EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Chris Douglas-Roberts is like that hungry-slash-angry defensive back – he’s not big enough to be a linebacker – who can’t wait until the regular-season starts so he can hit somebody.
Wrong sport, we know, but that’s how Douglas-Roberts acts and talks – and he’s always talking.
The good-natured Nets’ swingman said he would like to see more hitting in practice, more fights. He thinks the team will get closer, tougher and going at it in practice will make the Nets better.
“Last year was my first time ever being on a team that was under .500,” Douglas-Roberts said. “I’ll do anything to try and change that. Whether it’s being more vocal in practice, whatever it has to be. I’ll do anything to change that and mainly trying to make us a tougher team. We need more fights in practice. We need more hard fouls. That makes a tough team.”
This attitude is one of the reasons the Nets think Douglas-Roberts is going to have a breakout year and be in the NBA for a long time. He hates losing. Who doesn’t? Right. But Douglas-Roberts really hates losing, wants to do something about it and has done something about it.
He spent the offseason improving his game and gaining more confidence, which isn’t easy for the secure – and we’re putting it nicely – Douglas-Roberts. He can’t wait to show what he’s got and believes he can help the Nets be better than expected.
Nets coach Lawrence Frank said in-practice fighting isn’t the answer, but loves the passion Douglas-Roberts plays with at all times. The Nets hope it rubs off on other players and can carry it over agianst the opposition.
“The thing is this: the competitiveness,” Frank said. “Like in football, they don’t necessarily encourage fights in practice but go fight the other team.
“One of the greatest competitors I’ve ever been around is Jason Kidd. Now he never got into a fight in practice. My thing is have some fight in you. It doesn’t literally have to be Sonny Liston, but have some fight in your approach.
“I like Chris’ competitiveness. I like his approach. I like his fire. I like that.”
It has gotten Douglas-Roberts in trouble in the past though. Last year, assistant coach Doug Overton screamed at Douglas-Roberts at the end of a practice last year.
Douglas-Roberts was upset that in this post-practice game he wasn’t getting any foul calls because he was a rookie. He kept talking and it incited Overton. Cooler hears prevailed, but that’s Douglas-Roberts. And there were several members of the organization who said something to the effect of if all of last year’s Nets had CDR’s competitive fire.
It helps now that Douglas-Roberts is a big part of the rotation, the expected starting small forward for the Oct. 28 opener.
“Every day he comes ready to practice,” Frank said. “He brings juice to the gym. He brings energy.”
The Nets are going to need everyone to bring that “fight” into the games.
No Devin Harris (groin), Jarvis Hayes (stress reaction, right shin) or Keyon Dooling (hip surgery) for tomorrow’s sixth preseason game against the Knicks. Harris and Hayes hope to play in Friday’s final preseason game against the Sixers.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)
NEW YORK — Three of the Nets’ five top scorers from last season were sitting behind the bench showing off their wardrobes instead of running up and down the court showing their skills.
The Nets better hope something changes by Oct. 28 when this season starts with a winnable game at Minnesota. They expect to be near 100-percent by then, but you can’t say for sure.
There are two preseason games and roughly nine practices/shootarounds before the first tip. Anything can happen, but the Nets can’t afford anything else.
Not long after these words were written, likely starting small forward Chris Douglas-Roberts left the 93-89 preseason to the Knicks last night with a strained neck. He’s day-to-day, but already said he won’t miss any time. Still, one of the Nets’ goals in the next two weeks has to be to get healthy.
The Nets already know they won’t have Keyon Dooling for the opener and may not see him for the first few weeks at least. Devin Harris is supposed to return Sunday from a strained right groin and Jarvis Hayes hopes to play in next Friday’s preseason finale, presuming the stress reaction in his right shin is fine.
They’re banged up, winless through five preseason games and have unsurprisingly been inconsistent on both of ends of the floor.
“This group is getting a little bit frustrated that we’re not making as much progress as we expect from ourselves,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “We have to expect better.
“We want to be farther along than we are now. We have a lot of work to do.”
With about 12 days to go, many questions remain unanswered. Some of them may stay that way until weeks, if not months, into the season.
What’s the rotation?
Our best guess is Harris, Courtney Lee, Brook Lopez, Yi Jianlian and Chris Douglas-Roberts are the starters with Rafer Alston, Terrence Williams, Jarvis Hayes and Josh Boone coming off the bench with either Bobby Simmons or Eduardo Najera. When Dooling returns, things will change, and someone (or more than one player) will be unhappy.
What’s their best lineup?
It’s probably four smalls and Lopez, but it depends on matchups and Yi’s development. If we had to guess today, based on past performance and health, it’s Harris, Lee, Douglas-Roberts, Hayes and Lopez. Other than Lopez, the Nets’ smalls/wings have been their best players.
Has Yi improved?
Some days it looks like he has and others it doesn’t. Yi looked like he had last night against the Knicks. He had 10 points and six rebounds in the first quarter. He had at least as many points and boards in the same game 14 times last year, just once after returning from a broken pinky finger in February. Yi finished with 21 and 11 last night. But to quote Frank when asked about Yi, “It’s going to be a process.”
Will the Nets defend consistently?
No one knows. They are trying, but haven’t been successful. It’s their only shot at winning. Although they picked it up in the second half last night and Lopez was a catalyst with five blocks, they still have lapses on the defensive end. It should be better once they have a set rotation. Then again, they will also be playing better competition.
Who’s their go-to guy?
The Nets hope they play enough close games to have a go-to guy. Harris is the likely candidate with Lopez next. But Douglas-Roberts has shown he can get to the basket against most players, and the other night in a nailbiter against Boston, the Nets were going to Lee. This could be another process, but think Harris or Lopez first.
Will the Nets score enough?
That goes back to their defense, because they need to score off it, using their quickness to get some steals and easy baskets. But they have to be able to score in the halfcourt, too, and they get too disjointed sometimes and take quick shots or miss the open man. After putting up 107 in the first preseason game against the Knicks on Oct. 4, the Nets have scored 88, 92, 93 and now 89. Seemingly, they would score more with a full complement of players, but nothing is guaranteed.
NEWARK, N.J. — Everyone got a glimpse of what the Nets would look like once they’re whole, but it lasted about a half.
Then in the second half of Tuesday night’s game, and particularly the fourth quarter, the Nets looked like everyone probably expected them to this season.
They struggled offensively, missed free throws, couldn’t get enough stops and had overall poor execution on both ends. What was once a 14-point lead turned into a 91-88 Nets’ preseason loss to the Celtics. These were the Celtics without Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for the entire game and Rasheed Wallace for the fourth period.
But it doesn’t matter who the Nets are playing. They can’t have the kind of letdown they had in a game they should have won.
Maybe it’s different, maybe the execution is better if Devin Harris didn’t leave at halftime with a strained right groin because the Nets didn’t have a go-to guy on the floor down the stretch.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, who continues to impress, was the most productive with six of their 11 points. But he missed two critical free throws in the fourth, including one with 1:29 left that would have put the Nets up two.
The Nets missed five foul shots overall and gave up a crucial rebound off a Celtics’ missed free throw with 13.1 left.
Rajon Rondo’s brick wound up in Glen Davis grasp, resulting in one made free throw for the man known as Big Baby. Seconds earlier, Davis rejected a Courtney Lee drive that could have given the Nets a one-point lead.
Even without their Big Three and a big fourth, the Celtics know how to win. The Nets don’t yet.
“The Celtics now have developed a culture where you saw their intensity level rise up,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “For us, we know what it feels like. We’ve been there. Now we’re trying to reestablish.
“The thing that’s disappointing is we weren’t able to raise our level of intensity. Regardless of who’s on the floor — they were without some of their best players. So it’s not about playing close. You get these experiences, but we have to continue to get better regardless of the score. You like to win, but we can’t get outworked.”
The ending ruined what could have been a very good night for the Nets. They played at the Prudential Center for the first time — perhaps a temporary home away from home until Brooklyn is built — and had a good crowd of nearly 13,000.
Playing with a full complement of players for the first time as Lee and Harris were on the floor for the first time together, the Nets started fast. They showed what their strength is going to be — running the floor, getting into the passing lanes, creating shots for each other.
With Harris, Lee, Douglas-Roberts and Brook Lopez combining for 45 points on just 25 field goal attempts, the Nets raced out to a 60-47 lead at the half.
“Guys running the break, getting out, getting ahead, passing it ahead and we finished at the rim, I thought we had a good pace,” Harris said. “With CDR and Courtney out there together they’re good wings. I thought those guys were tremendous even in the second half. That’s more encouraging to see when our wings are playing that well.
“That allows me to be a little bit more free and give those guys the ball and it takes pressure off myself and Brook.”
They all finished with solid numbers as Lee had 21 in his first start and Douglas-Roberts, who started five-of-five, had 19 and Lopez 17 and 10. But those numbers mean little because of the ending.
All it means is the Nets can be fun to watch when they’re all together, but they’ve been banged up a lot in the backcourt already and continue to be. They hope that — as much as the endgame — isn’t a sign of what’s to come.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).
The Nets have played three preseason games and lost all three. Some might consider it a look into the near future, but there are two important factors that can’t be underestimated: They haven’t played with Devin Harris, Courtney Lee and Brook Lopez together in the lineup yet, and the young guys keep getting better.
That doesn’t mean the Nets will definitely be playing into May, but if they stay healthy and the young guys continue to improve and the veterans play their role well, this season could turn out better than expected.
A lot has to happen, we know. But the truth is that no one knows what to expect yet because there are so many new parts, guys playing bigger roles and youth. With youth comes mistakes, but also a lot of exuberance and passion that could lead to some interesting, exciting things.
“We understand we’re a very young team and with a young team you have to have patience,” Nets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe said. “But every game, what should come with a young team is really high energy and a lot of hard work. We have enough guys that we can do that.”
Three games into preseason, the most impressive players have been second-year guys Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts, who is making a strong case for starting at small forward. Douglas-Roberts might be the biggest surprise of the preseason, but with everything he did and said last year and given how competitive he has been, it was easy to see him working his way into the lineup. Douglas-Roberts didn’t want to sit and watch, so he spent the summer working out, working on his game and making sure he wouldn’t be left out this season.
Douglas-Roberts’ emergence means it’s very possible Harris, at 26, will be the oldest starter on opening night. The other four could read like this: Lee (24), Douglas-Roberts (22), Lopez (21) and Yi Jianlian (22-ish — there’s still some question about Yi’s date of birth).
Nothing has been decided yet because Terrence Williams and Jarvis Hayes are in the mix for the small forward job, but Douglas-Roberts has stood out in the three games as the second-best offensive player behind Lopez.
As expected, Lopez is handling his increased workload well. He’s a mature 21-year-old and really wants to be great, so he’s embracing the challenge. The Nets have run the offense through him in each game and he has responded, looking very comfortable in this role.
The 7-footer has played 78 minutes, taken 31 shots and scored 58 points. He’s being efficient, effective and getting to the foul line. And he’s done that with Harris and Lee on the floor with him a total of zero minutes to this point. That will change tomorrow when Harris and Lee are expected to be available for the game against the Celtics at The Rock in Newark.
Lee still has missed a bunch of practices lately because of issues with both feet, but when he’s healthy the Nets expect him to play big roles on both ends of the floor. Harris has looked good and done a good job of directing the team before tweaking his ankle Friday in Philadelphia. When the season rolls around, he’ll pick his spots to take over games like he did last year.
Of course, none of this means that the Nets will finish .500-or-better and challenge for a playoff spot. But you can’t judge them off of three preseason games either.
PHILADELPHIA — The game didn’t get interesting until late in the fourth period, but rookie Terrence Williams and second-year player Chris Douglas-Roberts gave reasons to believe the Nets could be fun to watch this season.
Fun doesn’t always equate to wins, though, as the Nets wasted a 16-point fourth-quarter lead and fell 93-92 in a preseason game here last night. But the young guys forced turnovers, ran the floor, scored in transition and showed their athleticism and versatility, driving and dunking against the Sixers’ defense.
Williams and Douglas-Roberts will be in the Nets’ rotation, and it’s possible one of them could start. The small forward job seems to be the only one up for grabs, figuring Courtney Lee is the starting shooting guard.
Lee has missed both preseason games with injuries to each foot. He sat tonight for precautionary reasons. When Lee is healthy, he will be a big part of what the Nets do on both ends of the floor. So obviously, the Nets will look much different than what we’ve seen.
Williams and Douglas-Roberts led a spirited effort and combined on an impressive defensive stretch in the second period. The Nets had three steals in a row, leading to two fastbreak buckets by Douglas-Roberts, one that Williams fed. They nearly had a third, but Douglas-Roberts’ lob to Lopez was knocked away. Williams and Douglas-Roberts each had one steal in that span.
Douglas-Roberts led the Nets with 20 points, including a go-ahead score inside with 12.7 seconds to go. Williams had 12 points, five boards, four assists and three steals. Their contributions were needed because Devin Harris left the game with a sprained left ankle in the third period and didn’t return. He said he’s fine. Yi Jianlian fouled out with just seven points, further depleting the Nets’ core.
Whether Douglas-Roberts and Williams can do it every night is the question that still needs to be answered. At least Douglas-Roberts backed up his 21-point night against the Knicks with another good offensive performance.
Williams knocked down a few baseline jumpers and had an impressive driving lefty dunk. He also showed his great vision with a bullet pass from near the three-point arc inside to Yi for a slam.
“It was good,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “The experience was tremendous. There are lot things you teach that they’ll learn and get.”
Frank was referring to some defensive mistakes that he probably wouldn’t have been so blasť about if it were the regular season. The Nets’ youngsters fouled shooters and left Jason Kapono alone for a game-tying three in the final minute.
It was important that they experienced this type of game. That was especially true for center Brook Lopez, who was having a quiet night until the fourth period when the game got tight. The Nets saw a mismatch with Lopez’s size against Marreese Speights and Elton Brand and ran the offense through him more. Lopez scored 11 of his 18 points in the final 5:42.
“He was great down the stretch,” Eduardo Najera said. “Now that Devin was out, I think we did a great job going to Brook and he responded.”
Frank changed up the starting lineup and the rotation that he used Sunday against the Knicks as expected. He said he would be auditioning players at multiple spots.
Williams started and Jarvis Hayes came off the bench. Tony Battie and Eduardo Najera were the first two bigs off the bench. It was the first time Najera appeared in a Nets’ game since Jan. 31 against the Sixers.
One interesting lineup featured Harris, Trenton Hassell, Battie, Najera and Jarvis Hayes. Don’t know how much run that group will get in the real season — our guess is not much — but they outscored the Sixers 10-6 with Najera scoring five and Battie three.
Najera was solid and showed what he can do for this team. But the play of the three young guys has to give the Nets hope, especially since two other cornerstones either didn’t play or sat most of the second half with ankle injuries.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Nets’ first preseason game came after about seven practices, so you can’t expect too much from them so soon. But we’re going to bring up the energy and effort factors again.
It’s not that the Nets didn’t play with either, because they did Sunday against the Knicks, but it has been troublesome in the past. Too often the Nets go through lulls that seem to last all game. When you see what Nate Robinson does every time he enters a game – and every time he does so against the Nets – it makes you appreciate what he does for a team.
Robinson may not take the best shots or make the best decisions, but the guy just comes in the game and plays. He lifts the energy level of the team and the crowd. You never question his effort or energy.
The amazing dunks for someone his size notwithstanding, the fact that Robinson is always bouncing around and running all over the court non-stop are valuable traits. It helps that he can play, but still, there is something for having players whose motor is always going.
The Nets haven’t had guys like that in years and it’s something they can’t be without this season.
“We can’t be an average-intensity team,” coach Lawrence Frank said after practice today. “We have to be a high-intensity, high-effort team that plays with a great deal of oomph every single day.”
Look at the Nets’ roster: They do have some players who can play similarly, some guys that have to be like Robinson and give the team a jolt every time they come into the game, which they will need. Too often in recent years, the Nets have gone through lulls.
Assuming the starting five is Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Brook Lopez, Jarvis Hayes and Yi Jianlian, the Nets have second-year wing Chris Douglas-Roberts and rookie Terrence Williams coming off the bench. Their job has to be to lift the team. Third-year big man Sean Williams has the ability, but he hasn’t proven to be reliable or consistent enough.
The Nets have other players, particularly when veterans Keyon Dooling and Eduardo Najera are healthy, but the two young swingmen who are trying to make their names in the NBA can come off the bench with Nate-like fire.
“He’s a constant ball of energy,” Harris said. “I think Terrence can be that type of guy for us. He’s constantly firing those guys up and we need that kind of kick off the bench. We need our bench to take the game to another level when the starters come out.”
Douglas-Roberts will play a big role this season. He’s showing he’s fearless, can get into the paint and create shots, and can score a variety of ways. It looks as if he’s going to pick up some of the scoring lost when Vince Carter was traded to Orlando.
Frank called Douglas-Roberts “very, very determined” last week and you can see it. You also see how ultra competitive Douglas-Roberts is. That’s the type of player you want on your team.
All we’ve heard about Terrence Williams is his defensive presence and you can see that. He is going to help the Nets immensely on that end, pressuring the ball and getting into his man. But one of the things that stood out in the Knicks’ game was Williams chasing down Robinson and not letting him get an easy layup or dunk.
That’s the energy the Nets are going to need, the never-give-up-on-a-play mentality that is vital.
“He can be that for us,” Harris said. “He needs to look at ways to get on the floor and I think that’s one way, bringing that energy every day.”
Williams, who is from Seattle and good friends with Robinson, should have that Nate-like hop in his game and help give the Nets something they sorely need.
Williams took out Harris and Courtney Lee in practice today on different plays. Harris tweaked his left ankle, but expects to return to practice tomorrow. Lee hurt his right. There was swelling so he went for X-rays. They were negative. Lee has a sprained ankle and will be re-evaluated tomorrow.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).
ALBANY — The Nets’ first preseason game showed what you would expect: the future is bright with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, but overall, this team is a work in progress and will be for sometime.
Probably the most disappointing thing, especially after all the talk the first five days of practice about defense, was how the Nets didn’t play any here Sunday in a 115-107 loss to the Knicks.
It is the preseason and the scores tend to be on the high side in the exhibition season, but after all the talk and coach Lawrence Frank’s bluster about the defense, the Nets should have stepped up on that end. Now he has something to show them over and over and over.
“We got a lot of good footage there,” Frank said.
The Knicks are a tough team to guard because of Mike D’Antoni’s offense, the amount of shooters and scorers they have and the random pick-and-rolls they run. But it’s good that the Nets saw that they have a long, long way to go.
The perimeter defense was bad. The interior defense was bad. The Nets allowed 49 points over a 17-minute stretch between the first and second periods and 79 in a 29-minute span over the first three periods. The Knicks shot 13-of-31 from three overall.
The Knicks are no defensive stalwarts, but they were more active and talking much more than the Nets after the first period.
“I’m disappointed defensively,” Frank said. “This is a little bit of a litmus test in terms of seeing where we’re at defensively.
They have a long way to go.
Some other observations:
- Harris, the Nets’ best player, performed like he did last year, only with more of an air that this is his team. He got in the lane and scored when he wanted and worked the two-man game with Lopez well. Harris also pulled guys aside and guided them on where they should be in certain situations.
- Lopez was impressive. The Nets tried to establish him early, which we like, and the second-year center showed he’s ready to be more involved. In the first half, he took 11 foul shots, one less than the Knicks as a team. Lopez had 19 points at the break and finished with 19. He and Harris didn’t play in the fourth.
- Yi Jianlian was assertive at times and showed improved confidence. After missing inside, Yi drove to the basket on the next position, was fouled and scored. He needs to continue to be aggressive, but he can’t forget about the other end.
- Don’t jump off the bridge yet, but the first game looked like many last year where the other team’s starting forwards outplayed the Nets. Between Yi and Jarvis Hayes, the Nets scored 16 points. The Knicks got 34 combined from Al Harrington and Jared Jeffries.
- Chris Douglas-Roberts created for himself and got to the line repeatedly. He led with 21 points and was 11-of-15 from the line. It may not always look pretty, but the guy is a shotmaker inside. Figuring Courtney Lee is the starting shooting guard, Douglas-Roberts should be one of the first guys off the bench unless he continues to play this way and Frank decides to start him at small forward. But because of the size and strength of other threes in the Atlantic (Paul Pierce, Caron Butler, Andre Iguodala and Al Harrington) that may be tough.
- Rafer Alston ran the team well, setting up his teammates for open shots and baskets inside. The Nets will be able to play him with Harris the way they did last year with Keyon Dooling. When Dooling returns from rehabbing from hip surgery, someone will be unhappy and on the trading block, and it won’t be Harris.
- Rookie Terrence Williams missed his first six shots and was rejected twice, but one play that stood out was after a bad Sean Williams pass led to a Nate Robinson run-out. Williams caught up to his speedy Seattle buddy and prevented the dunk by fouling Robinson, who missed one of the free throws.
Preseason game No. 2 is Friday at the Sixers. The Nets expect a better defensive performance. It will be the focus of practice this week for sure. Then again, it was last week, too.