One of my favorite parts in an offseason is hearing coaches and general managers talk about their vision for the upcoming season. Naturally, the Brooklyn Nets, with Kenny Atkinson and Sean Marks addressing the media, see Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez as the key cogs to the team’s success and development this season.
Two things that were most interesting to me: Sean Atkinson speaking about Lin’s leadership role on this team, and the coach talking about the continued development of Brook Lopez.
On Lin Atkinson said:
He came off the bench in Charlotte last year and did a heck of a job, but this is a different deal here. You’re kind of the quarterback, the Eli Manning, those guys have a different level of responsibility and that’s new to him. He can be a darn good defender with his athleticism and his competitiveness and I think he feels a little slighted that he’s not considered a better defender, so we need to hold him accountable there. There’s a lot of things, but the last thing is make this team work, make it work on the offensive end and make sure everyone’s touching it and get that right feel of where we have balanced scoring and a balanced team. It’s a heck of a challenge, but he’s prepared for it, I think it’s the right time of his career and I think he’s smart enough and will grow into being a better leader as this thing goes on.
For anyone surprised, you haven’t been paying attention this offseason. The Nets aren’t counting on Lin to be a placeholder point guard until they find the player they really want. They have a vision for the near and distant future, and Lin is a part of it, with his skills as a basketball player on offense and defense, and what he brings to the team in terms of experience and leadership. The point guard-quarterback reference isn’t just a position comparisons. Quarterbacks are much more than just the guys spreading the ball around on a football team, and Lin is much more than just the main ballhandler on the current Nets.
On Lopez Atkinson said:
The first thing we’re going to do is to challenge him defensively to improve. Rebounding – I know that’s been a thing in the past – pick and roll defense and we have to find the right scheme that fits him. Offensively – I think it’s with all of these guys – become even more efficient than you are. Taking better shots, getting to the rim more, mixing in some 3-point shots to balance your game… We’re going to challenge to improve in those areas and again that fit our style of play and we do believe that he can take another step.
As far as Atkinson is concerned, he wants more from Lopez, who is one of the best scoring big men in the NBA, something of a dying breed in this league when it comes to low post game. However, he wants (and needs) Lopez to be more substantial defensively and maybe even more varied on offense. As Sean Marks said on the defense and offense schemes, the Nets know they aren’t as talented as other teams, which means they need to think out of the box a little bit. Outhustle everybody, quickly establish a defensive identity, and make the offense make it easy on the players who can’t create shots. Obviously, Lin is in charge of supplying the ball, but Lopez causing a headache by being multidimensional offensively can be a big help in getting guys open shots.