The NBA preseason began for the Brooklyn Nets and Jeremy Lin, beating the Detroit Pistons 101-94. First impression? Positive, both for Lin and Kenny Atkinson, who probably liked what he saw from his team offensively.
First, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, Lin missed a wide open layup which turned out to be the most popular highlight of the night across the preseason games. It happens to everyone with dunks and easy baskets once in awhile. It’s better it happens now than when it actually matters. A small part of me thinks he was possibly trying to set up someone for an alley oop, but it didn’t work anyway. Nothing wrong with a good laugh during exhibition season.
And now, on to what really matters: How good was Lin on his Nets preseason debut? How did the Nets do as a whole? Good. Very good. Yes, it’s the preseason, which means you can’t take anything at face value. But after being without NBA basketball for so long, you can’t blame fans, bloggers and traditional media for the tendency to make something more than it is. It’s part of building yourself up for the regular season, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So Lin scored 21 points in only 17 minutes, shooting 7-for-11 from the field and a most impressive 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. New shooting technique? Seems to be working. But it’s more than that. Lin, and his teammates, were all over the floor, in changing positioning which confused the heck out of the Pistons. The basketball was a lot faster than anything Nets fans remember from the last few years, and with it fantastic ball movement and spacing, resulting in 14 three-points, more than half of them by Lin and Luis Scola, knocking down 3 of them to finish with 10 points.
While Lin is the playmaker on this team, there are going to be nights when the scoring will rely on him. No one on this team can get himself and others open like he can, and Nets bigs doing a good job of moving outside to open up the paint. Lin took only 3 shots from inside the paint (made 2-for-3) and did most of his scoring around the perimeter. Overall, he & the Nets couldn’t have asked for a better debut, hopefully not confined to preseason games alone.
Lin had this to say on the offense after the game: It’s going to be a variety, since we have a variety of players. We have one of the best, if not the best, back-to-the-basket players in the NBA. So you can’t just stay in pick-and-roll. Obviously I know how to play in the pick-and-roll, but we can’t only go back-to-the-basket. And we have shooters, so we can’t only go post up. We have to put in staggers, pin-downs and catch-and-shoot situations, too.
The Nets opened with a lineup that on paper doesn’t offer too much shooting and spacing: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Randy Foye, Brook Lopez and Trevor Booker. Lopez played just 13 minutes, scoring 8 points. I don’t see Foye getting too big of a role, but he may be in the lineup anyway. RHJ finished with a team best +20 during his 21 minutes, and if he can fix his outside shot, he’ll be a lethal player for the Nets on both ends of the floor.
Joe Harris showed his ability to heat up quickly with 12 points in 20 minutes, and rookie Yogi Ferrell out of Indiana looked better than expected in his 12 minutes, finishing with 5 points. The disappointing part of the equation was Sean Kilpatrick, who couldn’t get his shot to drop, finishing with 0-for-7 from the field, scoring 3 points from the line. Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Whitehead and Caris LeVert didn’t play.
First impression? Ignoring that not for the first time the Pistons defense under Stan Van Gundy seems overwhelmed with the concept of stretching the floor against them to cancel out the effect of Andre Drummond, the Nets looked like they’ve been together for more than just a few weeks, at least when Lin was pulling the strings. Hard to say much about defense and rebounding at this point, but it’s OK to be optimistic regarding the Nets ability to understand and execute Kenny Atkinson’s offense. In a little twist, Lin may end up carrying a much bigger load of the scoring than expected, but it could be too soon to tell.