It’s been a pretty awful season down in the swamp, at least by recent standards. What’s gone wrong? How can it be fixed? And will it be fixed? Let’s talk a peek: What’s wrong?
—DEFENSE: The biggest problem with the Nets is that their guards can’t stop anybody. Even before Nenad Kristic tore his ACL, the Nets were soft inside when it came to containing guards that had penetrated past their aging backcourt. This problem has only been exacerbated by Cliff Robinson’s inactivity. Though he’s a step slower and old enough to have conceived me, Cliff can still lock down opposing forwards, and his length helps Jersey’s team defense cause problems both in the paint and out on the wings. When the Nets get beat off the dribble and the ball gets kicked to an open shooter, they have no one with Cliff’s length to run out at the shooters. Naturally, without Cliff they end up burned by long J’s, and often the results are fat L’s. They really need to weed through the rest of their defensive issues, lest they continue to get smoked. (Apologies all around, I couldn’t help myself.)
4 ON 5: The fundamental problem that you have when you start Jason Collins, aside from the illegal screens, is that he brings nothing to the table offensively. Back in his rookie year, I remember Twin developing a jumpshot. I’m not sure I know what happened to that development. Is he still working on it? Did it just not work? Is it sad that I’m currently imagining Jason Collins breaking up with his jumpshot? “Look, honestly, this just isn’t going where I’d like it to. It’s not you, it’s me. It’s us. We just run too much for you to be a part of my life. I’m sorry it had to end this way…What? Is Jarron available? Are you f’ing kidding me? What I’m not a whole person to you? FORGET you then.”
Currently, without Kristic, the Nets entire frontcourt is comprised of players of this ilk. Collins and Josh Boone are now responsible for the bruising inside. And Boone cannot—at least not yet—create his own shot or hit free throws.
The lack of big men with the ability to score has a trickle down effect on the rest of the team. Kidd’s passing options, somewhat limited to begin with, are further constrained. In an offense designed to take advantage of Kidd’s creativity and Carter’s ability to put it up from anywhere, Jefferson must devote more of his energy to getting open instead of simply scoring. Combine this with Jefferson’s recent injuries and his fatigue level from locking down the opposing team’s best player every night, and it’s no wonder the Nets offense has gone stagnant. This is to say nothing of Miki Moore who, though energetic, is nothing more than a rich man’s Keith Closs.
AGE vs. YOUTH: Quite simply, the Nets don’t really have any impact players, aside from the aforementioned Jefferson, that are in their prime. Everyone is either a bit too young or a bit too old. This sucks, because if the Nets were a cheese platter, their combination of new and old would render them fantastic.
GM: Rod Thorn hasn’t gotten them the requisite power forward help. Every few months my dad will ask me who Thorn should get to plug the power forward gap. Every time I look at the salary structure, and I’m puzzled. I don’t know what to say. I’ll throw a few names out there, but I’m never really certain. Unfortunately, Thorn has had the same problem. Which isn’t cool for a GM.
VINCE: When I wrote the Vince Top 50 write-up, I simply assumed Vince would take it upon himself and dominate from start to finish. I was wrong. This could still change…As Sam has noted, Vince is occasionally giving up out there. Again, not cool.
J-Kidd: Even though he’s still managing to put up triple doubles most nights, like Sam has alluded to, the stats are somewhat inflated. It’s also hard for him to play as hard as he wants every night because of the toll it takes on his body.
Coaching: All that said, I’m not ready to give up on Lawrence Frank, unless Frank feels that he needs a new deck of cards. But as the venerable Dave D’Alessandro notes,
“He is the only guy to coach this team as long as he maintains the trust and loyalty of his two biggest stars, which is unwavering. ” D’Alessandro correctly places the onus on the players. “Keep watching VC and RJ. If they get their individual acts together, anything can happen. That doesn’t mean they’ll be a formidable playoff team – those goals have become severely downsized since Krstic departed – but they could at least change the way you feel about the team in the upcoming weeks. And of course, the operative term in there is “could.”
So what should Rod Thorn do?
Even though it appears to be an economic impossibility, should they try to blow the whole thing up and start again? (I have a few ideas that I’ll save for my “pretending I own the NBA” manifesto..)
Honestly, though, with all that’s wrong with the Nets, they’re still probably going to win the Atlantic. And they’re a team that’s accustomed to excelling in the dog days of February and March, so some of their issues might end up masked before the postseason.
If they can find a decent power forward or center, they’ll push someone in the first round. They might even win a round. Remember, this is the Eastern Conference. The east is so bad that it’d be interesting to see how far a potentially hot Net team with a revamped frontcourt could go. But is it worth the risk of losing Carter for nothing this summer? I’m not sure.
Moreover, it’s so hard to fathom trading Kidd because
1) For lack of better words, Kidd is still the Nets and the Nets are still Kidd. This would be his last shot, regardless of who is surrounding him, and he deserves it.
2) Marcus Williams, despite flashes of promise, still needs a full season of sponging before he can be trusted as a starting point guard in the league. It might even be two seasons.
That leaves Jefferson as the main commodity, if you can even move his large, escalating contract.
Thorn still has a month+, so we’ll resume this discussion in February, but let me know what you think…