Sick of the MisBlatches?

I’ve got a bone to pick with Jason Kidd and the Nets coaching staff.

Clearly Kevin Garnett has proved his worth to this Brooklyn Nets team. The interior defense is in fact offensive at this point. Not only are the Nets getting killed on the glass, but they are doing a poor job of defending the paint. Surely the Nets are playing shorthanded, but what irks me is the loyalty to Andray Blatche.

Apparently Andray creates too many "misBlatches" on defense.

A savant on offense, but unfortunately an idiot on defense.

As we all know, Blatche is an extremely talented player of his size. Not too many NBA centers have the ability to put the ball on the floor and score with such pizzazz, or as Ian Eagle would say, “razzle-dazzle”. When Blatche is on his game, he’s a menace for the opposing team to defend.

Unfortunately, the highlight reel plays distract us fans from his game’s warts. His inconsistencies on the offensive end and ineffectiveness on defense are doing more harm than good for the Nets right now. As creative as he is on offense with his improvisations, he repeatedly fails to demonstrate any awareness at the other end of the court. To compound the problem is that he’s not a strong rebounder either.

During the recent three game road trip, the Nets interior was pummeled by the likes of Samuel Dalembert, Anthony Davis, and Al Jefferson. Even the Pelicans’ Alexis Ajinca made his presence felt in a big way during his minutes on the court. The Nets’ “bigs” were outrebounded and scored upon at an efficient rate, mostly with Blatche on the court.

Player

FGA

FGM

O-REB

TOTAL REB

PTS

Dalembert

4

5

5

15

12

Davis

9

17

3

14

24

Ajinca

3

6

4

9

6

Jefferson

15

27

3

15

35

There’s no doubt that having Garnett would have made a difference in these games, but perhaps the Nets coaching staff could have turned have turned to a player whose skill set matches what they needed when the opposing centers were having their way. After all, isn’t that why Jason Collins was brought in here?

No, Collins doesn’t impact the game the way Dalembert did on that night in Dallas, but in the small sample that we have seen of him, he is still able to do the little things that helps the team at both ends. Odds are he wouldn’t have shut down Jefferson, but it is likely that he could have positioned himself well enough to disrupt his rhythm and slow him down for some of those Bobcats’ possessions.

Statistically he isn’t a good rebounder, but Collins is still effective at boxing out his opponent and tapping the loose ball to others. How many times during the past few games did you find yourself cursing at television while the Mavericks, Pelicans, and Bobcats consistently got their own rebound and kept their possessions alive?

The paint has become a comfortable place for opponents.

The paint has become a comfortable place for opponents.

We know that Collins brings nothing to the table in terms of scoring, but remember that he does have a role in an offensive set. Too many times with Blatche on the court the offense goes stagnant and bad decisions are made. The Nets revert back to isolation plays and force low percentage shots. As we have already seen with Collins, a solid screen can open up a lane for a driving Deron Williams or Shaun Livingston.

It’s not even a question that Blatche has more talent than Collins; however, the coaching staff has to do a better job of identifying when it’s not Andray’s night and yank him from the court before it is too late. Yes, he creates mismatches that help the Nets, but the unfortunate reality is that he creates “misBlatches” that hurt them as well.

Make no mistake, I’m not suggesting that Collins should replace Blatche on the depth chart, because he shouldn’t.  However, I do think that Collins can be productive and help the Nets in a 5-7 minute allotment.  It’s worth a try when our defense is stumbling and bumbling, don’t you think?

Billy King and company have repeatedly claimed that their decision to sign Collins was always a basketball decision to add to the team’s front court depth. They shot down the notion that this was all a publicity stunt and that he was brought in to do the things that the Nets struggle at doing.

Well, it’s time for the Nets to live up to their word.

This Kidd is Growing Up Fast

Question: The first month at your new job, in a role you never had before, how did you do?  I thought so.

It still seems that the jury, mostly fickle fans, is still out for Jason Kidd.  If you haven’t noticed,  Kidd has evolved into a pretty good coach during his rookie season.  To think that he would have hit the ground running without failure was foolish for many Net fans, myself included.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was very concerned how this season would play out when the team was sitting at 10-21.  Embarrassments were piling up quickly: from serving a two game suspension for a DUI incident, to Soda-Gate, to daily reports, to routine 25-point first half deficits, to nationally televised “no-shows” on TNT and ESPN.  Things appeared to be on the brink of a complete implosion despite players preaching patience as the “process” was playing out.  With Billy King sitting closer to the bench, it only seemed like a matter of time until the plug would be pulled from this experiment and Kidd would be put out of his misery.

To say that things didn't get off to a good start would be an understatement.

To say that things didn’t get off to a good start would be an understatement.

Watching the Brooklyn Nets through the first 31 games was not only frustrating, but sad.  Here we had the most beloved player in franchise history being turned into public enemy number one for the fan base.  Constant complaining of too much sitting down was usually accompanied by the #FireKidd hashtag on Twitter.  For some fans, their fond memories of him transforming a pathetic team 12 years ago felt as if they were being washed away by this new Kidd Era.  This is the downside of the “microwave society” we live in today where patience is teetering on the brink of extinction and instant gratification is not just expected, but demanded.

Well after a tumultuous start, it looks as if Kidd has figured out a thing or two about coaching basketball.  Everyone learns differently, so perhaps sitting down was the most comfortable place for him to soak up the game from a new perspective.  After sixty games, has Kidd showed much improvement?  Of course!  Is he a finished product? Obviously not, but let’s revisit that question a year or so from now.

Considering where the Nets are now, from where they were, is a testament to his ability to lead.  When his players weren’t competing, he took a bold stance by benching former All-Stars and future Hall of Famers for the likes of D-Leaguers and a rookie– a page right out of Coach Norman Dale’s playbook.

Many mocked the beard look at first, but it was a brilliant way of rebranding his image.  Do you still look at him and think of him as a player?  Me neither.  As for the no-tie fashion statement, remember that this is a superstitious person we are talking about.  Don’t you remember the blown kisses before each free-throw attempt?

Did the Lawrence Frank incident go down ugly?  Absolutely!  But perhaps Kidd realized that his credibility as a coach would be compromised as long as a former authority figure loomed in the background, talking over him at practices and publicly second guessing his decisions.

When the Nets first hired Kidd, prior to the big deal with Boston, I believed that it was the right move.  (Making the Case for Jason Kidd)  He was a unique star player as his game was predicated on making others better.  Just like Mikki Moore and Lucious Harris before them, Mirza Teletovic and Shaun Livingston have grown as players by Kidd putting them in a position to be successful.

Many times this calendar year, the Nets have resembled those Kidd-led teams from a decade ago with unselfish play, crisp ball movement, ferocious defense, and resiliency.  Think about the wins against Oklahoma City (down 16 in the second half), Miami (without Deron Williams), and more recently against Chicago and Memphis, where Kidd clearly outcoached Tom Thibodeau.  Even the MLK Day slaughtering at Madison Square Garden was something I hadn’t seen since bowling ball passes led fast breaks.

The overall feel around this club is totally different from where it was earlier this season and a year ago.  Do setbacks still occur like what we saw in the Oklahoma City rematch and recently against Portland and Boston?  Yes they do, but maybe old habits just die hard.  At least we don’t have to dread the third quarter anymore.

It took a little time, but Kidd is once again their confident leader.

It took some time, but Kidd is once again the confident leader of the Nets.

A leader as a player has morphed into a leader as a coach.  It was he who challenged the media when asked if Jason Collins would be a distraction when he said, “it’s up to you guys if this will be a distraction”.  Since then the media has seemed to have moved on.

It’s time to respect our coach and acknowledge the great job that he has done for the past three months.  He was the one who reconfigured the lineup and found a winning combination after Brook Lopez went down.

So when a disappointing loss is followed up with a “these things happen”, take his word.  In case you have forgotten, they happened when he was a player but now he is the one managing the egos of 12 individuals.  Do you expect him to trash his squad?  Give him credit and trust that he is making the right move in the grand scheme of things.  To micromanage every little decision is foolish and unfair, especially for a rookie.

Are the Nets better off today than on December 31, 2013?  You can thank your team’s leader, who found a way to keep the team together.

It’s quite amazing how quickly this Kidd is growing up.

Found Identity?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “We’re not sure what our identity is”.

Perhaps the Brooklyn Nets cannot figure out their identity because they are the basketball version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  On any given night, spectators can be treated to a display of beautiful basketball, whereas other evenings are filled with frustration and anger.  The only thing consistent about the Nets is their inconsistency.

There has been great debate as to who is the face of this franchise for the past season and a half.  Is it the homegrown seven-foot man-child or is it the max-contract “superstar” point guard?  Maybe it’s the super cool, crafty veteran who has ice water running through his veins when the stakes are high.

Whose team is this?

Whose team is this?

Well folks, I think we have it all wrong.  After carefully considering the candidates, the one player who embodies every quality (positive and negative) of the Brooklyn Nets is Andray Blatche.   Yes, you read that correctly!  Think about it for a second.   Dray has all of the traits the Nets have: oozing with natural talent but unable to put it all together consistently.  Offensive brilliance is usually undone by mental lapses and poor execution on the defensive end.  Highlight reel plays are matched with embarrassing bloopers.

When things are going well, the Euro-stepping, behind-the-back dribbling, Point-Blatche act is must see TV.  It’s as if he is compiling his demo reel for his post NBA career with The Harlem Globetrotters.

Well it’s all fun and games until the ill-advised 20-foot jump shots, poor gambles on defense, and carelessness with the ball rear its ugly head.  This reckless abandonment is when Blatche resembles a supersized JR Smith.  When he plays within his limits with the occasional freestyle approach, he is most productive.  It’s when the equation becomes unbalanced that his effectiveness is dramatically reduced.

Trust me, the fans are just as frustrated at home.

Trust me, the fans are just as frustrated at home.

The Nets, as a team, are similar in nature.  When they play disciplined,  good things happen: solid ball movement leads to better offensive efficiency.  It’s when they abandon the team concept that those three ugly letters emerge on the scene: ISO.  This is when the offense goes stagnant leading to bad effort and execution on the defensive end of the court. These are the games in which they get blown out against quality teams or struggle against the league’s lesser opponents.

Should “The Andray Show” or Net games come with a disclaimer so that viewers are warned to expect a whirlwind of emotions?  At least fans will know what they are getting themselves into before the feelings of joy and despair take over.

If Andray was of the canine species, he would think he was a lapdog.

If Andray was of the canine species, he would definitely think that he was a lapdog.

So to say that we don’t have an identity is incorrect. Consistently inconsistent is our M.O. and perhaps that’s the result of your 6’11” center thinking he is a point guard at times.

Frustrating?  Of course!  One thing for certain is that things are always interesting albeit maddening.  Life with Andray and these Brooklyn Nets is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get.