Brooklyn Nets fans, the horrid defense of assistant coach Lawrence Frank is no longer here to haunt your nightmares. Unfortunately, the horrid defense of head coach Jason Kidd (or whichever assistant is in charge now) won't make your dreams any more pleasant.
Before Tuesday night's game at the Barclays Center, Frank was reassigned and taken off the Nets bench, a move that was largely predicated on problems with Franks' defensive input, according to Sean Highkin of USA Today.
Kidd cited philosophical differences with Frank as reason for the change. A person with knowledge of the move told USA TODAY Sports that Kidd and Frank disagreed on defensive strategy, and Kidd was upset that players were going to Frank first with questions about defense.
Well, it's a good thing Kidd enjoys answering questions about the Nets defense, because there are questions aplenty following Tuesday's 111-87 dismantling at the hands of the Denver Nuggets.
While the Nuggets offense is not to be trifled with—they're seventh in the NBA in offensive efficiency—the Nets should have had at least a chance to contain them outside the friendly confines of the Mile High City. The Nuggets score 103.1 points on the road, a far cry from their average of 106.8 points per game at home.
Instead, the game turned into a high-octane Denver Dunk-a-thon—not exactly the ideal debut for Kidd's defensive vision.
A Slowed-Down Beating
When trying to contain the Nuggets, the obvious first step is to control their potent fast break. Denver came into the game ranked fourth in the league in both pace and points per game, according to Basketball-Reference.com. For the bigger, slower Nets, the strategy was a simple one: slow down the Nuggets, win the game.
Well, the Nets accomplished their first goal; they slowed down the speedy Nuggets. The game was played at a pace well below what Denver is used to playing. Believe it or not, the Nets actually outscored Denver on the fast break, 16-15.
And yet, they not only gave up 111 points, they allowed more alley-oops than an And-1 highlight video. The Nets' defensive failings came almost entirely in the half court, particularly in the paint and on the glass.
|DEN Pace||BRK Pace||BRK D-Rtg||DEN O-Rtg|
The Nets were supposed to have a size advantage in this game against the Nuggets' undersized frontcourt. And they did have an advantage...until the Nuggets subbed in reserve centeTimofey Mozgov, who proceeded to destroy the Nets on both the offensive and defensive glass to the tune of a career-high 20 rebounds.
Now, Mozgov is no scrub, but the idea that a guy can just come off the bench and grab 20 boards is an indictment not of the coaches but of the players up front. After the game, veteran power forward Kevin Garnett seemed at a loss for answers.
Per Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:
Garnett: "I think at this point we're worried about trying to fix this."— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) December 4, 2013
No Miracle Worker
Lawrence Frank was a head coach for parts of nine seasons, first with the Nets and then with the Detroit Pistons. His first three Nets teams—featuring a prime Jason Kidd at the point—all finished in the top 10 in defensive efficiency, but his last six teams placed an average 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency, according to Basketball-Reference.com. The man is a decent coach, but he's not Tom Thibodeau.
Still, it was Frank and not head coach Jason Kidd who did the majority of the Nets' defensive diagrams, according to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck.
A veteran scout, interviewed earlier in the day and speaking on the condition of anonymity, called Kidd’s bench comportment “terrible,” observing that the play-calling has fallen mostly to his top assistants, Lawrence Frank and John Welch.
“He doesn’t do anything,” said the scout, who has watched the Nets several times. “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.”
With Kidd likely to take a lot more flak in the wake of Frank's departure, perhaps the best Nets fans can hope for at the minute is that Kidd can take the reins of his team and steer the Nets defense in a better direction.
But there are disturbing signs that point to the Nets being beyond the help of any coach. Age and injuries have caught up to this roster. Garnett is playing every bit of his 37 years, and Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Jason Terry and Kirilenko have all missed time with various ailments. Even when those players were healthy, the Nets still didn't play at a high level.
With each passing loss, it seems as this roster might be nowhere near the contender many thought it would be before the season, whether the coach is Jason Kidd or Phil Jackson or the ghost of Red Auerbach.