Tagged: Nets

Nets don’t know how to win yet

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.
 
nets286_101309.jpgBut 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.).

With no lottery luck, Nets get No. 11 pick

SECAUCUS, N.J. — The NBA Draft Lottery went just like the Nets’ season. Despite their best intentions, they just couldn’t beat the odds.

So, the Nets will pick 11th in next month’s draft, as expected. But, they hope to have the same luck they had in last year’s draft when a big center they never expected to be there fell to them at No. 10 — Brook Lopez.
 
It’s not often you have that type of good fortune two years in a row, but the Nets can hope. The truth is this is not a deep draft. There’s power forward Blake Griffin and basically everyone else.

Sure, Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio has been mentioned at No. 2 and UConn’s 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet at three. But, both have big question marks and after them there are questions about who’s going to be a player and who’s not.
 
For that reason, the Nets aren’t all broken up about not jumping into the top three. They don’t think there’s much difference between three, four, five and 11.

Don’t get me wrong. They would have loved the No. 1 pick, of course. The Nets’ frontcourt would be set for the next 10-12 years, if Griffin and Lopez reach their potential.
 
They will call the Clippers to see if there is any package the Clippers would accept, perhaps even including Devin Harris to make it enticing, for the No. 1 pick.
 
If the Nets wound up two or three they would have discussed whether to go with Thabeet or Arizona power forward Jordan Hill or Arizona State swingman James Harden. Who knows if either falls and how far?
 
But, if the Nets stay at 11, any number of players that they like probably will be available to them, whether it’s a point guard — this draft has plenty of them — a wing player or a power forward.
 
flynn250_051909.jpgThink these names right now but things could change in the next month: Point guards Jonny Flynn of Syracuse, Ty Lawson of UNC and Jeff Teague of Wake Forest, Wake small forward James Johnson, Louisville swingman Terence Williams and undersized Pitt power forward DeJuan Blair.
 
Point guard, wing player and power forward are the Nets’ three biggest needs.
 
They want a third point guard for insurance reasons. They would like a small forward that can score consistently. Bobby Simmons and Trenton Hassell didn’t stand out last year and a power forward that isn’t good for 1-for-6, four points and three rebounds every night (Yi Jianlian was a big disappointment).
 
The Nets won’t find all three in this draft and likely will have to make trades to fill some of their needs, but they should have options.

“We definitely feel there will be some player picked at 11 or even lower than 11 that will be a really good player in the NBA,” Nets president Rod Thorn said. “That’s the way it is every year. We just have to get the right guy.”
 
That’s it. The Nets need to make sure they get the right guy this time.
 
Last year, they had arguably the best draft in the league when they took Lopez, Ryan Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts. They basically got three top 25 picks even though Douglas-Roberts went at No. 40.
 
The Nets have to have similar success this summer because you just don’t know what else they will be able to do in this economic climate, with their own financial issues and with many teams not looking to take back salary.
 
“I think it’s very important that you pick judiciously and you get somebody who can help you particularly when you pick as high as we are,” Thorn said.
 
This could be the only addition the Nets make this summer. It’s not likely because Thorn badly wants the Nets to be a playoff team, but it is possible.
 
The Nets are in a cost-cutting mode, like most teams. They’re not going to want to add too much salary, so look for trades rather than signings. But, they need a willing partner, and who knows if they’ll have to throw in the No. 11 pick to make Sean Williams or Simmons or Hassell or Josh Boone more attractive.
 
But, if they keep the pick, the Nets have to make sure they get the right guy, someone who makes the rotation. They have to have similar success as last year when the lottery didn’t go as they hoped but the draft sure did.

Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

Thorn is frank about Frank

thorn250_042209.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rod Thorn came in the room with his voice hoarse and cracking. The immediate joke was it came from shouting down some people at the big management/ownership meeting last night when Lawrence Frank was discussed.

Perhaps it was fitting that Thorn barely had a voice when he openly wondered whether his coach still had one.

The overriding theme in Thorn’s end-of-season wrap with the media was are the players still listening to Frank. Sure, there are other reasons Thorn didn’t come out and say Frank would be his coach next season, but the voice seemed to be the biggest reason why he couldn’t say he would.

“I wouldn’t say it’s my primary concern, but it is one of them,” Thorn said. “You just look at the whole thing. Have we gone as far as we can go with the way we are going, or if we have a new voice can it give us an infusion to go higher basically is what I’m looking at.”

As the nearly 30-minute sit-down with Thorn ended there were more questions than answers. Among them:

What’s it going to take for you to decide?
“Just trying to look at our team, trying to look at where we’re trying to go, trying to look at all the aspects of it and trying to figure out what’s best for our team.”

What are you weighing?
“Is the voice still pertinent? Do I think the team will reach whatever its limitations are? Are we still headed in the right direction? Those types of things.”

When will you decide?
“In a timely fashion. There is no set date, but I think a timely fashion is always appropriate.”

You realize people will interpret that Frank is out?
“I realize I’m probably being nave, but I don’t think people should interpret it any way. It’s just an organization trying to do its due diligence, trying to think where it is, where it’s going, without any decision being made yet.”

How much does the delay have to do with a particular candidate?
“None.”

Thorn handled it like the pro that he is. Nets’ fans should know one thing: Thorn always tries to make the right decision based on the circumstances.

You may not like some of his trades or signings but sometimes his hands were tied because of ownership constraints and other situations.

In this case, it’s totally his call. Money plays a factor because you’re dealing with about $4.5 million salary for Frank next season, which is a lot for any business. Especially one losing money, laying off employees, and deciding to have a joint summer-league team with the Sixers to save expenses.

But, if Frank stays it shouldn’t be because of money. It should be because he deserves to be the coach. If you look at this season alone, Frank deserves to be back and Thorn knows that much.

Thorn isn’t just looking at this season, though. He’s looking at the last few, how the Nets played down the stretch of the season when they surprisingly were still in the playoff race and playing it forward, trying to figure out whether Frank will get more of out this group next season.

During the interview, Thorn received a lozenge that made his voice a little better. The strength of the coach’s voice remains a question in Thorn’s mind.

Nets end season with ugly loss to Knicks

knicksblogalb250.jpgNEW YORK — The Nets ended their season at Madison Square Garden last night with a 102-73 loss to the Knicks — without Vince Carter and Devin Harris — and now begin what should be another busy offseason.
 
Will coach Lawrence Frank be back? Will Carter? What’s Yi Jianlian’s future — a bust or a contributor? Who will they draft? Will they trade their pick? Will they make any big deals?
 
The quick answers to all of this are maybe, probably, we’ll see, the best available player, perhaps and they’ll try. The real answers will come soon enough. Before we look ahead, here’s a look back at 2008-09:
 
MVP

Carter beats out Harris because he was healthier, came to play every night and led this team to the last game. Carter embraced his role as captain. He led by example, played hurt and helped give the young guys a role model to follow.
 
5 Biggest Surprises
 
1. Brook Lopez: You don’t normally find a potential franchise center with the No. 10 pick
 
2. The Nets: With eight new faces they stayed in the playoff race longer than expected
 
3. Devin Harris: Went from essentially a complementary player in Dallas to an All-Star here
 
4. Ryan Anderson: Scored more points than eight players taken ahead of him
 
5. Keyon Dooling: We knew he was good, but had a career year and was instant energy
 
5 Biggest Disappointments
 
1. Yi Jianlian: Just when he looked like he got it, he broke his pinky and went backward
 
2. Home Play: Nets were 19-22 at Izod Center and lost 13 games by at least 10 points
 
3. Eduardo Najera: Nets may have been better defensively and overall if he wasn’t hurt all season
 
4. No Moves: Management tried, but never found a third point guard or upgraded the roster in-season
 
 
5. Josh Boone: Didn’t improve and Lopez’s emergence didn’t inspire him to raise his game
 
5 Games to Remember
 
1. Nets 129, Raptors 127 (OT), Nov. 21, Air Canada Centre
Harris was in the back sick, returned and had a great second half, but this game was about Carter’s game-tying three in regulation and his alley-oop dunk to win in OT.
 
2. Nets 98, Sixers 96, Feb. 23, Izod Center
Harris’ halfcourt heave with Andre Iguodala draped all over him was shot of the year; the kind that made you think the Nets were going to be a Cinderella playoff team – guess not.
 
3. Nets 121, Mavs 97, Dec. 19, IZOD Center
In Jason Kidd’s return, an inspired Harris had 41 points and 13 assists against his old team, leading the fans to chants of “Thank you, Cuban,” to Mavs’ owner Mark.
 
4. Nets 117, Suns 109, Nov. 30, U.S. Airways Center

Harris’ 47 points helped the Nets cap a 3-1 trip and end a 14-game drought in the desert. Harris became an All-Star on this trip.
 
5. Nets 114, Nuggets 70, Feb. 7, IZOD Center
Denver never saw this one coming. Who did? This was an all-out annihilation of one of the NBA’s best teams.
 
 
5 Games to Forget

 
1. Bucks 107, Nets 78, March 30, IZOD Center
They should have asked for some stamps because they mailed this one in one day after a no-show in Minnesota.
 
2. Celtics 105, Nets 86, Jan. 17, IZOD Center
Young fans had to watch this matinee massacre and their favorite players, Harris and Carter, benched for the second half.
 
3. Wizards 108, Nets 88, Dec. 2, IZOD Center
Coming off a 3-1 West trip, the Nets left their legs and us-against-everyone mentality in another time zone.
 
4. Clippers 107, Nets 105, March 15, Staples Center

Everyone remembers the foul up three and Steve Novak’s game-winner, but the Nets played with no urgency while still in the playoff race.
 
5. Golden State 116, Nets 112, March 11, Oracle Arena
Nets led this game by 14 and were outscored in the second half, 63-45. It was a bad omen to start the 0-4 trip that ultimately sealed their playoff fate.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

Playoff hopes keep slip slidin’ away


Nets-3-27-250.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD – Another game, another MVP candidate, another loss for the Nets, but it was a little different than the last two.
 
LeBron James beat the Nets the last two games with his shot or with his ability to make plays late. Last night against the Lakers, reigning MVP, wasn’t the catalyst during crunch time. Kobe Bryant was scoreless in the fourth. How often does that happen?
 
Doesn’t matter? All that matters is the Nets couldn’t capitalize, lost 103-95 and improved their chances of being in the NBA Draft Lottery.
 
Ten games remain and the Nets are 4 ½ behind the Pistons for the East’s last playoff spot. As if they weren’t already, now every game really is a must-win, especially the two against the Pistons and one against the eighth-place Bulls.
 
The Nets have to beat the teams they’re chasing, especially since they can’t beat the ones near or at the top of the conference.
 
They’ve played a few of them lately, and this game followed a similar script as the prior two against Cleveland. The Nets’ opponent built a double-digit lead and New Jersey had to fight back just to make it competitive.
 
They were down 14 in the first half of this one, tied it in the third, allowed a 24-2 run to fall behind 81-59 and then closed to within three with 2:19 remaining. But the Nets couldn’t finish it off – again.
 
It’s one thing if Bryant was making the plays, but he wasn’t. He missed all four shots he took in the fourth and scored zero points in the period. But Pau Gasol didn’t miss much and Lamar Odom got the biggest rebound of the night, resulting in a stick-back and a five-point lead.
 
Gasol was brilliant, making up for Bryant’s 5-for-19 game. Gasol was 14-for-19 and finished with 36 points and 11 rebounds. Bryant only had 14, about half his average. But the amazing thing is the Lakers improved to 8-1 when Bryant scores under 20.
 
This proves that the Lakers aren’t just Kobe and the Bryants. They are a team that knows how to win, even if their best player is off. And they proved that to the Nets twice.
 
The Lakers beat the Nets in L.A. in November when Bryant was held to 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting. L.A. won that one going away – a 27-point defeat. You can say the Nets have gotten better, but what does that get you at this point?
 
“We’re running out of time for these consolation prizes,” coach Lawrence Frank said.

0D

 
There are no consolation prizes. The Nets lost and keep losing. It doesn’t matter that they’re playing good teams close – not at this point of the season.
 
If it were December or even January, you could say the clichéd these are games they can build on. It’s March and they’re not building on these losses. They’ve beaten only one team with a winning record in March.
 
If you’re going to make the playoffs, or at least give yourselves a chance, you have to20win some of the games you’re not supposed to win. The Nets have played a bunch of them, played them close, and have nothing to show for it.
 
The Nets did get Devin Harris back. He missed the past five games because of a shoulder injury. Harris had 13 points and 14 assists but his return couldn’t lift the Nets enough.
 
Now they get a little reprieve with Minnesota and Milwaukee upcoming. The Nets have to win those games unless they exhale after playing all those title contenders, which would be inexcusable.
 

Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

Nets likely coming to end of the road

vincesad032409.jpgCLEVELAND — Twelve games remain for the Nets, and by no means is their schedule as easy as at least one of the teams they’re chasing. That’s why, in all likelihood, 12 games is all that will remain for the Nets this season.
 
It’s not over yet, but the Nets, who are 2 1/2 games behind Chicago as of this writing and play at Cleveland tomorrow and host the Lakers on Friday, probably need to go 9-3 or 8-4 and hope the Bucks, Bobcats and Bulls stumble.
 
Charlotte and Milwaukee could, but expecting the Bulls, currently the No. 8 seed, to sink when eight of their remaining 11 games are at home and the Nets to win either 67 percent or 75 percent of their final games might be asking a lot.
 
Figure something crazy doesn’t happen, like the Pistons totally dropping out, here’s a look at the teams vying for the last spot and their chances of earning the series with the Cavs:
 
Bulls (33-38; 8 H, 3 A) 8th place
Home: Pistons, Heat, Pacers, Nets, Knicks, Sixers, Bobcats, Raptors
Away: Toronto, Indiana, Detroit
Commentary: They’re explosive and deep and benefiting big time from the acquisitions of John Salmons and Brad Miller before the trade deadline. They also have a favorable schedule with their next three games at home and five of their last six.
Conclusion: A strong finish and wins over the Pistons and the Bulls could move into seventh. But you have to like them for at least eighth with at least 39 wins.
 
Bobcats (31-39; 4 H; 8 A) 9th place, 1 out
Home: Knicks, Lakers, Heat, Sixers
Away: Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Chicago, New Jersey, Orlando
Commentary: They have a few winnable road games, but their home games are tough aside from the Knicks. They end the season on a four-game road trip.
Conclusion: Larry Brown’s team made it interesting, but will come up short with around 35 wins.
 
Bucks (31-40; 5 H; 6 A) 9th place, 2 out

Home: Lakers, Grizzlies, Hawks, Oklahoma City, Orlando
Away: Toronto, Orlando, Miami, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Indiana
Commentary: They play five of their next six on the road, including four straight, and the one home game is the Lakers. Scott Skiles could get more out of them than expected, but like Brown’s Bobcats, the Bucks probably won’t have enough.
Conclusion: Richard Jefferson may finish ahead of his old team, with 36 wins, but the Nets will have gone 3-1 against the Bucks.
 
Nets (30-40; 6 Home, 6 Away) 11th place, 2 out
Home: Lakers, Bucks, Pistons, Sixers, Magic, Bobcats
Away: Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, New York
Commentary: They’re going to have to steal a game or six or against teams that either are title contenders or likely in the postseason and hope the Bulls collapse. Devin Harris has return possessed from his shoulder injury — perhaps Friday against the Lakers — Vince Carter has to dominate these final 12 contests and the Nets will have to execute better late in games to have a chance.
Conclusion: Most of these teams are healthy and either playing for playoff position or to get in. Figure the Nets have 35 or 36 wins and finish nine or tenth. (We expect them to hold the tiebreaker over Milwaukee and Charlotte)
 
Pacers (29-42; 8 H, 3 A) 12th place, 4 out
Home: Heat, Wizards, Bulls, Spurs, Raptors, Pistons, Cavaliers, Bucks
Away: Chicago, Oklahoma City, Atlanta
Commentary: They play four of their last five at home.
Conclusion: It’s possible the Pacers could creep up with their rather favorable schedule, but 34 wins sounds about right.
 
Knicks (28-42, 5 H, 6 A) 4 out
Home: Clippers, Hornets, Raptors, Pistons, Nets
Away: Charlotte, Utah, Denver, Toronto, Chicago, Orlando, Miami
Commentary: They’ve lost five straight, and four of their next five games are against the Hornets and at Charlotte, Denver and Utah.
Conclusion: Why are they even here? They’re a 33-win team — at best.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

Nets could be fading fast after another loss

Nets-3-16-300.jpgThe Nets’ four-game West trip ended rather anticlimactically, except for Sean Williams’ being arrested.
 
After losing at the buzzer Sunday night to the Clippers, the Nets had little left for Denver and you wonder how much they have left in this season.
 
Without Devin Harris, the Nets hardly put up a fight against a team they beat by 44 points last month. You knew the Denver Nuggets would want revenge and the Nets let them have it. They just handed it to them, and were annihilated 121-96 to end the trip in predictable fashion.
 
The Nets came home 0-4 when they easily could have gone 2-2 or 3-1. They led in the fourth quarter of the first three games and were in the game in the final minute of all three. This one wasn’t much of a game. The Nets played catch-up most of the night and then just laid down, giving up 72 second-half points and were just manhandled inside.
 
With 15 games to go, the Nets are 11 games under .500 for the first time. They’re all alone in 12th place when they could have been in eighth or at least tied for eighth if they finished some of the games on this trip.
 
Vince Carter was brilliant for the second straight game, following up his 41-point game against the Clippers with 32 last night. But he needed help. He missed Harris. All the guys in blue and in the suits on the visitor’s bench did.
 
But this isn’t about the loss of Harris. It’s about the loss of another game and how they lost it. It wasn’t as bad mentally or emotionally as the prior three against the Warriors, Blazers and Clippers. It was bad physically.
 
This was going to be a tough game to win without Harris, but the Nets made it easy for the Nuggets by showing no toughness inside, no fight on the boards.

“We just got dominated inside with our inability to hit bodies and get the ball,” coach Lawrence Frank said on the YES Network. “[We showed] such little resistance on the defensive boards.”

It was embarrassing how Denver dominated the boards, especially the offensive glass. Through three quarters, the Nuggets missed 46 shots, field goals and free throws combined, and they collected nearly half of those misses with 21 offensive rebounds ..
 
Overall, the Nets gave up 25 offensive rebounds, were minus-20 on the boards – minus-19 on the offensive end – and the points in the paint were a ridiculous 62-24. It came down to the same things we always talk about: urgency, effort, desire and for the most part the Nets showed none of that.
 
Maybe they still were feeling the effects of the Steve Novak buzzer-beater the night before. It’s very possible yet not acceptable. It’s about having a short memory and playing with a purpose and the purpose is to get in the playoffs.
 
The Nets now are just one-half game up on No. 13 Indiana and two games out of the playoffs. They better start winning games quickly, and perhaps without Harris for the time being. They’re now 1-6 without him.
 
Harris will have an MRI on his left shoulder today. The Nets can’t afford bad news, but it wouldn’t be surprising based on the events of the last week.
 
They lost three winnable games – two they should have won – lost their leading scorer and lone All-Star and had their suddenly contributing athletic second-year big man thrown in jail after a reported altercation in a Denver mall.
 
The Nets had a few chances to climb in the standings out West and did nothing but move down, suffering one awful defeat after another. The Nets talk about having a short memory. They have to have one now. Yet you have to wonder how much they have left.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)