The preseason schedule of games ended for the Brooklyn Nets with a fifth consecutive loss, 116-111 to the New York Knicks. As usual, Jeremy Lin was by far the best player on the floor, but what’s happening around him is of a growing cause for concern.
Lin finished with 24 points while dishing out 10 assists, and overall his best game in this preseason. He continued to show his growing offensive arsenal, which included 3-point shots, getting to the basket and the line with ease, and creating for others and finding open men. He finished with the second best +/- on the team (+6), and finishes the preseason averaging 17.2 points, 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals, while shooting 61.9% from the field, 50% from three and 77.4% from the line. Per 36 minutes, pretty close to what he’ll play this season, it’s 26.4 points and 8.6 assists.
Besides Lin, Lopez once again looked uncomfortable in the motion offense and scored 12 points on 4-for-11 from the field. Atkinson tried to use Lin as a ‘2’ guard at times. Things worked better when he had the offense in his control, and not waiting for someone else to develop it. Joe Harris scored 15 points in 18 minutes, Bojan Bogdanovic added 12 and Justin Hamilton finished with 11 points, as the Nets finally found their outside shot, hitting 40% from downtown.
The Nets defense has been the worst in the NBA in the preseason. However, in that aspect as well, things looked better when Lin was playing. The team gave up 97.9 points per 100 possessions during his minutes. That’s not exactly bad-boys Pistons defense from the 1980’s, but it’s pretty much the best the Nets can do right now, which puts them in another bind when it comes to the minutes Lin doesn’t play in: It hurts their defense a lot as well.
If Brook Lopez continues to struggle as the Nets move forward with their motion offense and using him in ways he’s not used to, whether it’s something to criticize Kenny Atkinson for or not, the trade rumors that surface almost every season when it comes to Lopez will make an appearance again. The Nets, even when Lopez plays, struggle stopping anyone who gets through their first line of defense, and while we continue to emphasize the “it’s only the preseason” thing time after time, it’s true for the other teams as well.
It is definitely something I am not used to. This preseason has been a great advantage and tool and have been scrimmaging in practice as well so it is something I have been seeing every day now so I am definitely getting more and more comfortable with it. I think it is just getting used to the personal difference and finding that balance like I have been mentioning a lot. Just knowing obviously Jeremy is very strong in the pick-and-roll and a lot of guys fit best in a motion –dribble, drive, kick it out– system and finding a balance in those three things with those two in the post-ups.
Kenny Atkinson spoke once more about progress, development and improvement, the pillars holding this project together. However, this preseason has mostly shown what’s not working, and very little of what is. Jeremy Lin has been the one consistent thing offensively and defensively on this team. While it could pave his way for a first All-Star appearance the best stats of his career, he isn’t on the Nets just to post impressive box scores, but to grow with a team that’s going somewhere. For that to happen, a few players need to start stepping up on a more regular basis.