Through eleven games, everything that could go wrong has for the 2013-14 Brooklyn Nets. Chemistry issues, poor effort, questionable coaching, and injuries have all played a significant role in what is turning into a downright horrendous start for a team that entered the season with championship aspirations. Brooklyn ranks 27th in the NBA in defensive rating (107.5), and even that seems high based on the eye test. It’s no better on offense, where the Nets are measly 21st overall (102.0) in offensive rating and can never seem to get into any type of rhythm in half court sets. Deron Williams continues to be snakebitten by ankle injuries, landing awkwardly on his left ankle again(!) Wednesday, this time on the foot of Kemba Walker. Brook Lopez, the team’s centerpiece on offense and anchor on defense, has missed three games in a row with ankle injuries himself. Not surprisingly, the Nets have lost all three. Even more concerning? The health of Andrei Kirilenko, who received and injection for recurring back spasms last week and is claiming that the problem is as severe as it has ever been. Yeesh. Can it get any worse for this squad?
This Week: 1-3 (3-8 overall)
Friday, November 15th: Brooklyn holds of Phoenix in overtime, 100-98
With Brooklyn trailing by eleven points at the end of the first quarter in Phoenix and Deron Williams in the locker room again with an ankle injury, it appeared the Nets were headed towards another bad road loss against a young, athletic team. But the Nets managed to get it together behind a strong effort in the second quarter and a monster 16-0 run to start the second half to take control heading into the fourth quarter. Brook Lopez was terrific, scoring 27 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and blocking three shots. Shaun Livingston filled in admirably in the wake of Deron’s absence, finishing with 18 points and six assists on the evening. It’s never easy for these Nets, though. The Suns rallied in the fourth to take a late lead before Joe Johnson hit a tough runner in traffic to force overtime. In the extra frame, both offenses struggled to make shots and neither team could get any real separation. With the game tied and under eight seconds left to play, Channing Frye misfired a three from the wing that led to a Brooklyn fast break. Joe Johnson, who to that point in the game was 5-18 from the floor, took the ball coast to coast and drilled a floater over the outstretched hands of the aforementioned Frye as time expired to give the Nets their first road victory of the season.
Saturday, November 16th: The Clippers prove too much for the undermanned Nets and get a 110-103 win
Where were all the usual faces for this Nets team in this one? Deron Williams? Nursing an ankle sprain. Same for Brook Lopez, who was limping badly the night before in Phoenix. Ditto for Garnett as well. Andrei Kirilenko? Back spasms (again). Paul Pierce rounded out the injury report for the Nets with a pulled quad. So how would Brooklyn fair with a starting unit of Shaun Livingston, Joe Johnson, Alan Anderson, Reggie Evans, and Andray Blatche against an NBA title contender on the road? Not bad, actually. Early on it looked as though the Nets could steal this one, and with an 10-0 run to start the second half, Brooklyn was up 12 and in control. It wasn’t to be, though. The Clippers came out of a timeout and ran off eighteen consecutive points to take the lead for good midway through the third quarter. Brooklyn hung around as best they could, but they couldn’t overcome injuries and Blake Griffin‘s 30 point, 12 rebound effort in this one. Bright spot? How about Mason Plumlee, who went lob city on lob city and finished with 19 points on a barrage of highlight-reel dunks to go with six rebounds.
Monday, November 18th: The Nets score seven (!) field goals in the entire second half in a 108-98 loss to Portland
It was nice seeing Kevin Garnett turn back the clock, even if only for a little bit. KG scored the first ten Brooklyn points and drilled his first six shots from the floor to spearhead a 40 point first quarter for a Nets team that sorely needed a shot of life. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long. Jason Kidd inexplicably pulled Garnett just seven minutes in despite his nuclear start, and Brooklyn preceded to go ice cold. The Nets managed just 58 points in their next three quarters combined and Garnett shot just 2-13 the rest of the way as the Portland Trailblazers were never threatened in the fourth quarter, coasting to a 108-98 road win. For the Blazers, who came into this game ranked third in the NBA in offensive efficiency and seventh defensively, this was business as usual. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 27 points and eight rebounds. Damian Lillard, yes, that Damian Lillard, the player Portland drafted with the pick the Nets sent them in the (gasp) Gerald Wallace trade, scored 19 points and added nine assists. For Brooklyn, Shaun Livingston continued to prove he just might be the best value free-agent signing of the off-season, scoring 23 points on 8-14 shooting.
Wednesday, November 20th: Brooklyn’s late comeback falls short against the Bobcats, who improve to .500 with a 95-91 victory
Kemba Walker erupted. The Nets had no answer for Charlotte’s young point guard, who finished with 31 points on 12-20 shooting, including 4-7 from three in the win. Again, it was a third quarter American Horror Story, with the Nets scoring just 20 points (while giving up 30) and entering the fourth quarter with a 13 point mountain to climb. They almost did it behind some spirited play from Andray Blatche, who scored Brooklyn’s last eight points and finished with 25 off the bench. Blatche’s last lay-in made this a two point game with seven seconds to play, but Kemba Walker calmly drilled two clutch free throws to put this game on ice. It was Deron Williams’ first game back from an ankle injury, and all he did was land on Kemba Walker’s foot in the second quarter, re-aggravating the injury and leaving the game for good. His status going forward? Uncertain.
LAST WEEK’S MVP: Mason Plumlee
Ok, so maybe he isn’t a feature player getting huge minutes on this team, but who on Brooklyn fits that particular bill and is playing consistently basketball on a nightly basis? Mason Plumlee has provided some solid minutes off the bench, something that was completely unexpected from a late first round pick on a roster that, on paper at least, looked extremely deep up front. But injuries and bad circumstances have given Mason a chance, and he is flourishing in a bigger role lately, providing a nice spark plug for Brooklyn off the bench. In his last five games, he is averaging over eight points and four rebounds in just 19 minutes per game and shooting 78 percent from the floor. The real question now: at 23 years old, on a rookie contract, and standing a legitimate seven feet tall, what type of value can Mason Plumlee bring back in a trade should this season go horribly south from here?
LAST WEEK’S LVP: Paul Pierce
It was a great start for Pierce in a Brooklyn uniform. The midrange jumpers, the late game buckets, the defense on LeBron James. It was all there for one of this generation’s truly underrated talents. But Pierce fell off a cliff this week, shooting a combined 5-23 in his last two contests after sitting out against the Clippers with a quad injury. Is the injury still lingering? Is Pierce struggling to get acclimated with his new teammates? Or is age creeping up on this all time great? The truth (pun intended) hurts, and in this case, it’s probably all of the above in some combination.
Is Jason Kidd the man for the job?
He appears dead silent in timeouts, giving way to his assistants to draw up plays and talk about schemes. His laid-back demeanor might appear Phil Jackson-esque of the Brooklyn Nets were winning, but they aren’t and worse, they’ve looked lethargic all season so far. This would be considered the start from hell for any coach, but for a guy with zero experience as even an assistant who was brought in to guide a championship contender, things likely can’t get any worse for Jason Kidd. The question is, can the ultimate “coach on the floor” actually coach? ESPN analyst David Thorpe called him the “worst coach in the NBA” last week and he got this glowing review from an anonymous scout: “He doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t make calls. John Welch does all the offense. Lawrence does all the defense. … I don’t know what Kidd does. I don’t think you can grade him and say he’s bad. You can give him an incomplete.” It may be too early for second guessing, but at this point with an older team in win-now mode, many can’t help but wonder if a more experienced coach might have been a better fit for this group.
It’s gotten to the point where if Brooklyn doesn’t play with a sense of urgency soon, they may be playing catch up for the rest of the season. Things don’t get any easier, either, as the Nets visit a talented Minnesota team led by Kevin Love on Friday night. After that, a Sunday, 2pm, home tip off against the Detroit Pistons, a team that boasts one of the NBA’s biggest front lines. Look for Brook Lopez to be back some time next week. Andrei Kirilenko’s return appears imminent as well. Can the Nets right this ship soon?