Bench Becoming Brooklyn Nets Trademark

Elsa

In retrospect, what Billy King did last summer looks better now that it did then, and it looked damn good then!

As the Nets departed Boston Wednesday night as the Brooklyn Brawlers, Brooklyn Deckers, Brooklyn Bad Boyz or Crooklyn Nets --we'll take any and all -- the story was about the brawl in Boston. But as the cold light of dawn spread over the East(ern Conference), there was almost as much talk about how the Nets bench rallied the team to their most satisying win in, well, 48 hours! While the win over the Knicks was history, the one over the Celtics was an exorcism and the bench mob was a big part of it.

As John Hollinger writes Thursday...

Did you think that the Nets would be better than Boston at this point? Did you think they’d be better because of their defense? Did you think the bench would be the main catalyst behind the Nets’ success while the starters struggled? Did you suspect that Andray Blatche and Jerry Stackhouse would become the linchpins of that unit? And did you imagine the Celtics would be the ones accused of softness after a physical encounter that saw three ejections?

My answers: No, no, no, HELL no, and no.

That's why what Billy King, Bobby Marks and Frank Zanin (director of player procurement) did this off-season is now looking so remarkable. The Nets built a team in the off-season, one with depth, experience and, collectively as welll as individually, toughness. And they did it with five players on vet minimum deals --Andray Blatche, C.J. Watson, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans and Josh Childress-- plus one, Reggie Evans, who salary is only a half-million more than that. That's less than $7 million for six players.

And let's not forget the guy who's been molding these guys into a unit, the much-maligned Avery Johnson. People laughed when he said he wanted the team to be top 10 in defensive efficiency. As of Thursday, he looks more a prophet than a fool.

The numbers alone don't tell the story, but here they are anyway: Reggie Evans leads the league in rebounding per 48 minutes after four straight games of 10 or more rebounds. Andray Blatche (talk about your exorcisms!) came out of Wednesday night's game with a 20.76 player efficiency rating that's better than four the Nets' five high-priced starters. Jerry Stackhouse is shooting 53.6 percent from deep (second in the league and better than Ray Allen!) while averaging seven points in only 15.8 minutes (21 points per 48 minutes). And the Nets didn't get to be a top-10 defensive team without their and others' efforts.

As Hollinger writes, "In their first season in the new digs, these Nets are showing that there’s plenty of mettle and toughness behind all that expensive glitz."

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