The best thing one can say about the Brooklyn Nets losing another game, this time with plenty of garbage time, is that it helped reveal the team to be a lot more flawed than just missing Jeremy Lin for most of the beginning of the season.
The Nets lost 116-104 as they made their way back from 19 points down to begin the fourth quarter. Garbage time. Lin played 25 minutes, scoring 12 points. He didn’t play badly at all, but when that’s the best stat line you see on your starting lineup, you know it wasn’t a very good game. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finished with 19 points to lead the team while Spencer Dinwiddie finished with 14 points, but without Brook Lopez who got some rest before the Golden State Warriors, the Nets looked like a team destined to lose on their visit to Canada. And speaking of the Warriors, it’s almost frightening to think of the Nets defense against that juggernaut, even if it’s in Brooklyn.
As for Atkinson, it’s difficult making up a solid opinion when he’s missed Jeremy Lin for so long, and finally when he gives him more minutes Brook Lopez isn’t playing and it’s on the road against the Toronto Raptors. Not excuses, but facts that help protect him from early criticism.
However, this isn’t a situation of a bad team that the coach can’t do anything about, which has been the case for someone like Brett Brown for quite a while. The Nets should have done better than their 7-20 record thus far, with ESPN projecting them to finish with 22 wins, a 1 win improvement compared to last season. Again, their best player has been out for a while, but his return for 20-25 minutes a night over the last few games helped highlight other problems on this team, some of them related to coach Atkinson.
The motion offense isn’t working. This team isn’t made of multiple ball handlers and guys who can play in a number of roles. You have a number of perimeter players who can do the 2-3 switch, and maybe someone like Sean Kilpatrick who can handle the ball here and there. Isaiah Whitehead isn’t a real point guard who gained some experience at the position, and Caris LeVert should be able to handle the ball and run the offense once in a while. But his should be Lin’s team, and using him in some off the ball role in too many positions is bad for this team, which desperately needs to play to its strengths, not try to force through some offensive system that could work with a very limited number of teams in this league.
Assuming Lin and Lopez get substantial minutes together and Atkinson finally figures out his rotation while working on the timing and ways of using his bench, the Nets should look better, but right now they’re not where they hoped to be at this point of the season. On pace to finish around their win total last year, if Atkinson doesn’t do a better job of getting more out of this talent, having a fully healthy Lin and a much more versatile Lopez isn’t going to help him leave a better impression during his debut coaching season.