nets players also talk about veterans like Jared Dudley, Ed Davis and DeMarre Carroll pointing out the different areas the team can improve on and the “little things” needed to win games in the NBA.
5. Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs will participate in All-Star weekend
Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs have been named to the MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars. The NBA announced that the two Nets players were selected to the USA and World teams respectively for All-Star weekend in Charlotte next month. This is a huge deal for the Nets, it’s a sign that the player development and performance culture they have developed is working. Coaches around the league have taken notice and it’s easy to see why.
Allen has made a highlight reel with his blocks of the league’s top players. He’s an excellent rebounder and is developing as an offensive threat. Kurucs has been a huge spark since entering the rotation and now the starting lineup. He can make shots, create off the bounce, rebound and is a willing defender.
Allen was asked following Tuesday’s game about being named a “Rising Star” with Rodions. He had some good-natured trash talk for his teammate.
Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 109-99 Win Over The Knicks, Including The Curious Case of Enes Kanter (Video)Read Now
The Nets defeated the Knicks 109-99 on Friday night in Brooklyn. That’s six wins in a row and eight straight at home for the Nets. They are four games above .500 and currently the #6 seed in the east. Here are five thoughts from the game.
1. Ed Davis showed out
The veteran power forward played 28 minutes off the bench scored 17 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and finished +10. He provided the Nets with a much-needed energy boost after a sluggish start defensively, which saw them give up 60 points in the first half to the Knicks. The Nets came into the game off the news that Spencer Dinwiddie has torn ligaments in his finger and would not be available to play Friday night. Perhaps that had an impact on their slow start defensively or maybe the “Knicks wanted it more” at the start. Whatever it was, Davis was able to get the Nets back on track. He was active on the boards as always and unlike the previous few games, he was finishing at the rim.
Following the game, Davis talked about the Nets’ team dynamic and “next man up” mentality.
2. This Nets team is really a collective
On any given night, a different player can be the “star”. That speaks to the belief that head coach Kenny Atkinson has in every single player on the roster. The bench outscored the starters 72-35 Friday night and there were no signs of animosity or ill feelings. Every player was up cheering, high fiving, doing all the things that a close-knit team that cares about winning does.
Shabazz Napier, despite a poor shooting night, had 18 points and was a +7. Theo Pinson who moves back and forth between the Nets and their G League affiliate on Long Island finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds, and a +19. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 10 and 7, was a +18. Contributions came from all over the roster, and until this team is back at full strength this is what it will have to be if they are going to remain in the playoff race.
Theo Pinson talked about being ready for his big night, after the game.
3. Players and coaches making in-game adjustments
The Knicks were blitzing and trapping the pick and roll against the Nets on Friday night. Particularly when Shabazz Napier was the ball handler. They would send a bigger body that would make it tough for him to see over or through to make a pass. Unable to make a pass he’d take some tough shots which were partly responsible for his poor shooting night (3-13).
But he’s a veteran and was able to make adjustments. He picked up the pace in the second half and moved the ball quicker, often out to the wing to an open player who would shoot it or drop it off to the open screener cutting to the rim.
Atkinson also inserted D’Angelo Russell (plagued with early foul trouble) who could see over the top with his size and move the ball out a little quicker as well.
Following the game, Atkinson talked about how the team handled the blitz of the pick and roll.
4. The Knicks young talent and Enes Kanter…
This Knicks squad has talent. Kevin Knox, though he didn’t show it tonight, looks like he has the potential to be a 20 point per game player in this league. The questions about his motor coming out of the draft were legitimate. There were times you forgot he was on the floor. That is something with time and excellent player development (do the Knicks have that?) that can be fixed. Noah Vonleh, Trey Burke, Alonzo Trier, and Mitchell Robinson are all players with talent that if put in the right situations and with development (Trier and Robinson especially) can be really good. But right now, they are all just a collection of spare parts, and that’s evident in the team’s 10-37 record. The Knicks are clearly in tank mode and have no interest in winning games right now.
That brings us to the Enes Kanter situation. Kanter was a DNP-CD again. Kanter was told by the coaching staff last game he would start, but instead, he rode the pine. The 26-year-old center is an excellent offensive player and rebounder, something the Knicks could certainly use. But again, they are clearly not trying to win, which is why he’s not playing.
Following the game, Knicks head coach David Fizdale addressed the situation, saying:
We’re fighting for a certain style of play to start building for our future. I want to be able to play a very versatile style in the future and I don’t want to wait to start working at that. And start building that out. And that’s why Lance Thomas (who started Friday) is much more of a Swiss Army knife type of player that can guard multiple positions and switch.
Kanter’s issue is he wants to play and if the team isn’t going to play him he wants to be traded or bought out of his contract so he can become a free agent. Right now he’s not getting a straight answer from the coach or management and it’s frustrating. Kanter did receive some love from the crowd at Barclays Center tonight. He heard chants of “You need Kanter” and “We want Kanter”, both times he acknowledged the crowd.
Following the game, Kanter addressed the difficult situation.
5. 9, 10, and 13
What do those numbers represent? They are three blocks of games that are critical to the Nets’ chances of making the playoffs. They have nine games remaining before the all-star break. You want to head into the break playing well, that way you can enjoy some rest and heal up. The Nets should be riding high as they have four games in that stretch against Chicago, Orlando, and Cleveland.
The next 10 games immediately out of the break will challenge the Nets. The good news there is 7 of the 10 will be at home. The Nets will have to find a way to go 5-2 during that home stretch. There will be tough games against San Antonio, Charlotte, and Portland but good teams win at home.
Those final 13 games heading into the playoffs will more than likely matter for the Nets and determine whether or not they get in, and they are brutal. 9 of the 13 will be on the road and we are talking at Philadelphia, at Milwaukee, at Portland, at Utah, at Indiana, and at Oklahoma City. That is a daunting task. But, turning this ship around was never going to be easy. If the Nets can survive that and make the playoffs, you will really have something in Brooklyn.
New York's teams are expected to be big players -- here's how they rank in five categories
Yes, July 1 is still more than five months away. Hell, we haven't even hit the All-Star break yet. But it's never too early to start thinking about free agency. Here in New York City, the Mecca of Basketball (that's right), this summer is crucial for the local teams.
This year projects to have arguably the best NBA free agent class ever with players like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson all -- in one way or another -- able to hit the open market. With hundreds of other players available this offseason and a league salary cap set to rise to $109 million for the 2019-20 season, even in the dead of winter all eyes are on summer '19.
New York's teams are expected to be big players in free agency, with both the Knicks and Nets possessing ample salary cap space and the ambition to exponentially improve. But which NYC franchise has the advantage when it comes to attracting the best talent? Quintessential New York or the "Coolest City in America?" (At least according to GQ, never mind that Brooklyn is actually a borough). Do players want to restore a storied franchise or be the face of a new movement? Midtown steakhouse or Smorgasburg?
Let's take a look at some of the major factors that will either attract or deter free agents and, thus, determine the future of hoops in the Big Apple.
OWNERSHIP AND FRONT OFFICE
For better or worse, the ownership group and front office can set the culture for the entire organization. We've seen examples throughout the NBA of what good, stable ownership and front office management looks like (the San Antonio Spurs). We've also seen what dysfunctional ownership and poor management looks like (the Los Angeles Clippers during the Donald Sterling era). Having the right people in place at the top creates an environment where success is possible. It matters, and players around the league talk.
To say Knicks ownership and management has been dysfunctional is an understatement (Charles Oakley situation, anyone?). Since James Dolan assumed control of the Knicks in 1999, the team has experienced five winning seasons. That's awful. The general manager and president roles have been a revolving door, with eight different executives holding various titles over that same time period. That screams instability.
Current team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry are the new "brain trust" Dolan has "empowered" to turn the franchise around. It's too early to fully evaluate them, but they hired a good coach (David Fizdale) and seemingly identified solid talent in the 2018 draft (Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson). We will wait and see what they do at the trade deadline.
For what it's worth, Dolan will likely remain the team's owner for the foreseeable future, unless that $5 billion deal he mentioned in an interview with ESPN comes along. That's some form of stability.
The Nets ownership structure is a bit more complex and unclear. Mikhail Prokhorov -- worth an estimated $10.1 billion, according to Forbes -- is the controlling owner with a 51 percent stake in the franchise, including ownership of the team's arena, Barclays Center. Joseph Tsai (net worth about $9 billion) is the minority owner controlling the remaining 49 percent, but he has the option to buy enough shares to assume total control in 2021.
Prokhorov wanted to make a splash when he first acquired the franchise and "urged" then-GM Billy King to trade for star power. Brooklyn acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston in 2013, sending back its first-round draft picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Those picks turned into James Young, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. This is definitely a black mark on Prokhorov, and the team has spent the last five years trying to dig out of that mess.
But, even after what some consider the worst trade in NBA history, there is hope.
The Nets now appear committed to building a true contending franchise. When Prokhorov and his team hired Sean Marks as their general manager in 2016 from the vaunted Spurs organization, it showed their interest in creating a proper culture, and adding someone from a winning organization was smart.
Marks signed a four-year contract when he was brought on, so this summer will be a big indicator whether or not he can take great leaps to go along with his current steady progress.
Both owners have shown a willingness to spend money, but until more recently, Dolan was known for reportedly meddling in the team's affairs. Brooklyn's majority owner seems more willing to bring in the right basketball people and let them do their job, seemingly having learned from the ill-fated trade that once mortgaged away the Nets' future.
A common misconception is that NBA players don't like coaching or don't respect coaches. There are approximately 450 players in the NBA, so you have to be exceptional to make this league. Players want coaches to be exceptional as well.
In David Fizdale, the Knicks have a coach who is generally well respected by players and was co-signed by LeBron James. When Fizdale was hired in May, James told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "I think he's a good coach, a good communicator. He's never going to shy away from whatever he feels is right."
Players also value honesty: They want to be told when they're not doing what is needed and how they can perform better. Fizdale talked about how he was able to coach James, saying, "Respect through telling the truth to each other, being honest, telling each other what we don't want to hear. Being there for each other when we hit low moments."
Even Fizdale's former player in Memphis, Marc Gasol -- who was largely responsible for Fizdale's firing -- had good things to say about him prior to a Knicks-Grizzlies game earlier this season.
"I'm a better player because of David; I can say that 100 percent," Gasol said. "Even though last year was really tough for everyone, I'm a better player this year than I was last year and a lot had to do with him."
Although lately, Enes Kanter seems less than pleased with how his playing time (or lack thereof) has been handled.
The Knicks are 10-36 entering Friday night's game at Barclays Center and playing without their best player, Kristaps Porzingis. It's not particularly fair to grade Fizdale when the team is not trying to win, as they are clearly in rebuild mode. But Fizdale does have the team playing hard while keeping things competitive on most nights.
Their problem is the roster is devoid of the experienced top-end talent necessary to compete at a high level.
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has a similar issue to Fizdale, although Brooklyn's roster is not as poor as the one in Manhattan. The Nets are also without their best player, Caris LeVert, but they do have a healthy mix of young players with upside and veterans who know how to play.
Even though they've been an sub-.500 club during much of Atkinson's first two-plus seasons, they're currently 26-23, in sixth place in the East, and turning into one of the NBA's better stories.
The NBA's golden boy of coaching, Brad Stevens, sung Atkinson's praises before a recent game.
"We know how good they are. We know how well-coached they are," he said. "I said last week I don't see how they don't make the playoffs. They're an excellent offensive team. I think they have a lot of versatility defensively. I think they're superbly coached and they all know what they do and they do it every single night."
Atkinson cut his teeth as a player-development coach, and you can see it in the work he's done with Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and D'Angelo Russell. His offensive system borrows from Mike Budenholzer, Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle and Terry Stotts; some of the best in the business.
Again, it's hard to grade accurately as Atkinson has an advantage over Fizdale since he's been with his franchise longer, but both coaches have their teams competing hard, despite the roster limitations.
Advantage: Nets (slightly)
HOME ARENA AND FANS
Don't get it mixed up - atmosphere and fans matter.
The Knicks have the World's Most Famous Arena that's hosted some of the greatest events in history, from "The Fight of the Century" to WrestleMania. Everything about Madison Square Garden says NYC: The bright lights, Seventh Avenue, Broadway.
Despite the team's record, Knicks games are a headline event with an A-list celebrity row that includes the likes of Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Dustin Hoffman and John McEnroe. But you could wind up seeing any star like Michael B. Jordan, Priyanka Chopra, and Sophie Turner, just to name a few.
The non-celebrity Knicks fans provide the Garden with a raucous atmosphere and, as the more storied franchise, they have more generational fans. They are also the more likely of the two franchises to have more bandwagoners once they start winning. Poor product or good product, the Garden is always a tough ticket and they have a group of loyal supporters.
Barclays Center is the newer arena, with a theatre-like atmosphere. The building does not have the history of MSG, but has slowly been building its own. Former minority owner Jay-Z and Beyonce used to grace Barclays with their presence, but now Nets celebrity row includes the likes of Steve Madden, Angela Yee, and DJ Envy. Brooklyn locals like Fabolous and Rosie Perez are often in attendance.
The Nets are a "newer" franchise, having joined the league as part of the ABA/NBA merger. Their NBA history, save the two NBA Finals runs with Jason Kidd, is not decorated with success and they have less of a New York tie (though the ABA franchise dates back to Long Island and won two titles with some guy named Julius Erving).
Still, the ABA days, time spent in the swamplands of New Jersey, and recent ineptitude have stunted the growth of their fan base.
But this one is no contest. The Garden is the Garden. They don't call it the World's Most Famous Arena for nothing.
CAP SPACE AND CURRENT ROSTERS
Neither franchise has been very successful on the court as of late, both reeling from the mistakes of general managers' past. However, there is light at the end of their proverbial dark tunnels.
The Knicks have made little secret they hope to land Kevin Durant and pair him with Porzingis as the foundation of a new contender. They waived Joakim Noah and can clear space for one max player in 2019. The question is, will they be able to clear space for two max players?
That will be more challenging and they would need to find takers for both Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee without taking much salary back in return, whom they've reportedly made available ahead of the trade deadline.
But allow yourself to dream for a moment: KD, KP, Kevin Knox, and their 2019 draft pick (you know who) sounds pretty good.
The Nets had cap space for two max slots in 2019 before they decided to extend Spencer Dinwiddie, which essentially kept an All-Star level player on their roster. They still have space for a single max player and Sean Marks could clear a lot more room by not making qualifying offers to D'Angelo Russell ($21.1 million cap hold) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ($7.4 million cap hold).
With Dinwiddie, promising big man Jarrett Allen, rookie sensation Rodions Kurucs, and pre-injury Most Improved Player candidate Caris LeVert (No. 50 on the Simmons' trade value list) as a core, that roster is appealing.
The 2019 draft class doesn't appear to be very deep, but there is a lot of hype around the top with Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Jarrett Culver, Ja Morant, and Bol Bol (though he's out the rest of the season with a foot injury).
The Knicks seem to be headed for the lottery, and if they pick in the Top 3 or 5, they could be adding a future All-Star. The Knicks' recent draft history -- despite the doom and gloom of many fans -- has actually been pretty good. They may have whiffed on Frank Ntilikina, but Porzingis, Knox, Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson have all shown promise.
The Nets have their own first-round pick for the first time in years, but it looks like they are going to hover around a lower playoff seed all year and find themselves outside of the Draft Lottery. But Sean Marks and his scouting and player development staff found LeVert, Dinwiddie, Allen and Kurucs all late in the first or second rounds. They don't seem bothered where they pick.
The draft has some real gems near the top, and the Knicks look likely to be picking in the top 4.
The Nets come up winners in three of five categories, and while they're not running away with this head-to-head, they hold advantages in the categories that matter. Brooklyn looks to have the better front office, slightly better coaching, and a better roster to build upon.
Yes, the Knicks are the storied franchise and have the pedigree, but the Nets are built to win right now.
If you're a big-time free agent and you could make the same money with either franchise -- wouldn't winning trump all?
Both squads have young talent and most would argue that KP is better than LeVert, but nothing is guaranteed after an injury with someone Porzingis' size. Knox looks like he could grow into something special, but as it stands right now, the talent tilts more in the Nets' favor.
The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Orlando Magic 114-110 on Monday night for their seventh straight win at the Barclays Center. Here are five thoughts from the game.
1. D’Angelo Russell has elite court vision
DLo had 10 assists last night and there could have been quite a few more. He is excellent at reading the defense off pick and rolls and screens. He sees plays happen before they actually do. His sense and feel on how to set his teammates up is remarkable.
Early in the season, Dlo seemed to struggle with the balance between scoring and setting up teammates and was very turnover prone. Then the Caris LeVert injury happened and everything and everyone was out of sorts. The team points to a players-only film session before a game against Toronto as the turning point. DLo often talks about that moment as a turning point for him individually. Recently his teammate Jared Dudley said:
“D’Angelo’s willing to listen and a lot of young guys that are top picks aren’t like that. He [D’Angelo] asked me, ‘why do you think I’m turning the ball over?’ We watched film and I told him ‘sometimes you’re too slow coming off that pick and roll, holding the ball too long. You need to make the read faster and explode.’”
In the month of January Dlo is averaging 7.7 assists per game to only 2.5 turnovers. That’s a 3 to 1 ratio, excellent for a lead ball handler in the NBA.
Two plays late in Monday’s game were signs of the growth and development he has made this season. Nets were up 106-104 with under three minutes left in the game. Off a Magic turnover, Dlo is pushing the ball up court, it was as if you could see him seeing the play develop, he slows down ever so slightly passes cross court to a streaking Joe Harris who finds DeMarre Carroll who flares out to the corner for a three. He makes it, Nets go up five.
Forty seconds later, Dlo has the ball again, Nets up three after Magic made basket, and Jarrett Allen sets a screen for him. He comes off and airballs a three. He immediately looked at his teammates patted his chest and said “my fault.” Both are signs of his growth and maturity.
We often spend so much time talking about what players’ can’t do, that we lose focus on what they can do, and in many cases, do extremely well. Dlo is a 22-year-old point guard, a position that takes time to master in this league.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson was effusive in his praise of Dlo and talked about his court vision postgame.
2. 4th quarter poise
This was an uneven game from start to finish for the Nets. They had stretches of good play, then bad, and even confusing. They fouled a bit too much in the first half and had live ball turnovers at some inopportune moments. As a result, it was a one-possession game with two minutes remaining.
If this was a game earlier in the season, there is no doubt the Nets would have lost. During that tough 8 game losing streak, most of the losses were in one-possession games. The team did not know how to close out and make “winning plays” down the stretch.
Time, patience, diligence in the film room and a willingness to hold one another accountable has changed all that. The Nets were poised on both ends of the floor and executed extremely well. Joe Harris took a huge charge, Dlo made clutch free throws, and the defense sealed and grabbed rebounds. The veteran leaders on this team like Jared Dudley, Ed Davis, and Carroll mixed with the youth has been an ideal combination.
Dudley, who is currently out nursing a hamstring, was very proud of his team’s fight in a close game. He took to Twitter to share his excitement.
3. Nikola Vucevic involved in weird plays at the rim
It was a good stat line for Magic big man and, likely all-star, Nikola Vucevic. He finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. But it was an inadvertent tip-in on a Carroll drive that put the Nets up five with under 45 seconds left and an offensive goaltending call on a basket that would’ve tied the game with three seconds left that defined his night.
Sometimes the basketball gods are cruel…
Tweet courtesy of Nets’ beat writer Anthony Puccio.
4. Nets’ bigs need to improve at finishing around the rim
Ed Davis was 0-3 and Jarrett Allen was 3-7. During Monday’s game, it seemed like between the both of them they missed 15 shots near the rim. Allen is only in his second season so it stands to reason he will improve with his offensive play around the rim. Davis is a veteran, but more of a rebounder than an offensive threat. As this team continues to improve and look towards its future, a big that can finish near the rim is crucial in a pick and roll offense with a gifted passer like Dlo.
NBA All-Star weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina is a little over three weeks away. The question many Nets fans are asking themselves is, are we going to have an all-star this year? The answer. Maybe…
Let’s look at the two possible candidates. We’ll start with Spencer Dinwiddie, who was excellent last night. He finished with 29 points and 3 assists. In the month of January, he’s averaging 16 points and 4 assists per game on 44/34/84 shooting splits. For the season he is at 17 and 5 on 46/36/79. Very solid numbers, and if it weren’t for that rough stretch in December he’d warrant serious consideration.
Dlo finished with 25 points and 10 assists last night. In the month of January, he’s averaging 24 points and 7 assists per game on 49/44/89 shooting splits. For the season he is at 19 and 6 on 43/37/80. He had a rough start to the season and wasn’t closing a lot of games. But he has been on a roll lately and recency bias is a real thing. He will be fresh in the minds of media members, players, and coaches during selection.
Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 123-94 Win Over The Kings, Including D’Angelo Russell Doing His Best James Harden…(Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets’ 123-94 win over the Kings Monday afternoon in Brooklyn.
1. D’Angelo Russell is forcing the Nets into a difficult decision this summer
24 points per game on 50/44/92 with a TS% of 61. Those are Dlo’s shooting percentage splits for the month of January. The reigning eastern conference player of the week is playing the best basketball of his career and is a big reason the Nets are 17-5 in their last 22 games.
At the beginning of the season, especially during close games, Dlo would often be on the bench. Head coach Kenny Atkinson would opt to go with his veterans, as well as Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert as his primary ball handlers down the stretch. Atkinson didn’t trust Dlo to make the right decisions and it was the right move. But Dlo never wavered, and injuries to LeVert and other players forced Atkinson to play the 22-year-old point guard. He has rewarded his coach’s faith in him with excellent play the last month or so.
Dlo will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season and Nets GM Sean Marks will have a tough decision to make. Heading into this season the Nets were slotted to have enough cap space for two max free agents this coming summer. They have since re-signed Spencer Dinwiddie and the team is looking like they’ll make the playoffs. It will be hard to justify not offering him a deal or matching any other offer. Time will tell.
In the meantime, Atkinson is very proud of his young point guard, referring to his ability to create space on step back threes as “Harden-esque.”
In his postgame media availability, Dlo was asked his thoughts on being “Harden-esque” and what it means to have Atkinson believe in him.
2. The spirit of this team is a real thing
Noted sports writer Bill Simmons famously wrote about the secret of basketball in his opus “The Book of Basketball.” The secret of basketball, as it turns out, is that it’s not about basketball. Simmons was recanting a story told to him by Hall of Fame Detroit Pistons champion Isiah Thomas, in which Thomas talks about chemistry being an overlooked part of a championship team.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The Nets aren’t winning the title this season, because talent matters and they don’t have enough top-end talent. But, this team has a togetherness and camaraderie that is palpable. You feel it in the arena. You can see it after someone makes a smart play or hustles for a loose ball. Guys on the bench are up high fiving, supporting each other. It’s all the stuff you love if you’re one of those “unifying power of sports” people. It may sound hokie, but even the toughest cynic knows, being in an environment where people genuinely care about one another and are happy to be there is much better than the alternative.
In his postgame media availability, Atkinson was asked about the spirit of the team.
Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 109-102 Victory Over The Celtics, Including Trolling And D’Angelo Russell’s Big Night (Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets, tighter than it should have been, 109-102 victory over the Celtics in Brooklyn on Monday night.
1. D’Angelo Russell was feeling it on Monday night
Let’s begin with the raw counting stats. 34 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists. Russell was 13 of 26 from the field (50%) including 7 of 13 from three (53%). Russell was incredible. In the third quarter alone he scored 18 points, made four of his seven threes, and was a +20. We are often critical of Russell, because of his inconsistency, but he played well Monday night.
During the fourth quarter, he did miss his only two shots and turned the ball over three times, as the Nets looked like they were about to give the game away. But, this is all part of the growing and maturation process. In his postgame comments Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said of Russell:
There are things we can improve. I will talk to our 22-year-old point guard (Russell) about being more secure with the ball…but there is no fear in him. He has tremendous confidence in himself, and he’s playing really well right now.
The Nets are dealing with injuries to key players and Russell will have to step up in their absence. This team is currently in the #7 spot for the playoffs, and though they won’t make a big deal about it, making the playoffs is a very important goal this team wants to achieve. Russell will be a huge factor in determining whether or not they reach that goal.
D’Angelo Russell talked about his play and the team postgame.
2. There are levels to winning in the NBA
A win, is a win, is a win. Yes, that’s true. But there are stages of development for young teams and franchises looking to build a winning culture. GM Sean Marks, Atkinson and the Nets brass want this to eventually be a championship winning franchise. You don’t go from 0 to 100 just like that. It takes time. There are levels to this.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Nets held a 90-66 lead. They exploded for 44 points in the third quarter (led by the aforementioned Russell) and held the Celtics to 21 points. To the casual fan, it looked like Brooklyn would cruise to an easy victory. This is the NBA and leads are never certain given the pace of play, and the Nets are young and still learning how to put teams away.
With 1:28 remaining in the game, the Celtics whittled the Nets lead down to 7. It was tense for the young guys from Brooklyn, but the growing pains and hard lessons they’ve experienced over the last couple seasons are paying dividends. Last season they would have completely melted down and lost this game. Earlier this season, during their losing streak, they would have likely lost this game as well. But, they have come a long way, and while they still get tight and sometimes make poor decisions down the stretch, they bounce back much quicker and believe in one another.
Following the game, Kenny Atkinson talked about the win, D’Angelo, and the playoffs.
3. Spencer Dinwiddie is in a slump
Prior to the game, Atkinson addressed the comments he made about Spencer Dinwiddie being in a slump. Dinwiddie took to Twitter to laugh off the assertion by his head coach that he was experiencing any kind of slump.
Atkinson said “slump” was poor word choice in talking about Dinwiddie, but the two men spoke and all is well. There is no reason to think this is anything more than frustration after a loss and less than stellar play from one of the team’s best players.
But the reality is, Dinwiddie is not playing as well as he did through Christmas. He was very quiet against the Celtics, finishing with 5 points. In his last 5 games he is shooting 37% from the field, 26% from three, and averaging just under 11 points per game. This is down from his season averages of 45%, 36%, and 16.7. It’s a small sample size, but he has been trending down the last 9 games.
Again, this team is looking to make the playoffs and build something big in Brooklyn. Dinwiddie is a crucial piece to their success.
4. Jarrett Allen
Brooklyn’s second-year big man is developing very nicely and looks like he has the potential to be a Clint Capela type player for the Nets. A borderline all-star, rim running shot blocking big, who can also step out and space the floor. We have a ways to go before Allen is consistently that type of player, but he has shown the ability and temperament to be that player for Brooklyn. Allen finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks and was a +13. Atkinson refers to Allen as the team’s “goalie” often erasing defensive mistakes made out on the perimeter.
The young nucleus of this Nets roster is very talented and if they are able to make the playoffs this year and gain some valuable experience, Brooklyn would be a very intriguing destination for a top tier free agent this summer.
Jarrett Allen postgame on his play and whether or not he pays attention to the standings.
5. What is going on in Boston?
The Celtics began the season with lofty expectations. This was a team one game away from advancing to the NBA Finals last season, without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Conventional wisdom said, insert those two players and this is a championship caliber team that could win 60+ games and legitimately threaten the Golden State Warriors.
We are halfway through the season and they sit at 25-18, 7 games back of the #1 seed in the east. They are on pace to finish 48-34, worse than last year’s 54 win eastern conference finals team. The team is 5-5 in their last 10 and there appears to be some tension internally. Irving recently came out with strong comments after a loss to Orlando, saying:
Irving did not play Monday night in the loss to the Nets. But the Nets fans had a little fun trolling the Celtics fans in attendance regarding Irving.
Following the loss to the Nets, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens talked about the loss and the team’s struggles this season, saying:
That’s a lot of our story last year – we got behind. But we didn’t get drubbed and get behind (tonight).
We were able to figure a way to come back because of the way our guys played that were on the court. I
just told the team that I really appreciate the way those guys played in the fourth quarter. We were
guarding for three quarters tonight. We chose one of the middle ones to take off. The third quarter
defense was awful.
The Celtics Jaylen Brown offered his thoughts as well, saying:
We’ve got to have each other’s back at the end of the day. We can’t point fingers. We’ve just got to
continue to empower each other and continue to have each other’s back because if we don’t and we start
pointing fingers, then everyone’s going to go into their own little shell. We’ve got to continue to play
basketball. It starts from the top to the bottom, not the bottom to the top, but from the top to the
bottom, so we’ve got to continue to empower each other and make the best of this. We’ve got a lot of
talent. We know what we’re capable of doing. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it. Playing free,
playing loose and having fun.
It’s looking tense up in Boston. At the end of the day, this is still a playoff team and Brad Stevens is an excellent coach. But what Stevens and the Celtics are finding out is, it’s different when you have no expectations. You can play free and with ease, because nobody expects anything. But living up to expectations is a whole different game. There are indeed levels to this.
Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 116-100 Win Over The Hawks, Including Rodions Kurucs Doing The Little Things (Video)Read Now
Here are five thoughts from the Nets’ 116-100 win over the Hawks in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.
1. Slow start
Monday night’s game was the Nets’ third game in four nights. So, you could excuse their slow start, except for the fact that the Hawks were on the second night of a back to back. The Nets had their worst first quarter of the season, giving up 38 points to the fledgling Hawks. Brooklyn looked out of sorts, slow to react on rotations, and was getting outhustled.
The game turned itself around and the Nets found their footing. But, you could look at this two ways. One is, they were poised, mature, locked in and fought back to get a win. Something that probably wouldn’t have happened with this team last year or even earlier this season. That’s growth. Or, you could say, poor quarters and starts to games or halves are indicative of a larger issue with this team. If they want to make the playoffs, this is the type of thing they need to improve on.
It’s likely a little bit of both. The Nets are an improving team, and they are maturing with every passing game. Three of their four most important players are 22 years old or younger. There are going to be some growing pains.
2. Nets Defense
After the aforementioned slow start, the Nets picked up their defensive effort in the second quarter, limiting the Hawks to 19 points. In the second half, they held Atlanta to 43 points. Atlanta shot 36% from the field and 17% from three. Some of that was the young Hawks’ (Trae Young) poor shot selection but credit the Nets defense too. Rodions Kurucs was getting up into his man defensively. Jarrett Allen was very active. DeMarre Carroll, Treveon Graham, and Ed Davis provided a spark and intensity in their minutes on the floor.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson often talks about the Nets’ defensive identity and consistency on that end of the floor is critical to their hopes of making the playoffs.
3. It’s the little things with Rodions Kurucs
Nets rookie forward Rodions Kurucs has been a huge bright spot for Atkinson and his staff this season. The Latvian forward’s per 36 averages are 16.5 ppg and 6.5 rpg. His scoring obviously gets the headlines and is what you, the fan, want to see and marvel at. But for Atkinson, despite Kurucs’ rookie status, he wants more. For Kurucs to reach his potential and for the Nets to reach their goal of making the playoffs, they will need him to be better defensively, get his hands active for deflections, and steals, box out, etc. In essence, do all of the little things that may not show up in the box score but are signs of total engagement in the game.
Prior to Wednesday’s game in his media availability, Atkinson talked about Kurucs doing the little things.
Message delivered and received. “Rodi” appears to be a hardworking, focused young man. When given a challenge by the coaching staff, he takes it seriously and immediately goes to work on it. He was very active on both ends of the floor Wednesday night. He was cutting and moving off the ball on offense, and very active and alert on defense. He finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and was a +22.
Following the game, Atkinson was asked to grade his rookie on the little things he did.
Kurucs talked about the challenge from his coach and how he thought he approached the game
4. Ed Davis’ rebounding
The veteran power forward came off the bench and snatched 16 rebounds, he also chipped in with 8 points. Davis has been tremendous on the boards for the Nets all season. He is averaging 8.7 per game and per 36 that number shoots up to 17.1.
The Nets rank sixth as a team overall in total rebounds. The ability to end defensive possessions by securing the ball and keep offensive possessions alive by doing the same are cornerstones of good basketball. Of the top ten rebounding teams only the Nets, Mavericks and Pelicans are under .500, and the Nets are in playoff contention.
At a little over $4.4 million dollars for one season, Davis is a nice value for Brooklyn. He will hit unrestricted free agency this summer, no doubt he’ll have suitors looking for a backup power forward. It will be interesting to see what Nets GM Sean Marks elects to do this summer. How much does he think Davis is worth? Does he want to lose all that rebounding?
5. The Hawks youth movement
GM Travis Schlenk and head coach Lloyd Pierce are undergoing a massive rebuild in Atlanta. The team is not very good right now, record-wise, but there is talent on that roster. Rookie Trae Young gets a lot of the headlines and is built to be the face of the franchise. But there is a lot more talent, than Young. Second-year power forward John Collins had 30 points and 14 rebounds in the game on Wednesday night. Though in a losing effort, the young man has a tremendous motor and looks like he can be a perennial all-star in this league. Rookie shooting guard Kevin Huerter finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He shows promise a shooter and is a very willing defender.
It will certainly take time for Schlenk and Pierce to figure out who the players are that will be a part of their franchise going forward. But with Young, Collins, and Huerter they have a solid foundation. Looking ahead, they have their 2019 draft pick which will land somewhere in the lottery it seems, as of now. Plus, the Mavericks pick (top 5 protected) as a result of the Trae Young Luka Doncic trade during the 2018 draft. Take heart Hawks fans, things are starting to look up.
Atkinson talked about Hawks rookie Trae Young pregame.
Five Thoughts From The Nets’ 126-121 Win Over The Pelicans, Including Anthony Davis Abruptly Cutting Off a Reporter’s Question (Video)Read Now
Here are some thoughts from the Nets’ 126-121 victory over the Pelicans at Barclays Center Wednesday night.
1. Nets made winning plays down the stretch after surrendering a huge lead
At the end of three quarters, Brooklyn was up 17 points and looked to be on their way to an easy win over a bad New Orleans team. Then the fourth quarter came and the Pelicans outscored the Nets 34-21. The defense got very loose, and offensively Brooklyn was out of sorts. As the lead shrunk to single digits, a familiar sense of gloom filled the air. When the Nets were mired in their losing streak earlier this season, this is exactly how they would lose games down the stretch. But they learned a lot about themselves and how to close out games and make winning plays in crunch time during that rough stretch and it paid off against the Pelicans.
Whether it was a timely rebound by Jarrett Allen or Ed Davis, a key bucket by Joe Harris or D’Angelo Russell, or defensive rotation from Jared Dudley, the Nets did what they had to do to hold on and win. Brooklyn will need to continue to build off of wins like this if they are serious about making a playoff push.
Following the game, Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson talked about the growth and development of his team and what they showed down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
2. D’Angelo Russell was good
Dlo finished with 22 points, 13 assists, and a +21 rating. He wasn’t particularly efficient (9-21) but he made winning plays and clutch buckets. We have noted many times that Atkinson doesn’t play him down the stretch in close games. But Wednesday night the coach opted to play his enigmatic point guard alongside his usual closer, Spencer Dinwiddie. Dlo played a team-high 35 minutes and set up two key late-game buckets for Harris and Allen.
Dlo is what he is as a player, but if he’s able to make plays and show late game steadiness and maturity, he will force Atkinson to play him down the stretch. This team is serious about making the playoffs, and if that is going to happen Russell will need to be a major contributor. Dlo was asked postgame about playing crunch time with Dinwiddie, and said, “New year, new Kenny … I’m just playing.”
3. Jarrett Allen loves blocking star players
You can add Anthony Davis to Jarrett Allen’s list of blocked victims. The Nets young big man got AD twice on Wednesday evening. This list is getting pretty impressive. LeBron, Giannis, Blake Griffin, and now AD. The second-year big man takes it all in stride and tries not to get too high or too low. For him, they are just basketball plays. But he knows they give his teammates a little extra motivation.
Following the game, Allen talked about his blocks.
4. Anthony Davis is frustrated
The Pelicans all NBA big man began the season by telling ESPN’s Rachel Nichols he believes he is the best player in the league. A debatable claim, but one he has the skills and talent to back up. He finished Wednesday night’s game with 34 points, 26 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks. An impressive stat line, but it wasn’t enough. Davis also made headlines this season by saying he has to play perfectly in order for this team to win.
The situation in New Orleans is not good right now. The Pelicans are a bad basketball team and their best player is extremely frustrated and unhappy. Davis is under contract for one more season after this one, and he will become an unrestricted free agent. Rumors and sources have him going to the Lakers to play with LeBron as Davis is now a client of Klutch Sports and Rich Paul. The latest rumor is that the Warriors are also interested in trading for Davis.
All signs point to Davis leaving New Orleans either via trade or when his contract expires, either way, it’s all starting to wear on him. You could see it in his postgame comments where he was asked about his frustration level with the season and then directly about his desire to stay in New Orleans.
5. The Pelicans as a team and franchise
They are 17-22, 14th in the conference and rank 26th in defensive rating. It’s true they’ve had some injuries, notably to Nikola Mirotic and Elfrid Payton. But, this is a team with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, and Julius Randle. They should be better than where they are. The aforementioned Anthony Davis “situation” is looming over their collective heads, but more broadly, something just seems off with this squad.
This is a franchise that is at or near the bottom of the league in home attendance and is not a free agent destination. The ownership situation is still tenuous since Tom Benson’s death and what is the long-term viability of New Orleans’ ability to support an NBA franchise? The league is certainly committed to staying there but if they lose Davis via free agency at the end of next season and get nothing in return, things will get ugly.