New Jersey Nets: Breaking Down Their Week 15 Performance
There's no getting around it. The New Jersey Nets had a disappointing week.
It's not so much the three losses that are so upsetting—the team is in the first year of its rebuilding program so they are expected—it's the fact that the team can play so well against a squad of Denver's caliber and then play so poorly against teams like Philadelphia, Detroit and Indiana.
Philly and Indiana are certainly teams on the rise, and the Nets can't be expected to beat everyone. Like I said, though, it's not the losses that hurt, it's the manner in which they come. The team lacks energy to start games, particularly when their opponents aren't upper-tier teams, and the trend is getting troubling.
The biggest problem for the Nets can be summed up in one phrase, however: They can't score.
They can put up points sometimes, but not consistently. You need no further evidence of this than to look at this quick recap of the week that was:
The Nets were 1-3 on the week, are 15-37 on the season, sit in fourth place of the Atlantic Division and are 12th overall in the Eastern Conference.
Outside of the Denver game, New Jersey averaged just 90 PPG. They played inspired ball against the Nuggets, probably because of the drama surrounding the now dead talks about Carmelo Anthony, but were unable to replicate that type of enthusiasm for the rest of the week.
Brook Lopez even admitted to being lethargic, saying he didn't know why that was the case for him. That's not exactly what you want to hear from your franchise cornerstone.
I'm going to skip the usual detailed statistical breakdown of the week and put more of a focus on player performances.
For the team as a whole it's simple: They play to the level of their competition and have difficulty sustaining efficient offense for multiple games at a time.
That's it. The Nets ran their offense to perfection against Denver and couldn't do a thing on that end for the rest of the week. It's basically a summary of what has gone on all year.
Now onto the individuals, and it's really the usual suspects in the categories of good and bad play.
Lopez, Devin Harris, Kris Humphries and Anthony Morrow all came through while the rest of the team struggled.
Lopez and Harris both have deficiencies in their games that need to be addressed. Lopez has been able to score and score often, but he's still not getting rebounds at nearly the rate he should (4.3 RPG last week).
Harris is distributing the ball like a master point guard (11.3 APG last week and a career-high 7.9 APG for the season), but his shot has disappeared. While he showed some flashes of coming to life in that department against Detroit and Philadelphia (57 percent from the field in those games combined), he couldn't find the basket against Denver and Indiana—hitting only 33 percent of his shots.
The two are the building blocks for this team and will need to improve their games in those areas before next season.
Humphries, of course, continued to play hard and ended up averaging 10.8 PPG and 8.5 RPG last week while hitting 59 percent of his shots.
Morrow was injected into the starting lineup—something that was a long time coming—and proceeded to average 15.3 PPG while shooting over 60 percent from the floor and 56 percent on his threes.
Avery Johnson stated that the coaching staff needs to look at the starting lineup and figure out what the problem is in terms of starting slow. He seemed to suggest that changes could be coming, and the most obvious potential role reversal has to do with Humphries and Derrick Favors.
Favors took away Humphries' starting job earlier this year with Johnson hoping it would allow him to develop.
It hasn't worked, and last week Favors scored just 4.3 PPG on 30 percent shooting and averaged only 6.3 RPG.
Favors certainly looks like he could end up being a good pro, but perhaps he's not ready yet. Maybe Johnson needs to move him back to a reserve role and allow Humphries to retake his starting gig. If energy has been the problem, Humphries would surely fix that.
The other major problem in the starting lineup is Travis Outlaw. The Nets, however, have no viable replacement for him, so for right now they're stuck with him in there.
Outlaw had a very good game against the Nuggets, scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting before once again falling apart for the rest of the week.
It's been heavily speculated that Outlaw could still have some value as a bench player, and the Nets will surely look to upgrade the small forward position in the offseason.
For what it's worth, Johnson has already said that rookie Damion James will take the floor as the starting small forward as soon as he is ready to return from his broken foot. From all indications that will happen as soon as the All-Star break ends, so maybe the unofficial second half of the season can be more successful for the Nets.
Sasha Vujacic has fallen off completely, hitting only 33 percent of his shots last week. He's a free agent at the end of the year, and, if he continues this type of play, the Nets are sure to let him walk.
The team is also severely missing Jordan Farmar.
Farmar hurt his back at an unspecified time and has missed the last five games. It's unknown when he'll be back, which really hurts this team. Rookie Ben Uzoh has been serviceable as Farmar's replacement, but the second unit hasn't been nearly as effective without the ex-Laker running the show.
How will the Nets fare next week?
While there have been some bright spots this year, the season as a whole has been a mighty struggle. This is what happens when a team spends three years clearing out cap room for a player (LeBron James) who had no intention of playing for them in the first place.
When we look at teams like Indiana and Philadelphia, they appear to be in similar circumstances, but that's not entirely true.
Although those teams haven't been good in some time, they've been rebuilding all those years and didn't pin all their hopes on one player coming to the team.
The players on those teams have been together for at least a few years and the patience is now paying off.
Nets fans can only hope that is what the future has in store for them.
It doesn't get much easier for New Jersey next week. They host New Orleans (32-20) and New York (26-24) while visiting Charlotte (21-29) in between.
The Bobcats have already beaten the Nets twice this year and they also lost in their respective meetings with the Hornets and Knicks.
If they can get to 1-2 on the week, fans should be happy.
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