This is quickly turning into an unmitigated disaster. The Brooklyn Nets entered the season as New York’s new kids on the block. They were the NBA’s hippest franchise; ready to steal back pages and fans from the New York Knicks off the court and bully LeBron James and the big, bad, Miami Heat on it. This was a lineup filled with All-Stars, champions, gold medalists and future Hall of Famers ready to set aside egos for one common goal: an NBA championship. Now, almost 20 games into the season, all that optimism is gone.
“We’ve created this monster, and we’ve got to deal with it,” Kevin Garnett said solemnly to the media after yet another impossibly embarrassing loss. “It is what it is. You’re going to have the business of basketball come into play, I’m sure, and management is probably going to do what they’ve got to do, and that’s out of our hands. We control our destiny, who we are as individuals and players, so you’ve got to, again, for the fifth time I’m saying this, you have to look at yourself and try to fix this thing.”
A season that opened up so promising is now on the brink of becoming completely lost. Bickering amongst coaches has led to changes already, and Brooklyn can’t get away from the injury bug. Remember, the Nets do not have a draft pick this season and really don’t have any moveable assets for that matter. Again, it’s early. The Atlantic Division is still ripe for the taking and all of Brooklyn’s preseason goals are still very much attainable. But as of right now, a team many felt would be one of the NBA’s best has looked as bad as any in the league.
Last week’s record: 1-3 (5-13 overall)
Friday, Nov. 29: The Nets get eviscerated in Houston, falling 114-95 to the Rockets
It’s one thing to lose a game in the NBA on the road to a good team. That’s bound to happen, especially when you consider the injuries and the roster situation the Brooklyn Nets are dealing with. But to show up and not even compete? Unacceptable. This one was over well before halftime, as the Houston Rockets took a 33-17 lead at the end of the first quarter and went back to the locker room at the break with a 26-point advantage. Absolutely atrocious. Defensively, the Nets have been a mess all year, so it was no surprise that Houston managed to shoot 53 percent from the floor and an incredible 59 percent from deep. Chandler Parsons led the way for the Rockets with 21 points and shot a perfect six of six from downtown. Bright spot for Brooklyn? Mirza Teletovic posted a double double in 32 meaningless minutes. Also, this game marked the return of Brook Lopez, who scored 16 in limited minutes.
Saturday, Nov. 30: Brooklyn holds on for a 97-88 road victory over the depleted Memphis Grizzlies
Brooklyn needed a break and got one when they found out before game time that the Grizz would be without Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Amazingly, Memphis still was able to compete and make this interesting. Nevertheless, a win is a win and the Nets will take anything these days, even an ugly one against a banged a group like Memphis. Joe Johnson, the only Net to start in every game this season, led the way with a game high 26 points on 9-14 shooting, but this game was about Brook Lopez. Brooklyn made it a point to get their big man the ball down the stretch and he delivered, scoring 12 of his 20 in the fourth quarter to help the Nets put the pesky Grizzlies away.
Andray Blatche said it best after the game: ”We’ve got somebody at the end of the game who can close the game for us,” Blatche said in reference to Brooklyn’s star center. “That’s key. That’s been one of our downfalls, not finishing quarters. Now that he’s back, we can feed him and play off him.”
Brooklyn got bad news after the game when they found out Paul Pierce, who didn’t suit up in this one, suffered a hand injury the night before. More on this later.
Tuesday, Dec. 3: Is this rock bottom? Brooklyn is booed off the court in a 111-87 home loss to the Nuggets
General Manager Billy King had an important decision to make this offseason when debating who would become the next head coach of the Nets. Brian Shaw was on the shortlist with Jason Kidd. King, of course, would end up deciding on Jason and Shaw was left out in the cold once again before finally getting his opportunity in Denver. Now? Shaw looks every bit the part of a head coach in his first year: fully engaged, thoughtful and enthusiastic on the sidelines. His team has taken on that same demeanor and it was evident throughout this game as the Nuggets continued to play hard even with the game well at hand. As for Kidd? Well, let’s just call it growing pains. The Brooklyn Nets fell behind by 10 late in the second quarter and were destroyed once again coming out of the locker room, and with the game decided after three quarters, the Brooklyn boo birds were out in full force at Barclays Center. Considering this team’s effort, the reaction from fans was well deserved. Timofey Mosgov, yes, that Timofy Mosgov, scored 17 points and added 20 rebounds for Denver in outplaying Brook Lopez. This was the first game the Nets played without assistant coach Lawrence Frank on the sidelines. We’ll come back to this later as well. For Brooklyn, Joe Johnson scored 22 in a losing effort. Noticing a trend here?
LAST WEEK’S MVP: Joe Johnson
Yes, he’s overpaid and yes, he isn’t a first-tier superstar. But Joe Johnson has put on his hard hat in 2013-14 and gone to work. Of all of Brooklyn’s (former?) All-Stars, Johnson has been the only one healthy enough to consistently play at a high level to this point of the season and in every victory, he’s been integral, hitting big shot after big shot. Par for the course for Joe Cool, who was arguably the most clutch player in the NBA last season. It’s scary to think where the Nets would be without him at this point.
LAST WEEK’S LVP: Shaun Livingston
With Deron Williams out, the consensus among many was that Shaun Livingston would be able to keep this team afloat because he was surrounded by so much talent. That simply hasn’t been the case so far. Over his last four games, Livingston is shooting just 31 percent from the floor which is especially concerning when you consider the majority of his shots come from close range and he rarely attempts 3-pointers. How bad has it gotten for Livingston? He has now lost his rotation spot to Tyshawn Taylor, a second round pick last season who hasn’t proved much of anything in his short time as a pro.
THE KIDD/FRANK FIASCO
Jason Kidd knows Lawrence Frank well. He lobbied for Frank to be a part of this “dream team” of assistant coaches, a defensive coordinator who could help him make a seamless transition from player to coach. That made it all the more surprising when news broke that Kidd elected to essentially demote Frank, the NBA’s highest paid assistant, to a job writing game reports just before Tuesday’s blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets. Frank will no longer be on the Nets bench or travel with the team. So what the heck happened? Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported a serious rift between Kidd and his lead assistant dating back to the offseason and culminating in a blowup by Kidd after a blowout loss in Orlando, Kidd’s first game on the Nets bench. Call it a difference in philosophies. A lot will be made of this, and rightfully so. This team is a mess and a situation like this can only get magnified when a team in the limelight as the Nets are can’t figure out how to win. But bottom line: Frank is a defensive guy, and Brooklyn ranks 30th in the NBA with a defensive rating of 110.2. Expect Frank and the Nets to agree on a buyout a some point.
THE RISE OF MASON PLUMLEE
One would assume that Plumlee would have been drafted higher had teams known he was going to be “Shaq extra-lite” as a rookie.” That’s high praise from ESPN’s David Thorpe, who has Mason Plumlee ranked second in his latest edition of the NBA Rookie Rankings. Many expected Plumlee to be honing his craft in the D-League early on due to Brooklyn’s glut of talent up front, but injuries and confidence from Jason Kidd have earned him steady rotation minutes and he’s made the most of it so far, shooting an incredible 71 percent from the floor over his last ten games and leading all rookies in dunks. For all the problems Jason Kidd has had as a coach so far, player development has not been one of them. It remains to be seen if Plumlee, a late first round pick, can maintain his level of play for 82 games. Considering the fragility of the big men on this team, it may be a necessity.
PAUL PIERCE IS THE LATEST NET TO GO DOWN
It’s been a comedy of injuries thus far for a Brooklyn group that more closely resembles a M.A.S.H. unit than an NBA basketball team. The latest Net to go down is Paul Pierce, who suffered a broken hand on Nov. 29 against the Houston Rockets. He’ll be out four to six weeks. Brooklyn has gone to a committee to try and replace Pierce’s production at small forward, starting Alan Anderson and giving both Mirza Teletovic and Joe Johnson minutes at the three. Andrei Kirilenko coming back will help, but word is he’ll be on the shelf for another week. To date, Brooklyn’s starting lineup, a group that was supposed to take the NBA by storm, has played just 78 of a possible 874 minutes together.
Yes, the 5-13 Brooklyn Nets will take on the 3-13 New York Knicks. A conversation that before the season was about which team owned New York is now more about which team sucks less. The game is at Barclays Center, and Knicks head coach Mike Woodson‘s job may be on the line. For the Nets, it’s the first of several games against fairly weak competition, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can start some kind of winning streak and possibly turn their season around.