Nets Trends Look Brighter Than The Knicks, At The Moment

Published on: 22nd January, 2013

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Brook Lopez blocks Chandler
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New York – The old saying, “a season is a marathon and not a spint,” is usually uttered by members of losing or slumping teams with hopes (and prayers) for a better day. The ups and downs of a long season are inevitable but sometimes, trends begin to unfold. To wit, take the Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets.

These two intra-city rivals faced each other this afternoon at Madison Square Garden in celebration of Martin Luther King day, their fourth and final meeting of this regular season and it was the Nets who pulled out an 88-85 win on the Knicks home court.

Yes, the NBA season, 82-games long, is a marathon but there are some interesting trends beginning to appear for these two teams.

The Knicks led the division by six games after beating the Nets here on Dec. 19, but the Nets have gone 11-2 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo while the Knicks have battled injuries and failed to play at the level they reached early in the season. That feels like the beginnings (or middle) of a trend.

The Nets, since removing Avery Johnson, are playing harder, playing smarter, and getting outstanding play from their backcourt of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. The Knicks, since getting off to a great start at 19-6, have played under .500 basketball, winning six games while losing eight. Good trend for the Nets. Not a good trend for the Knicks.

Seven games back of the Knicks when they made the coaching change, the Nets are now a game back in the Atlantic Division and again have sights set on a top playoff seed as they reach midseason at 25-16. A very good trend for the Nets, indeed.

In the Nets’ case, Carlesimo has made minor adjustments to the rotation, encouraged a bit more freedom on offense and lightened the mood with the occasional joke.

But the reason the Nets are suddenly potent is because their players, especially their high-paid stars, have started to act like it.

“A game plan is meaningless if the guys don’t execute it,” the frank and experienced Carlesimo said after his latest win.

Johnson is shooting nearly 10 percent better on 3-pointers and averaging two more points per game since the change. His hanging jumper over J.R. Smith with 22 seconds left, the last of Johnson’s 25 points, ultimately made the difference on Monday.

Johnson scored 25 points tonight

 

Brook Lopez is healed from a foot injury that derailed the Nets in December and probably sealed Avery Johnson’s fate. He has five double-doubles since Carlesimo took over. If you know Lopez’s rebounding history, that’s no small feat. Against the Knicks, his aggression in rebounding scrums with Tyson Chandler was downright admirable as he ended up with 11 boards and 14 points.

But nothing has spurred on the Nets more than Deron Williams. Totally down on his own play around Christmas — he said he was “playing like crap” — after signing a $100 million deal last summer, Williams has gotten it going. He’s not exactly playing like a superstar, but he has broken out of a miserable shooting slump (his 3-point shooting has leapt 7 percent) and he’s averaging almost two more assists per game since Carlesimo has taken over.

“I feel like I was a big part of why we were losing,” said Williams, who had 14 points and 12 assists in the latest win. “Our focus, energy and enthusiasm have been a lot better … [Carlesimo] is different than a lot of coaches I have played for, his style and sense of humor.”

The Nets aren’t running any different plays since Carlesimo was installed. He’s calling a wider variety of them and has attempted to get the team to play with more pace, which has led to more scoring. As a result, the Nets are averaging about eight more points per game under Carlesimo than they did under Johnson. That’s a significant increase following an on-the-fly changeover.

As one league scout said about the Nets: “They’re not playing different, really, but they’re playing harder.”

It also sure does help when more of the shots go in the basket, no matter who is drawing them up.

“Whenever you have a guy that means that much to you, your franchise player, when Deron picked it up, we picked it up,” Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse said. “I don’t think there’s any coincidence. Yeah, the coaching change, you can spin that all you want to, but the guys on the court are the ones who really matter.”

 

 

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