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.).