The Nets are in another one of their slumps, the third of the season (the other two both in December). Since winning four in a row around the All-Star Break they have lost four out of five and done so in spectacular fashion.
Four main issues have killed the Nets this year.
1) Turnovers. Nets throw the ball all over the court. D-Will is doing it a lot, but he’s the point guard who has the ball all the time anyway, so I can excuse it some (your NBA turnover leaders are Holiday, Rondo, Wall, Harden, Kobe, Westbrook, Durant and Irving; what does that say?). Especially lately he has been incredibly sloppy. With a chance to tie against the Grizzlies last week he threw the ball away with 10 seconds left. But as for the others, what excuse do Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace have? It is maddening to watch the games because those two in particular are notorious at dumb turnovers. Nets had 18 turnovers against the Grizzlies, 20 against the Mavericks, and 21 against the Bulls. In fact, the Nets have had 20+ turnovers six times this season. There’s no excuse for that.
2) Cold streaks. Brooklyn has had about three games this year where they played well for 48 minutes. Most often they will do well for about 38 and then completely shut down for the better part of a quarter (usually the third). Against the Rockets, a two-point deficit grew to 17. Nets led the Grizzlies by five two minutes left and the Grizzlies scored the games’ last nine points. The Mavericks outscored them by 15 in the third quarter. Nets were leading Chicago in the second quarter until the Bulls went on a 19-0 run into the third where the Nets remained scoreless for seven minutes.
This season the Nets have been outscored by ten or more in 30 different quarters (13 of which were the third). Think about that; in a 12-minute period they’ve completely gone in the tank 30 times. The reasons, besides Turnover City, are…
- Terrible shot selection. When things start going wrong, D-Will, JJ, Bogans, Watson, Stackhouse and Teletovic start chucking up three-pointers every possession instead of moving the ball around to get good high percentage shots.
- No offensive movement. One of the biggest gripes with Avery Johnson’s coaching was the isolation-heavy offense that led to a last-second contested heave as the shot clock expired. That has been creeping back. Consider this: the Nets are tied for 28th in the number of shots per game. The other two at the bottom are the Thunder and Heat. But those two teams are in the top three in field goal percentage and three-point shot percentage. So in reality, the Nets take the fewest shots and don’t get good looks when they do.
- They don’t use free throws to get out of droughts. One of the things I admire most about Dirk Nowitzki is how, even when he is ice-cold shooting, he still demands the ball, gets into the paint, draws fouls and hits the freebies. The Nets don’t do that. Gerald Wallace is shooting 63% from the free throw line, 17 points lower than a season ago. Reggie Evans is making exactly half of his (45% in Nets losses).
3) Powerless forwards. Kris Humphries got a new $24M/2 year contract last offseason and he’s now third on the depth chart at power forward. Hump is averaging just 5.5 points a game this season, including seven total in his last six games (62 minutes). Reggie Evans is a rebound machine but is a complete nonfactor on offense. Over the last three games (61 minutes) Evans has not registered a single point, shooting 0-8 (yet he has had six turnovers). For some reason GM Billy King opted not to go after an offensive power forward before the trade deadline (Josh Smith, Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap) and that decision (or indecision) will likely cost the Nets.
4) Coaching. When P.J. took over the Nets got on a nice winning streak. People asked him what he’s doing different and he always answered “Not much, we’re basically doing the same things.” Like earlier in the season, “the same things” isn’t good enough. Besides the litany of turnovers and poor shooting, Carlesimo has no clue what he’s doing with the lineup. His All-Star center Brook Lopez, the MVP of the Nets season, did not play at all in the fourth quarter three times recently. Defense, in general, has not been the problem, yet he sticks with Evans, Wallace and Bogans so much (instead of Lopez + Blatche, Mirza and Brooks) and the Nets then struggle to score. Like early in the season with Avery, the Nets are blowing great first halves by completely falling apart at halftime.
I’m sorry, I know everyone smirks when you blame the coach but there is no question that Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo are not getting the most out of the talent on the team, or using them effectively.
There is still time to turn things around, and especially in the weak Eastern Conference the Nets still have a good chance to advance in the playoffs. Overall, they have a good makeup: one of the league’s best backcourts (despite their struggles this season) in Deron and Joe, the highest-scoring center in the league (Lopez), lots of bigs (Blatche, Evans, Humphries) and a good bench (Teletovic, Brooks, Watson and Bogans). They are virtually in a three-way tie for the four seed and just four games behind the Pacers for #2. But as a team they are wildly inconsistent, especially on offense, and P.J. Carlesimo has got to figure out how to turn things around and get them back on track. He gets four days to think about it and fortunately that starts with a trip to Charlotte on Wednesday.