Posts Tagged ‘Joe Johnson’

Nets Smaller Starters Playing Elite D

BROOKLYN – Typically, teams play faster and are better offensively and worse defensively when they play small. The Brooklyn Nets are different.

Brook Lopez broke his foot and was lost for the season on Dec. 20. And it was on Jan. 2 when the Nets went to a starting frontline of Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on a permanent basis. Since then, the Nets have played slower, and have gone from the third worst defensive team in the league to top 10 on that end of the floor.

Nets record, pace and efficiency

Timeframe W L Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Through Dec. 31 10 21 94.6 25 101.9 18 106.7 28 -4.8 26
Since Jan. 1 12 4 92.6 28 105.9 13 101.8 9 +4.2 9
Season 22 25 93.9 26 103.2 17 105.0 20 -1.8 19

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The Nets’ original starting lineup, with Garnett at the four and Lopez at the five, was OK defensively, allowing 101.4 points per 100 possessions. Of 71 lineups that played at least 75 minutes through Dec. 31st, it ranked 34th in DefRtg.

Not great, but not terrible either. And Brooklyn was better defensively, allowing just 100.3 points per 100 possessions, in the other 167 minutes that Garnett and Lopez were on the floor together. So playing big wasn’t necessarily a big problem.

But that’s not a lot of playing time. The Nets’ issues started with the lack of minutes (just 90 over 10 games before Lopez broke his foot) that their $82 million starting lineup played together. It was their other combinations that were truly awful defensively.

Nets lineups through Dec. 31

Lineup(s) MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett, Lopez 90 96.9 96.5 101.4 -4.9 -14
Other lineups 1,413 94.5 102.2 107.0 -4.8 -160

And here’s the thing. Their bench units are still pretty bad defensively. But since Jan. 1, their starters, with either Deron Williams or Alan Anderson as the third guard, have been ridiculously good on that end of the floor.

Nets lineups since Jan. 1

Lineup(s) MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Livingston, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett + Anderson or Williams 167 88.6 102.7 89.4 +13.3 +39
Other lineups 610 93.8 106.8 105.0 +1.8 +23

Allowing less than 90 points per 100 possessions is elite defense. The Pacers have the best defense of the last 37 years, and they’ve allowed 93.9.

There’s some logic to improved D. Replacing Lopez with an extra guard has allowed the Nets to be more aggressive in defending pick-and-rolls, switch without worrying about mismatches, rotate and recover quicker, and better challenge 3-point shooters.

It helps that their top four guards are 6-foot-3, 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-7. Length goes a long way.

Through Dec. 31, the Nets ranked 30th in 3-point defense, allowing their opponents to shoot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. In 2014, they’ve ranked 15th (35.7 percent). And opponents have shot just 31 percent from 3-point range against the two starting groups.

Those two groups have also forced 19.4 turnovers per 100 possessions, a rate that would lead the league. In fact, the Nets do lead the league by forcing 18.6 since Jan. 1. Livingston, Williams, Pierce and Andray Blatche have all averaged more than a steal per game since Jan. 1.

In regard to the how good the Nets’ starters are defensively, we’re looking at just 167 minutes of playing time. But 113 of those 167 have come against above-average offensive teams (and we’re not including the 14 minutes they played against the depleted Spurs on Thursday), so it’s not like the numbers are schedule-aided. They’ve shut down good teams.

And while the starters have played great D, the bench has held its own offensively. The Nets have scored a ridiculous 127.3 points per 100 possessions in 102 minutes with Blatche, Mirza Teletovic and Andrei Kirilenko on the floor together.

Kirilenko’s health has been critical. His passing and off-ball cutting are two elements the Nets were desperately missing for most of the first two months of the season. Even on Thursday, the Nets were going to their typical mismatches (Johnson and Livingston in the post) early, but were rather stagnant offensively until Kirilenko entered the game.

Shooting is so important in this league, but while Kirilenko has shot just 1-for-13 from outside the paint this season, he has the highest on-court OffRtg of anybody in the rotation.

It makes you realize that, even though Lopez is done for the season, the Nets are still one of the deepest teams in the league, so deep that Jason Terry got a DNP on Thursday.

The talent was always there. The healthy bodies were not. Ironically, Lopez’s injury has helped the Nets find an identity that works and start to live up to their lofty expectations.

All-Star Saturday Gets A Makeover

Portland's Damian Lillard will have a busy weekend in New Orleans. (Cameron Browne/NBAE)

Portland’s Damian Lillard will have a busy weekend in New Orleans. (Cameron Browne/NBAE)

There will still be the rim-rattling, mind-bending slam dunks, the barrage of breathtaking 3-pointers and the dazzling array of skills on display when the greatest talent in basketball gathers.

But State Farm All-Star Saturday Night will undergo an extreme makeover this year in New Orleans with rule changes for all four of the events and an overall team competition between the Eastern and Western conferences — led by captains Paul George and Stephen Curry – with $500,000 in charitable contributions on the line.

Perhaps the most familiar name by the end of the extravaganza will be guard Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, who will be busier than a trumpet player in a French Quarter brass band. He’s taking part in three of Saturday’s four events — including stints as a dunker, a long-distance shooter and a playmaker in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. The 2013 Rookie of the Year already has a busy dance card; he’s scheduled to play in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night and in the 63rd NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.

The most dramatic change Saturday is coming in the night’s marquee event, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. The competition will feature six dunkers, three from each conference, in a free-wheeling, two-round showdown to determine the best conference. For the first time in the event’s history, no individual dunker will be crowned. Instead, the title will go to the best conference. Complete rules.

Dunking for the Eastern Conference will be the team captain George of the Pacers, 2013 champion Terrence Ross of the Raptors and John Wall of the Wizards.  The Western Conference dunkers will be Lillard, Harrison Barnes of the Warriors and Ben McLemore of the Sacramento Kings.

The 6-foot-3 Lillard will be battling in the land of the giants as the shortest participant in the slam dunk contest.

Highlights: George | Ross | Wall | Lillard | Barnes | McLemore

Before he puts on his dunking shoes, Lillard will be showing off his marksmanship as part of the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.  The other participants are Kyrie Irving of the Cavaliers, Bradley Beal of the Wizards, Joe Johnson of the Nets and Arron Afflalo of the Magic for the East.  Curry of the Warriors, Marco Belinelli of the Spurs and Kevin Love of the Timberwolves will join Lillard shooting for the West.

The major rule change in the contest is that players will have an entire rack of “money balls,” which count double, that can be placed in any of the five shooting positions around the court. Complete rules.

The Taco Bells Skills challenge has been turned into a relay race this year with each conference fielding two teams consisting of two players each.  Each team will run the course, competing in a relay format for a single overall time. Complete rules.

The ubiquitous Lillard will team with Trey Burke of the Jazz and Reggie Jackson of the Thunder will team with Goran Dragic of the Suns to make up the Western Conference lineup.  The East teams will be Michael Carter-Williams of the Sixers with Victor Oladipo of the Magic and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors with rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks.

The Sears Shooting Stars will once again team a current NBA player with a WNBA star and an NBA legend in a time competition that will require four shots made from different spots on the court.

Tim Hardaway Jr. of the Knicks and Chris Bosh of the Heat will head up the East teams, while Kevin Durant of the Thunder and Curry will lead the West. Complete rules.

Each conference will be competing for charity. A total of $500,000 will be donated at the end of the night. For each competition, $100,000 will go to the winning conference’s charities, with $25,000 going to the charities of the runner-up.

State Farm All-Star Saturday night will be televised exclusively on TNT on Feb. 15 (8 p.m. ET).

[UPDATE: TNT will hold a fan vote during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest to determine the Sprite Dunker of the Night. The winner of that vote will be considered the individual champion for the competition.]


Video: 2014 All-Star Saturday Night Participants

Duncan Out, Newbies In As Reserves

 

Taking a few liberties with the immortal words of the late Pete Seeger, who died this week:

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to become an All-Star, a time to fade away

When Tim Duncan played in his first NBA All-Star Game back in 1998, John Wall and Damian Lillard were 7 years old.  DeMar DeRozan was eight.  Paul Millsap was 13.

NBA All-Star 2014Now, as the Spurs veteran was left off the All-Star team for only the third time in his career, the quartet of newcomers will be making their All-Star debuts a in New Orleans. If it’s the end of the All-Star line for the 37-year-old Duncan, his 14 appearances will leave him in fifth place behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19), Kobe Bryant (16), Shaquille O’Neal (15) and Kevin Garnett (15).

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew

Chris Bosh once again joined teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the East team, making the defending NBA champion Heat the only team with three players on the All-Star rosters. A poll of the league’s head coaches added seven reserves, announced Thursday night on TNT, to each team.

Roy Hibbert of the league-leading Pacers joined teammate Paul George.  DeRozan, Millsap and Wall were added along with Joe Johnson of the Nets and Joakim Noah of the Bulls.

In the Western Conference, the Clippers, Trail Blazers and Rockets had multiple All-Stars selected.  With Blake Griffin voted in as a starter by the fans, the coaches added the Clippers’ Chris Paul for one tandem. Lillard joins Portland teammate LaMarcus Aldridge to make another. And Houston’s one-two punch of Dwight Howard and James Harden made it as reserves.  Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks and Tony Parker of the Spurs complete the West roster.

The 63rd NBA All-Star Game will be televised on TNT from New Orleans Arena on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. The All-Star Game, also broadcast live on ESPN Radio, will reach fans in 215 countries and territories in more than 40 languages.

Eastern Conference

DeMar DeRozan (Ron Turenne/NBAE)

DeMar DeRozan (Ron Turenne/NBAE)

Chris Bosh, Heat — As the condition of Wade’s knees makes the “three-peat” chances seem wobbly, the unheralded and under-appreciated Bosh is recognized by the coaches for sacrificing individual glory for wins. | Highlights

DeMar DeRozan, Raptors — The 24-year-old has made steady progress over five pro seasons to transform himself from flamboyant dunker to all-around player and a real team leader as the Raptors become a legitimate playoff contender in the East. | Highlights

Roy Hibbert, Pacers — In a gimmick-less world without the plain silly frontcourt-backcourt voting, there’d be a place for a traditional low-post center in the starting lineup. Hibbert, the beast of the East and Pacers’ anchor, would be it. | Highlights

Joe Johnson, Nets — As teammate Kevin Garnett says, “Joe Jesus” might not be there when you call on him, but he’s there when you need him.  The seven-time All-Star has hit big, big shots as part of the Nets’ turnaround since New Year’s Day. | Highlights

Paul Millsap, Hawks — After all those years toiling in the obscurity of Utah, Millsap has proven to be the best free-agent purchase of the summer of 2013 and has kept the surprising Hawks in the thick of the playoff race after the loss of Al Horford. | Highlights

Joakim Noah, Bulls — His relentless, frantic, never-quit-on-a-loose-ball attitude and effect on his Bulls’ teammates can hardly be defined by numbers.  But they’re not shabby either — 11.7 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.4 blocks per game. | Highlights

John Wall, Wizards — His team is up and down, in and out, always seems ready to disappoint. But he’s been the best point guard in the Eastern Conference this season and the best reason to watch the Wizards play. | Highlights

The lowdown — Based on his play over the last month, it would seem that Kyle Lowry has reason to cry injustice the loudest in an Eastern Conference that has not exactly been a Milky Way of stars.  The guess is the coaches looked at the makeup of the overall roster and decided that it was hard to justify the Raptors getting a second star when the league leading Pacers could manage only two themselves. Which brings up another snub — Lance Stephenson.  The former hot-and-cold wing man has done a great deal to make himself a more consistent player on a nightly basis. It’s quite possible that in late May or early June his omission could look extra foolish if he makes the difference in taking down the Heat. You have to figure that a simple look at the standings, where the Pistons are playing just .400 ball, worked against Andre Drummond.  And no, Anderson Varejao and Luol Deng of the hapless Cavs, once the fans voted Kyrie Irving in as a starter, you didn’t stand a chance, either.

Western Conference

LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers — Making a third straight All-Star team wasn’t enough.  Now Aldridge has pushed himself into the MVP conversation with an even higher level of play and lifted the Blazers into contention for No. 1 seed in the West. | Highlights

James Harden, Rockets — His numbers are slightly down with the addition of Howard into the mix, but The Beard is still virtually unstoppable going to the basket and as good a late-game closer as there is in the game. | Highlights

Dwight Howard, Rockets — Another victim of the “no center” designation, he’s healthy, happy and oh-so-glad he’s no longer in L.A.  Despite critiques by Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal, Howard is the NBA’s top big man. | Highlights

Dik Nowitzki (David Liam Kyle/NBAE)

Dik Nowitzki (David Liam Kyle/NBAE)

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers — How do you pack talent and confidence — cockiness? — so big into such a little package?  The 2013 Rookie of the Year will play in his first All-Star Game. Don’t think for a moment he’ll be shy. | Highlights

Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks — After knee problems last season ended his 11-year run, the 35-year-old has returned to his old form and to make it an even dozen All-Star appearances. He looks like he could motor on like a vintage Mercedes forever. | Highlights

Tony Parker, Spurs — Teammates around him keep dropping like flies — Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili — and the league’s most under-appreciated point guard shoulders the burden and keeps pushing the Spurs forward. | Highlights

Chris Paul, Clippers — CP3 says he might be recovered from a separated shoulder in time to play in the All-Star Game and defend his MVP award from last year in Houston, then give his Clippers momentum down the stretch into the playoffs. | Highlights

The lowdown: The last time the All-Star Game was played in New Orleans in 2008, the Hornets had a pair of players in the West lineup with Paul and David West.  Of course, that team was on its way to 56 wins and the No. 2 seed.  Six years later, New Orleans’ Pelicans are struggling. That’s likely the main reason that hometown star Anthony Davis wasn’t rewarded by the coaches.  In an era when centers don’t get much respect, that probably cost DeMarcus Cousins a spot, too.  You could also make a good case for Warriors forward David Lee and the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan. However, it says here that the biggest snub went to Goran Dragic, who has been the leader of the offense and the steadying force for the Suns, who are nothing less than the surprise of the league.  But it’s tough to be a guard in the West.  Just ask Mike Conley and Monta Ellis.  And just think of how much tougher the backcourt competition would have been if Russell Westbrook were healthy.

All-Star Reserves Named Tonight On TNT


VIDEO: The Beat crew picks the East and West reserves

We all know that coaches are never swayed by sentimentality. What they do, by its very nature, is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of business.

NBA All-Star 2014Good thing, then, that a couple of golden oldies named Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki are still producing like young pups.

The fate of the 37-year-old Duncan and 35-year-old Nowitzki are two of the biggest questions as the reserves for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game are announced tonight (7 ET) on TNT.

The results of the voting by the league’s 30 coaches will be revealed and discussed by Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith on a one-hour NBA Tip-Off special preceding a doubleheader that will have the Cavaliers at New York and the Clippers at Golden State.

Duncan, making a bid for a 15th All-Star Game,  is averaging 14.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots in leading the Spurs to the second-best record in the West. Nowitzki had a string of 11 All-Star appearances snapped a year ago due to lingering knee problems, but has the Mavericks back in the playoff hunt by averaging 21.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

After no centers were voted into the starting lineup of either team by the fan balloting, it is expected that Dwight Howard of the Rockets and Roy Hibbert of the Pacers will be added by the coaches.

In the Eastern Conference, after Hibbert of the Pacers, Chris Bosh of the Heat, Joakim Noah of the Bulls, Paul Millsap of the Hawks and John Wall of the Wizards, the questions swirl around the two wild card slots. DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Lance Stephenson, Arron Afflalo and Joe Johnson are top candidates.

Along with the fates of Duncan and Nowitzki, the Western coaches will pick from a frontcourt group that includes LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee, Serge Ibaka and DeMarcus Cousins. Do-it-all small forward Nicolas Batum may be in the discussion, too. The backcourt is even more crowded. Still-injured guard Chris Paul could make it back in time for All-Star. But Kobe Bryant, elected a starter, is expected to miss the game. So coaches (and newly minted commissioner Adam Silver, who will name replacements for starters who can’t play) will pick from among Paul, James HardenDamian Lillard, Tony Parker, Klay Thompson, Mike Conley, Goran Dragic and maybe even Monta Ellis. 

The 63rd NBA All-Star Game will be exclusively televised on TNT from New Orleans Arena on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. The All-Star Game, also aired live on ESPN Radio, will reach fans in 215 countries and territories and be broadcast in more than 40 languages.

East Reserves: Hard To Spread Around

VIDEO: Debating the East All-Star reserves

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans have been named. In the Eastern Conference, you voted in Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Paul George, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Nice work, though there are probably a couple of guards more deserving than Irving.

Over the next few days, East coaches will vote for the reserves, which will be announced next Thursday on TNT. Given the relative futility of most teams outside of Indiana and Miami, it’s difficult to name anybody that’s obviously an All-Star.

Really, if we were putting together a team of 12 guys to represent the strength of the East this season, we’d have six Pacers, five Heat, and an empty roster spot to represent the Raptors’ improvement after trading Rudy Gay.

The conference’s coaches will probably let some other guys in, though. They’re asked to vote for two backcourt players, three frontcourt players, and two wildcards. They can’t vote for their own guys.

For Jeff Caplan‘s look at the Western Conference bench, click here.

Here are my picks in the East …

THE BACKCOURT

DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have carried the Toronto offense since the Gay trade. Lance Stephenson is the second-leading scorer and leading assist man for the best team in the league, while John Wall leads the conference in assists per contest. Arron Afflalo has put up strong numbers for a really bad team.

Ultimately, Lowry and Wall have been the two best point guards in the East, and have their teams in the top six in the standings.

My picks: Lowry and Wall.

THE FRONTCOURT

As the anchor of the best defense of the last 37 years, Roy Hibbert is the most obvious reserve pick in the East. Teammate David West, as another key cog for the league’s best team who ranks ninth (among players who have logged at least 1,000 minutes) in the East in PIE, also has a case.

Paul Millsap has been a beast for the team that currently ranks third in the conference, while Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Anderson Varejao all deserve consideration for their two-way contributions. Al Jefferson has carried the Charlotte offense and, oh yeah, there’s the Heat’s second most important player, Chris Bosh.

My picks: Bosh, Hibbert and Millsap.

THE WILD CARDS

In addition to the names listed above, Andre Drummond, Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young all belong in the conversation, though if any of them were in the Western Conference, they could have booked their Feb. 14 trip to the Bahamas long ago.

Though it may compromise the aesthetics of the game, the best choices are the role-playing bigs. Noah is the best player on the fifth-best team in the conference and the Cavs have been much better with Varejao on the floor than they’ve been with him on the bench.

My picks: Noah and Varejao

Blogtable: In The End, Knicks Or Nets?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Team due to surge, slip | Ultimate pro | Knicks or Nets?


Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks (Kent Smith/NBAE)

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks (Kent Smith/NBAE)

If you had to pick just one to make the postseason: Knicks or Nets?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThe Knicks. Tyson Chandler is working his way back. Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez is done. Big difference. Mike Woodson vs. Jason Kidd. Big difference, too. Carmelo Anthony has a job market to firm up for himself heading into summer. And the Nets’ grand experiment already seems like a failure that a low seed won’t erase, undercutting more of the Brooklyn vets’ motivation.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: In a world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. So count on Carmelo the Cyclops to raise the Knicks from the depths of the garbage heap that is Eastern Conference and any day now the New York media will be talking about their chances of winning The Finals.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comGot to say the Knicks, but mostly because of what the Nets are lacking — as in their starting center and point guard. Obviously Brook Lopez is done for the season and Deron Williams‘ cranky ankles are again causing issues. This is very worrisome. The Knicks have ‘Melo and are getting bodies back. They’re turning it around now and if Tyson Chandler can ever stay on the floor with any consistency, they can really start to climb the standings in the woeful East.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comKnicks. I would have taken the Nets at full strength, but Brook Lopez is that much of a difference maker while picking the least of the worst. Tyson Chandler is back from illness, Carmelo Anthony will always score, the Knicks will hit some threes and Manhattan will finish ahead of Brooklyn.

Jason Terry, Joe Johnson (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE )

Jason Terry, Joe Johnson (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE )

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: These two teams have basically been within a game or two of each other all season. New York has a slightly easier schedule going forward, but Brooklyn has been the better defensive team as both have made a little run here in January. I’ll give the edge to the Nets because of the defense, because they should have a healthy Deron Williams coming back to give a boost to the offense, and because they’re a little deeper (with Andrei Kirilenko back in action). But really, it’s a toss-up.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI hope they both make it, because I think the playoffs will be that much more compelling with both New York teams in the Eastern Conference mix. But if had to pick just one, the Knicks strike me as the team that would make things most interesting in a postseason scenario, regardless of the matchups. There is such a ridiculously high unpredictability factor with the Knicks (J.R. Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, etc.) that I really don’t want to experience the first round of the playoffs without Mike Woodson’s motley crew involved. Of course, it will help if they are reasonably healthy come April (Tyson Chandler in particular). We know the Nets aren’t going to get Brook Lopez back this season and the idea of watching them stretch Kevin Garnett to his limits in a first-round matchup against either the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat. Granted, we might end up seeing all four of these teams square off in some form or fashion, provided both the Knicks and Nets get off the canvass in time to battle for those final two spots in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: As a New York City resident, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the Knicks are the New York-area team that will make the postseason. I say this for a few reasons, one of them being that Mike Woodson always seems to figure out a way to salvage a season or series. Also, with the Nets losing Brook Lopez for the season, their best low-post scoring threat is now AWOL, and that affects them more than I think some fans realize. But mostly, I think the Knicks will make the playoffs because of J.R. Smith. Oh, sure, he’s benched right now and out of the rotation, but something will click and he will figure out his role and return to the form he displayed last season, and will in turn help carry the Knicks to the posteason. Or something like that.

Aldo Aviñante, NBA Philippines: Brooklyn. They are too talented not to make a run at some point when they all lock-in and play like they are supposed to — and that’s even with the injury to Brook Lopez. New York is certainly up to par in terms of talent, but there are too many off-court distractions. Combine that with a lack of defensive-minded players and maturity issues from their players that can start a downward spiral for the team.

Simon Legg, NBA AustraliaProbably the Knicks. They seem to have improved their defense in 2014 and Melo is starting to look better as well. He’s become more of an active passer, which has led to others getting involved, particularly Iman Shumpert — who has been putting up some nice numbers. Back to their defense. In their last seven games their defensive rating has improved from 105.8 to 99.9, good enough for eighth in the league in that seven-game stretch. If they continue to defend this well, they have a better chance than the Nets.

 Jacopo Gerna, NBA Italia: I’m pretty sure both of New York’s teams will get to the playoffs. But if I have to pick just one, I’ll go with the Nets. Brook Lopez’s injury was a big blow. When he went down, they lost their best player. On the other hand, if D-Will (not the best version of D-Will ever, but a solid PG for sure) and Paul Pierce are going to stay healthy, the Eastern Conference level will allow Jason Kidd to reach his first playoffs as a coach.

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 17


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Dec. 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Woodson takes blame for Knicks’ loss | Oden’s status remains a mystery | Brown impressed with Trail Blazers | Johnson is Nets’ unsung ironman

No. 1: Woodson botches final seconds, shoulders burden for loss – A public vote of confidence from Carmelo Anthony won’t make things any easier on Knicks coach Mike Woodson today. As if things could get any crazier for Woodson and his beaten down team, Monday night’s Manhattan Meltdown against the Wizards left Woodson on the hook for a late-game mistake. ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley delivers the goods on Melo defending his coach after the curious late-game tailspin that might ultimately cost Woodson his job:

Some will be calling for Mike Woodson’s job in the wake of the New York Knicks’ disastrous one-point loss to the Washington Wizards on Monday.

But Knicks star Carmelo Anthony believes his coach is safe.

“As far as I’m concerned, he’s secure right now. I haven’t heard anything,” Anthony said Monday night after initially declining to answer a question about Woodson’s status. “There’s nothing to discuss. He’s our coach, and we’re rolling with him.”

Woodson’s job security has come into question in recent weeks with the Knicks (7-17) playing well below expectations. Woodson and the Knicks’ late-game errors Monday will only put more heat on the coach.

New York had a one-point lead against the Wizards with 24 seconds to play and a foul to give.

Instead of using the foul, the Knicks allowed Bradley Beal to drive for an uncontested layup with 6.9 seconds to play.

Then, Woodson and his players did not call timeout to set up a final play. Instead, Anthony dribbled the ball across half court and took a 25-foot off-balance shot that fell short as time expired. The Knicks had three timeouts to use.

“I probably should have taken a timeout there at the end, but you know, Beno [Udrih] grabbed it [to inbound] and the ball is in Melo’s hands before I could even react, and I should have reacted a lot sooner once the ball went through the bucket. So, that’s on me,” Woodson said. ” …. I didn’t call the timeout so I’ve got to take the heat for that.”

There is plenty of blame to go around in New York, more than enough for Anthony, Woodson, Spike Lee and anyone else to get in on the action. But Woodson’s seat is the hottest.


VIDEO: The Game Time crew breaks down the Knicks’ Manhattan Meltdown

***

No. 2: Oden’s status remains a mystery for Heat-Pacers and beyond – Greg Oden had to watch the first chapter of the Heat-Pacers drama in street clothes last week. His status for Round 2 Wednesday remains one of  South Florida’s biggest mysteries. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t tipping his hand. And Pacers big man Roy Hibbert probably doesn’t care, even after his woeful performance in the Pacers’ first home loss of the season to Josh Smith and the Detroit Pistons Monday night. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald does his best to uncover the secretes surrounding Oden’s status:

The Heat plays the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in the biggest home game of the first two months of the season, and the topic of Oden and his playing status (or lack thereof) will once again be a point of discussion.

Last week, Oden watched from the bench in Indianapolis as Pacers center Roy Hibbert dominated the paint both offensively and defensively. After the game, Hibbert said he was looking forward to Oden joining the rivalry.

But exactly when Oden will begin playing games for the Heat remains a mystery. He made an appearance in the preseason but hasn’t suited up for a regular-season game. Oden, who was in street clothes against the Jazz, has been inactive for the first 24 games of the season.

As a follow up to a question about his rotations, Spoelstra was asked about how to efficiently incorporate Oden into the Heat’s system once he is ready to play.

“We’ll get to that when we get to that,” Spoelstra said. “It will be no different than when we had to incorporate Michael [ Beasley], when we’ve had to incorporate Shane [ Battier]. We incorporated Norris [Cole]. When we get to that point, we’ll deal with it the way we always do.”

Spoelstra was then asked whether he thought adding Oden midstream would be the biggest challenge of the season.

“You can’t ever pinpoint what the biggest challenge will be in an NBA season, really,” Spoelstra said. “They come daily, they come weekly because of the schedule, but they will arrive on your doorstep.”

Oden hasn’t played in regular-season game in more than four years.


VIDEO:
Did the Pacers get caught looking ahead to Wednesday’s showdown with the Heat?

***

No. 3: Brown sees much to like (maybe even love) about the Trail Blazers – Don’t judge Cleveland coach Mike Brown for being envious of Terry Stotts and the machine he’s presiding over in Portland these days. All coaches wish they could get off to the early season start the Blazers have. So while Brown has the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week (Kyrie Irving) at his disposal, he’d love to have the NBA’s team of the first two months (arguably, the Pacers want in on that as well) to work with, as Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer explains (oh, and that point guard matchup tonight between Irving and Damian Lillard should be as good as any we’ve seen thus far):

Ask Cavaliers coach Mike Brown what makes the Portland Trail Blazers so good and his long, long list of compliments starts with coach Terry Stotts and goes through LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews all the way to Mo Williams.

It’s no wonder, either, since the Trail Blazers come into The Q on Tuesday with a shiny 21-4 record, best in the Western Conference. After an overtime victory at Detroit on Sunday, they’re even better on the road — 11-2 — than at home.

“Terry is a good coach first of all, but if you look at their roster, they have veteran guys on that team or guys in their prime,” Brown said after the Cavs practice on Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “They have very few young guys they’re asking to run or lead the ship. They’ve got a lot of veteran players on their team who know how to play the game the right way on the floor. A lot of those guys have had success. Maybe not last year, but LaMarcus has won before, Batum has won before, Matthews has won before there and even in Utah.

“I thought the Lopez kid was the right fit. They needed a big body that doesn’t need to score or anything like that who will do the dirty work because they have enough scorers when you look at the guys they rotate in and out of the game. Then on top of that you’ve got a veteran like Mo Williams who can shoot the 3, who can come off pindowns,  who can play pick and roll. He’s fast with the ball, can play in transition, can make plays for himself and his teammates.

“That’s a nice mix of players they have who know how to score the basketball. Because they have size and because in my opinion they added a guy like Lopez, that makes them bigger. Lopez has great feet, so that makes them even better defensively than what they might have been in the past. Then you have Batum and Wes Matthews, too, on the perimeter. Those are two big guards who know how to defend.”

***

No. 4: Low-key Johnson serves as Nets’ unsung ironman – His record-tying shooting night thrust Joe Johnson into the national headlines. But he’s been the Nets’ unsung ironman all season, writes Filip Bondy of The New York Daily News. Through all of the trials and tribulations this team has faced this season, Johnson has been the one constant. And whether Nets fans and others realize it or not, that could very well be the one factor that saves their season:

Of all the remarkable season stats for Joe Johnson, the most impressive one right now rests directly below the “G.”

There, you will find the number 24, which means that Johnson is one of only four Nets, and the only one who really matters, not to have missed a single game this year due to injury. It is a wonder how he has remained in one piece, while all around him his teammates have been felled like Christmas trees in early December. “I love to come out and play,” Johnson said after he had done something remarkable on Monday night. “I just try to be here for the guys.”

Johnson wasn’t merely there for the guys at Barclays Center, he was ablaze. Johnson went on a record-tying 3-point streak that suddenly made a lopsided game worth watching, at least for a period. In that third quarter, he scored 29 points and buried eight of 10 threes, including an impossible bomb from the left corner with defender James Anderson draped all over him — while drawing a foul.

“I got a good look, got separation,” Johnson insisted. “I just let it go. I was in the right spot a lot of times, at the right times, catching the ball with the seams every time in the right place.”

It was all more than enough to bury the Sixers, 130-94, and to demonstrate again how Johnson has become the rock on a team largely comprised of delicate sand pebbles. “Got to keep giving him the ball, keep giving it to him,” Andray Blatche said.

Johnson finished with 37 points and 10 3-pointers, and all around him his teammates were shouting, “Just keep shooting.” But Johnson had been battling a bug these last couple of days, skipping practice, and so he took a seat on the bench while watching the fourth quarter of this laugher. He had earned the rest, averaging 34 minutes per game while shooting .433 from 3-point range. “He’s been the one horse, been consistent for us,” Jason Kidd said. “A guy who never complains.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Heat’s Dwyane Wade insists the average fan just doesn’t understand the anatomy and physiology of an NBA star … Joe Johnson wasn’t the only former Hawks star to have a good night. Josh Smith is working on back-to-back monster nights for the Pistons … Contrasting styles were on display in the Clippers-Spurs game last night, Gregg Popovich’s way vs. the unique approach that Doc Rivers employs … Derrick Rose is worried about the Bulls’ future? (while most everyone else is worried about his!)

ICYMI(s) Of The Night: Forget about the Bulls’ struggles for a minute and just enjoy Taj Gibson‘s finishing touch on this pick and roll  …


VIDEO: Nik Vucevic is a HT fave, but he’s on the wrong end of this dunk by Taj Gibson

Nets Nearing Point Of No Return?




VIDEO: The Beat crew discusses the Nets’ rough start to the season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Humbling is the weight of great expectations, as the men in black and white in Brooklyn have learned through the first month of this NBA season. It’s a lesson their counterparts in Los Angeles, the Lakers, learned in much the same fashion last season. The addition of star power, remembered, real or imagined, does not always translate.

Brooklyn’s Nets are in essence a complete mess right now. A 3-10 record, next to last in the Eastern Conference standings, wounded bodies, pierced pride and nearing the point of no return is where this crew resides heading into tonight’s matchup (7 p.m. ET, League Pass) with a Toronto Raptors team that currently occupies the top-four spot in the Eastern Conference standings that the Nets assumed was theirs.

Without Deron Williams and Brook Lopez healthy, some would argue that it is unfair to grade this team at this juncture. But there are troubling signs with this team regardless of the personnel being deployed, a point made clear by our very own John Schuhmann recently.

Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have struggled mightily in the season’s opening month.

No disrespect to the men at work, but you know things are dire when Shaun Livingston and Mason Plumlee are the only players on your roster who pose a consistent threat to opposing teams with their athleticism, energy and passion. That collection of aged superstars who were supposed to lead this group have, for whatever reasons, not answered the call on a nightly basis.

Take Sunday’s loss to Detroit for example. To start the fourth quarter, Nets coach Jason Kidd a lineup of Plumlee, Tyshawn Taylor, Alan AndersonToko Shengelia and Mirza Teletovic on the floor against Detroit. They trailed by 12 points, due the inept performance, to that point, of the first six who had dug that hole.

Kidd, and his top assistant Lawrence Frank, were desperate to energize a group that has slumbered through this season since that Nov. 1 win over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in their home opener.

The idea of Williams, Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Jason Terry terrorizing the league from opening night through the end of the regular season was a pipe dream from the start. But the reality of the Nets’ situation is even more grave than any of their critics might have imagined.

The Nets are last in defensive efficiency, allowing 106.3 points per 100 possessions. With Lopez on the floor they’re much better, ranking sixth defensively, but Lopez has missed five straight games.  And in those five games he’s been out, it’s been a parade for opposing teams. The Nets are allowing 113.1 points per 100 possessions in his absence. Had someone told you the linchpin to the Nets season would be the defensive presence of Lopez, you’d have slapped them.

Yet that is exactly where the team with the worst second-half defensive in the league stands as of right now. And that’s not even factoring in the inevitable locker room fissures that are bound to pop up when a high-profile team encounters these sorts of struggles.

Garnett was supposed to be a culture-changer, the sort of dynamic force that unites a group, even mismatching pieces, into a cohesive unit the way he did in Boston. That obviously hasn’t happened, at least not yet. And there is no guarantee it will. Not with the make-up of this group and the fact that there isn’t someone at the top (in Boston it was coach Doc Rivers) to set the tone and table for a player with Garnett’s reputation and leadership skills to do his thing without any second guessing from within that locker room.

Granted, it would be much easier for others to follow Garnett if Garnett wasn’t struggling through his own Jekyll-and-Hyde routine  – using PIE, Garnett is the league’s fifth-best player in the first half and the league’s worst player in the second half — this season.

Ultimately, the onus for this team and its fortunes rests on the entire group and whether or not they can tread water until they get everyone healthy enough to have a chance to chase the enormous expectations that have been set for them, both internally and beyond.

But we’re getting dangerously close that to that 20-game mark where a team’s true colors show. And the Nets from everything we’ve seen, have not lived up to the hype and quite frankly may not be able to as presently constituted.

Getting Worse For Brooklyn Before (Maybe) It Gets Better

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VIDEO: Nets get shredded by Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS – What’s going on with the Brooklyn Nets has reached train-wreck status, where you don’t want to look but you can’t help it. Then, after you do, you feel a little guilty for slowing. And maybe in need of a shower.

The Nets’ early-season crisis is pushing toward its fourth week after the 111-81 dismantling by the Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night at Target Center. At 3-9, this team of high expectations and low returns has dropped four in a row and seven of its past eight, falling to 1-7 on the road and seemingly clueless in this funk.

Don’t take our word for it. Check out this postgame comment from rookie coach Jason Kidd, in what apparently was meant to be a positive:

“In the first half, we cut it to 16 and then we gave up a six-point play. And then it just got away from us.”

Kidd had conflated a couple things – the Nets had crept as close as 59-43 in the third quarter when a technical foul and a flagrant-1 foul by veteran Kevin Garnett on Minnesota’s Kevin Love turned into three free throws and a 3-pointer by Corey Brewer in a span of 11 seconds. A few minutes later, the Wolves pushed ahead by 30 and kept it near that the rest of the way.

Seriously, though, Kidd’s quote seemed sardonic, self-deprecating, something fit for SNL. No one in the Nets’ locker room was laughing, but with more of the same, there will be some hearty guffaws coming from outside it.

As in, have you heard this one yet?  “I don’t know how many times we’ve had the lead – maybe against Washington – but…” Kidd said, when asked about Brooklyn’s familiarity and thus presumed ability to play from behind. Yikes. This squad laden with former All-Stars, reaching back to an overtime loss against the mediocre Wizards two weeks ago in search of a lead – that’s just sad.

There are mitigating circumstances for Brooklyn’s struggle at the moment. Deron Williams (ankle), Brook Lopez (ankle), Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (knee) all sat out Friday. Garnett and Paul Pierce have missed games, too.

But the Nets began the night ranked 25th in defense (107.5 rating) and 21st on offense (102.0) and got worse in both categories against the Wolves. They have given up 22 more 3-pointers than they’ve made, 21 more offensive rebounds than they’ve grabbed.

Garnett is averaging 6.7 points and 7.8 rebounds. Pierce has shot 7-for-34 since returning from a groin strain three games ago. Joe Johnson‘s 13.4 ppg is his lowest in more than a decade and his 15 points at Target Center were strictly no-impact. And on and on.

Afterward, the mood was subdued, chastened, their fight gone at least until they’re back in the tank Sunday at home against Detroit. If this were going on in Cleveland or Portland or a bunch of other less intense markets, there might be a shot at the patience and clear heads the Nets will need to dig out, one quarter at a time.

But in that town? With this roster and payroll? With hopes so high and games coming as quickly as they are now?

Whoa. Just whoa.

“This is what it is,” Garnett said. “We created this monster and we have to deal with it. You have the business of basketball come into play, I’m sure. And management’s probably going to do what it’s got to do, and that’s out of our hands.”

All righty then, that’s cracking open an ominous door…

Garnett also said: “It’s pretty much everything right now. We’re trying to soul search right now and see who we are. Each individual has to look at ourselves in the mirror and see what they can do better. Period. Point blank. We’re better than this. What you gonna do, you gonna quit? Quit is not an option.

“It’s November. We’ve still got, what, four, five months to go. We’ve got a lot of basketball to play.”

At the moment, that’s sounding like a warning and a threat.

Nets’ Issues Start In the Second Half


VIDEO: Bobcats edge Nets to send Brooklyn to third straight loss

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Brooklyn Nets are off to a bad start, but bad starts aren’t necessarily the problem.

The Nets have had the lead at the half of five of their 11 games, been tied in one, and been within four points of four of the other five. Yes, given their talent, they should have had leads against teams like the Cavs, Magic, Kings and Bobcats. But the average halftime score of their games is Nets 50, Opponent 49. That’s workable.

The biggest issue is that the Nets have been the worst second-half team in the league thus far, getting outscored by almost 11 points per 100 possessions over the third and fourth quarters. And the problems have come on both ends of the floor.

Nets efficiency by quarter and half

Quarter/half Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
First quarter 96.3 21 108.6 5 105.1 20 +3.5 10
Second quarter 96.9 18 95.3 20 98.3 12 -3.0 19
Third quarter 92.1 28 96.3 26 108.8 24 -12.5 28
Fourth quarter 95.9 12 98.3 21 107.5 21 -9.2 26
First half 96.6 19 101.9 10 101.7 16 +0.2 15
Second half 94.0 23 97.3 25 108.2 28 -10.8 30

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

Offensively, the Nets have had a slightly higher turnover rate in the second half, but it’s been their shooting that has suffered the biggest drop-off.

They actually have taken a greater percentage of their shots from the restricted area and from 3-point range in the second half. Better shots should equal better shooting. And they’ve shot well at the basket and from the corners. But they’ve been terrible on other jump shots, shooting 30.1 percent from mid-range and 25.6 percent on above-the-break threes in the second half.

These second-half struggles point straight to the older guys in the rotation: Kevin Garnett (37), Joe Johnson (32), Paul Pierce (36) and Jason Terry (36). That group has shot 36-for-79 (46 percent) from mid-range in the first half and 13-for-52 (25 percent) in the second half.

Johnson, Pierce and Terry have shot 11-for-30 (37 percent) on above-the-break threes in the first half and 11-for-47 (23 percent) in the second half. Johnson has gone from 6-for-11 to 3-for-16, though he has shot well — 4-for-7 — from the corners in the second half.

Brooklyn’s defense has second-half woes, too

The Nets have seen an even bigger drop-off defensively in the second half, when only the Pistons and Pelicans have been worse on that end of the floor. What’s interesting is that their opponents’ effective field goal percentage has been lower in the second half than in the first. But they’ve forced less turnovers and they’ve been an atrocious rebounding team after halftime.

In the first half, the Nets have been the fourth best defensive rebounding team, grabbing 77 percent of available defensive boards. In the second half, they’ve been the worst defensive rebound team, grabbing just 68 percent.

Again, Garnett’s numbers see a major drop-off, but it’s because he’s been so good in the first half. In fact, he’s the best first-half defensive rebounder in the league, grabbing 38 percent of available defensive boards before halftime. In the second half, he’s merely the fourth best defensive rebounder in the league, grabbing 29 percent of available defensive boards.

Is it age? Well, rookie Mason Plumlee has seen an even bigger drop-off. Plumlee has been a pleasant surprise overall and hasn’t played that many minutes, but he has grabbed just 7 percent of available defensive rebounds in the second half, compared to 24 percent in the first half.

Still, Garnett seems to be the face of the Nets’ second-half regression. Between his poor shooting, decreased rebounding, increased turnovers and increased fouls, the difference between his first-half production and second-half production is staggering.

PIE is a statistic that measures overall production as a percentage of all the stats accumulated while that player is in the game. Among 210 players who have logged at least 100 minutes in the first half of games, Garnett ranks 15th with a PIE of 16.4 percent. Among 208 players who have logged at least 100 minutes in the second half, Garnett ranks dead last (0.8 percent).

Bonus stat: Kevin Love leads the league with a first-half PIE of 20.6 percent. Paul George leads the league with a second-half PIE of 24.8 percent.

No other player has suffered nearly the drop-off that Garnett has after halftime.

Biggest PIE drop-off

Player 1st half 2nd half Diff.
Kevin Garnett 16.4% 0.8% -15.7%
Taj Gibson 16.1% 4.6% -11.5%
Joakim Noah 16.7% 6.8% -9.8%
Roy Hibbert 17.4% 8.0% -9.4%
David Lee 17.8% 9.0% -8.9%

Bonus stat: Chicago’s Mike Dunleavy has seen the biggest increase (+14.1 percent) in PIE, going from 5.1 percent in the first half to 19.2 percent in the second half.

More important than Garnett’s individual production is how efficiently the Nets are scoring and how well they’re defending. And they do neither well in the second half with him on the floor. The defensive numbers are most alarming, because that’s the end of the floor where he was supposed to help most.

Nets efficiency with Garnett on the floor

Half MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
1st half 115 93.2 101.3 94.7 +6.6 +20
2nd half 107 97.4 85.4 110.1 -24.7 -64
Total 221 95.7 93.6 102.4 -8.8 -44

Does KG stiffen up at halftime? And should the Nets play him fewer minutes after the break? Last season, his PIE was 15.8 percent, both before and after halftime. The season before that, it was higher in the second half (17.6 percent) than it was in the first half (16.4 percent). So maybe this is just a fluky first 11 games.

Still, it would help if Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms), Brook Lopez (ankle) and Deron Williams (ankle) were healthy. Kirilenko could certainly take some of the minutes if KG doesn’t have it after halftime, while Lopez and Williams could carry the offense late in games. Lopez is also a defensive difference-maker.

The Nets have other issues, but first and foremost, they must figure out how to figure out their second-half problems.