The loss to the Chicago Bulls was the wrong way to start off a homestand that offers winnable games along with some rest. Jeremy Lin is living up to the expectations, but there needs to be more from the other Nets to start building towards something this season. Facing the Detroit Pistons on a second night of a back to back isn’t a bad opportunity.
The Pistons are heading into Brooklyn following a 13-point win over the New York Knicks, making this two nights in a row against Big Apple teams. The Pistons have so far been one of the best defensive teams in the league, ranked 4th in defensive rating, helping them make up for the absence of Reggie Jackson, meaning more minutes for Ish Smith. Lin has had some good moments on both ends of the floor against Jackson, and his individual advantage against Smith is probably even greater.
But the question is what the rest of the team will do. The Nets looked deflated, depleted and exhausted against the Bulls, losing by 30 points, with Kenny Atkinson pulling his key players quite early. Now the question that needs to be asked is whether or not the lineups from that game need to remain the same. Tick that game off as a bad night, or perhaps it’s time for Atkinson to tweak his rotations, even if his sandbox for experiments isn’t too big due to injuries and the (lack of) depth of this team.
One thing that the Nets have to do better against the Pistons is rebounding, and overall inside presence. Brook Lopez can score on Andre Drummond and get him into foul trouble, but if it’s one on one below the basket battling for boards, Lopez has no business in this fight. Maybe have guards playing closer to the rim and risk some open 3’s (Pistons hit 32.4% of their 3-point shots). It’s hard to really offer solutions because the Nets don’t have too many options. Simply put, Lopez has to be better, and he needs a lot of help from everyone, including Trevor Booker, the struggling Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and even the usually soft Bojan Bogdanovic.
Lin is averaging 6.3 assists per game this season. That number would be higher had his teammates made some easy shots. But Lin seems to be one of the few things Atkinson doesn’t need to fiddle with. Leave him in control of this offense, and try to find the best fit around him. Bogdanovic scores but sucks on defense. Hollis-Jefferson defends well most of the time, but does nothing on offense. Justin Hamilton can shoot from long range but is even a bigger problem down low than Lopez. The list goes on. Until Greivis Vasquez, Randy Foye and Caris LeVert are back from injuries, the backup point guard spot is a real mess. Atkinson has enough headaches to try and get rid of.
Maybe more small ball against the Pistons will work. A lineup that includes Lin, Kilpatrick, Bogdanovic, Booker and Hamilton isn’t necessarily small in terms of height, but it provides a certain style and pace that could be the most beneficial for the Nets offensively. If you can’t stop them, at least try to outscore them. The thing is with new teams that we don’t know how adding certain ingredients will come out, and the coaching staff doesn’t know either, but they’re on a team that’s probably a good canvas to try. Unless Atkinson is sure that the current lineups he’s running simply need more time together and it’s a matter of effort and fitness, it might be time to start trying something new.