Brooklyn Nets: Week Three Stars and Slackers
This was a very rough week for the Brooklyn Nets. A blowout loss to the Clippers is one thing. They are arguably the best team in the NBA at the moment. A blowout loss to the Knicks is a completely different story.
After their best week in over a year, the Brooklyn Nets came crashing back down to earth. We received a brutal reminder of who the Brooklyn Nets are. They are a scrappy team that is void of great talent. Their heart and coaching have made up for many deficiencies.
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However, after giving hopes of potentially overachieving in 2016-17, a devastating loss to the Knicks brought the Nets nation back to reality. On paper, the Knicks have more recognizable names. Derrick Rose was acquired in a huge offseason transaction. Joakim Noah was expected to provide a defensive mindset and intensity that the Knicks lacked. And Kristaps Porzingis was supposed to take a leap in his second year.
Instead, Rose has been wildly inconsistent. Noah is on his way to the bench. And Porzingis has not been able to develop with a ball dominant Rose, and Carmelo Anthony in the fold. Despite the lack of cohesion in the Garden, they still destroyed the Nets. Despite the disappointment, there are a few players that have given us a small silver lining.
Perhaps I was a bit hard on Brooklyn to open this week’s Stars and Slackers column. With Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead out, the Nets did not have another legitimate point guard on the roster. In comes Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick earns star honors simply for demonstrating a versatility that many of us did not believe he had. As a player most labeled as instant offense and nothing more, Kilpatrick moved into the starting point guard role for the last four games. While he did not set the court on fire, this is a pleasant surprise for Nets fans. While his role as point guard was by necessity rather than by design, Kilpatrick held down the fort in an unconventional role.
Most expected Kilpatrick to make several appearances on the stars list. Few expected that he would make it here as a point guard. Hopefully, Kilpatrick can use this experience in a new position to help further his development. If he can do so, Kilpatrick will most certainly earn a consistent spot in the starting lineup despite who is healthy.
Look who finally decided to show up! While Hollis-Jefferson only had one strong game out of four, he finally gave fans a taste of what we have been waiting for. In the only victory of the week, Hollis-Jefferson dropped a “grown man’s double-double” with 20 points and 13 rebounds. He also hit 10 of 11 free throws which shows improvement.
We cannot blind ourselves to the otherwise poor play that Hollis-Jefferson had throughout the week. However, considering the fact that expectations for the Brooklyn squad are low, I will take one monster game from the second year player. Hopefully, Hollis-Jefferson can develop consistency over the course of the year. The hope is that he can grow into an every game contributor going into the all-important third year of his career. For now, we will take the 20 and 13 game and hang it up on our fridge as a sign of things to come. Maybe.
It is not lost on me that the Nets were down two key players throughout the week. However, when a team goes 1-3 in a week, the coach receives the blame. Furthermore, the benching of Brook Lopez is quite aggravating. While it is sensible to keep the big man healthy until a deal can be made, the amount of minutes logged by Lopez does not warrant rest.
In the blowout loss to the Knicks, Lopez logged a mere 24 minutes. The following game he posted only 28 minutes. With 52 minutes played over two games, Atkinson could have certainly used Lopez in the matchup against the Clippers. With Lin and Whitehead sidelined, the Nets needed all the help they could get.
Perhaps Atkinson felt that regardless of Lopez’s presence there was no scenario where the Nets would have defeated the Clippers. That might be right. However, if Lopez is going to get rest every three games, his usage rate and minutes needs to be higher when he is suited up.
I do not have a problem with Yogi Ferrell. He is a nice young player. However, after releasing Greivis Vasquez, it is obvious that Marks did not have a solid backup plan at point guard. While Kilpatrick did his best to step in, the Nets were left without a legitimate floor general.
We did not expect Marks to land a superstar point guard. We did, however, expect Marks to land a legitimate veteran backup. Prior to the season, Vasquez was projected to assume this role. With Lin and Whitehead sidelined, Marks needs to start making some phone calls. In today’s NBA, no position is more important than point guard. The point guard position has never been more stacked. In fact, most teams not only have a borderline all-star starter, they also have a legitimate backup. If the Nets do not address this need, they will be watching the Boston Celtics select another superstar prospect with Brooklyn’s pick. Fortunately, this gap has been identified. Now it is time for Marks to fix it.