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.).
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Beware of Draft Day 2010 Devin Harris. It might be your turn.
First it was Richard Jefferson last year and then it was Vince Carter Thursday night. The Nets have moved a cornerstone player in each of the last two drafts. Each time they seemed to go backwards, yet they were looking ahead.
It’s all about 2010. It has been and it will continue to be until 2010 comes and then we’ll see if all the money the Nets saved really allows them to be players when some of the biggest fish will jump into free-agent waters next summer.
The Nets will have money, but numerous questions remain, such as A) Will they be allowed to spend it?; B) Will they be Brooklyn-bound, Newark-bound or leaving this time zone?; C) Will Bruce Ratner still own the team; and D) Will players want to play here?
Time will tell, but for now the Nets think they had a good Draft Day for the second straight year regardless of what you think.
They lost Carter, their best player, and Ryan Anderson. They got back Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie, and they drafted Terrence Williams out of Louisville.
Last year, they sent out Jefferson, got back Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons and drafted Brook Lopez, Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Which day was better or worse is too early to tell? But something tells me the Nets will miss Carter more than they miss Jefferson. Still, Carter wasn’t going to lead the Nets to the NBA title, so they felt it was time to go in another direction, build around some young players and cut somewhere around $17.5 million off their payroll next summer.
“From our standpoint, it certainly puts us in a tremendous position cap-wise going forward,” Nets president Rod Thorn said. “And we think we got a terrific young player in the process.”
That young player is Lee, who the Nets passed on, ironically, in favor of Anderson last year.
Thorn admitted the Nets are not better today, but he thinks they have a chance to better than people think. The Nets weren’t a playoff team before and nothing here says they will be one in 2009-10.
They said goodbye to probably their best scorer in NBA history and got an unproven shooting guard, an above-average point guard and an injury-riddled big man. They also got a versatile player in Williams, who plays three positions and defends three positions. But he’s a rookie so he, too, is unproven.
In other words, this upcoming season will be a lot like last season.
You’re going to watch with intrigue to see how these guys mesh and if they play hard and win games early you’re going to like the direction of the team. Then if they falter, you’re g oing to want the coach fired, some of the players traded, Yi taken out of the lineup, and so on.
A few things that you can count on is the Nets are going to try and run more and maybe they will trap more with a lineup that could feature Harris, Lee and Williams. They can be exciting that way because they have versatility and guys who are interchangeable. But they also have to and will establish Lopez much more.
We’re going to see if Lopez and Harris are for real, too. The Nets lost 21 points, about five assists and so many double-teams that helped the two young players get easier looks.
That’s why there is going to be so much wait-and-see with these Nets, just like last year.
The young guys have to buy in early the way Carter made sure they did last year. They have to commit to defense the way the Nets wouldn’t last year and they have to play together and with a tremendous chip because no one is expecting anything from them.
One more thing, they’re going to have find someone to make plays in the fourth quarter. Carter always did it, and his presence allowed Harris and Lopez to make plays. He will be missed there, too.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)