Heading into the final preseason game, the Brooklyn Nets seem to be in a bit of a bind. Their big free agency signing of the offseason, Jeremy Lin, is doing as good and even better than expected. The rest of the team? Maybe the concern is for nothing because this is ‘just the preseason’, but the finale against the New York Knicks could use a little bit of confidence building for certain players and the fans.
During the weekend, Lin had this to say about playing a team like Boston in the preseason: I’ve never had any fear that our team can’t compete with these teams. I just think we have a much, much, much smaller margin of error, but from a talent standpoint or whatever do I think our ceiling could be a really good team? Yeah, I believe that. There’s gonna be a lot of steps along the way … but if you asked me I’m confident in the players here that we can compete with anybody on any given night.
Effort isn’t an issue. Execution is. And while I do think the Nets haven’t shown everything they have on both ends of the floor especially against their division rivals like Boston and New York, there needs to be some kind of an indication that they can keep up the smart, difficult-to-keep-up-with motion offense while Lin isn’t playing. The Lin fan in me isn’t that annoyed because it shows what a good and important player he is, but depending 100% on Lin to make this offense work the way Atkinson wants to just isn’t healthy. The team looking slow, clueless and incapable of thinking when he’s on the bench just doesn’t look good.
If Lin does play, we need to see some pick and roll action from him and Lopez. Who knows, maybe it works so smoothly in practice that Atkinson doesn’t feel he needs to show the league how his PG-C P&R works, and simply sticks Lopez around the perimeter, moving around away from his comfort zone too much of the time. But it wouldn’t hurt. It doesn’t just hone the P&R skills, but it sets up the pieces around him. The players around Lin and Lopez are the ones who need the confidence boost more than anything else, and playing through sets that work shouldn’t hurt.
Winning in the preseason means nothing. A lot of the lineups and minutes in the preseason have to do with players trying to make the roster and not actually building some sort of lineup-rotation chemistry for the regular season. A lot of those things happen in training camp and during the early stages of the actual season. But giving people some false hopes after a strong preseason performance wouldn’t hurt. Part of the path the Nets are on isn’t just becoming a better basketball team, but generating some hype around them and taking a cut out of the Knicks control of the city.
The preseason is a funny time. Everyone constantly says that it doesn’t mean anything, but when bad basketball shows up quite often and meaningless losses keep piling up, people (including me) start focusing on the negative. Basically, all of this doesn’t matter if the Nets show up to the regular season as a much better team, but just for the sake of putting some fans minds at ease, the Nets need to offer more than just Jeremy Lin and the changing hot hand next to him.