The Month In Review - December 2013

Maddie Meyer

Brian Fleurantin continues his monthly reviews of the Nets with a look forward to key games this month.

Back in November, I said "Well, it can't be any worse than it was in November." Well actually, it was. The Nets had a better month in December than they did in November, but came out of the month in worse shape. On December 20, Brook Lopez went down in Philadelphia. He was able to complete the game (a Nets overtime loss), but the next day it was revealed that he broke his foot and has been ruled out for the season. He underwent surgery on January 4 and had a bone repositioned in his broken foot.

The numbers

How did December compare to November? Let's get into it:

Metric

November 2013

December 2013

Record

5-12 5-9

Pace

94.87 94.2

Offensive Efficiency

99.7 104.6

Defensive Efficiency

106.6 106.7

Offensive Rebounding percentage

24.9 20.6

Turnover rate

15.6 15.3

Assist rate

15.8 17

Rebound rate

49.2 46.7

Free throw rate

33.2 34.1

Effective Field Goal percentage

47.5 51.2

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.8 51.5

I guess you can refer to December as an improvement. The offense was carried in large part by Brook Lopez. In the seven games he played, he averaged 21.7 points per game and shoot 57 percent from the field. He was on his way to a possible All Star game appearance, but the injury prevented that from happening. When he returned from his hand injury in mid December, Paul Pierce slid into the sixth man role. He had some hits (27 points on 10-12 shooting against Washington on December 18) and misses (an 0-7 that ended in an ejection against Indiana on December 23), but he was thrust back into the lineup due to Lopez's injury. All things considered, it was another mediocre month for a player that was expected to be a solid third option on offense.

For all the talk of improving communication on defense, it didn't show in the numbers. They allowed 106.7 points per 100 possessions and are still one of the worst defenses in the league.  Their troubles defending the three point line continued as they allowed teams to shoot 37.7 percent from deep in December. Their awfulness can largely be attributed to the decline of Kevin Garnett and the extended absence of Andrei Kirilenko. Going into the season, I thought that duo would help Brooklyn become more respectable on defense. Shaun Livingston has the skills to be a very good defender and did a great job limiting Kevin Durant in the second half of the Brooklyn-Oklahoma City game on January 2. With all signs pointing to a Williams-Livingston-Johnson-Pierce-Center lineup going forward, Livingston will be tasked with guarding the opponent's best perimeter player.

Best Player: Mirza Teletovic

Last year, there were lots of calls to get Teletovic into the rotation. Coming into the NBA, he had earned a reputation of being a terrific shooter and a player that provides great floor spacing. However, he appeared in only 53 games. He entered the rotation with a great game against the Lakers in late November, and he carried it through December. In 13 December games, he averaged 10 points a game on a 58.9 True Shooting percentage, based in large part on his 42.6 percent from deep. On the surface, this isn't very impressive but with Teletovic on the court, the Nets are six points better per 100 possessions on offense. With Brooklyn tinkering with a small lineup, Teletovic will probably see fewer minutes but he should still maintain his efficiency whenever he touches the court.

Worst Player: Kevin Garnett

The Big Ticket still hasn't been able to turn his season around. He's still trying out there, but he just hasn't been able to put a decent stretch of games together. He's never shot under 40 percent from the midrange area for a full season in his 18 year career, but is shooting only 35.7 percent from the midrange and 36.7 percent overall. He's on pace to have the worst season of his Hall of Fame career and his play has actively taken away from Brooklyn's chances of winning.

Best Performance: December 12 vs. Los Angeles

This was the third straight win and Brooklyn looked pretty great while doing it. They were able to hold Chris Paul and friends to only 37 percent from the field and forced 14 turnovers. It wasn't an outlandish thought to assume that the Nets would take flight after this game, but a late rally the next night in Detroit wasn't enough to propel them to victory. After they delivered a smackdown to the Sixers on December 20, they went on a four game losing streak.

Worst Performance: December 5 vs. New York

This was the national TV game nobody wanted to watch. Going into the season, this was a game that had lots of intrigue as the teams were the clear favorites to win the Atlantic Division. Both teams had been (& still are) struggling and the eyes of the national audience were on Brooklyn. And what happened? The Nets got demolished by 30 points in their building. If the 30 point margin didn't clue you in to how embarrassing this game was, Reed Wallach's description will drive the point home:

The Nets trailed by as much as 34, never got within 25, and officially became the laughing stock of the league in the process. At the 9-minute mark of the fourth quarter Andrea Bargnani and Kevin Garnett got into a scrum, but it wasn't what one would think. Garnett pushed Bargnani to the floor going up for a rebound, but Bargnani pulled him down leading to the two having a stand-off and sharing some words. Garnett surprisingly kept his cool during the ordeal and it seemed that Bargnani was the aggressor in this scenario. Each received a technical for the scuffle. Only two Nets broke double digits and as a team they shot 38%. The Nets defense was what led to them getting blown off their own court, the Knicks shot 57% as a team, hitting 16 of their 27 threes.

Key games:

  • January 11 at Toronto

Surprisingly, the Raptors have played themselves into first place in the Atlantic. Going into the season, a bunch of people (I among them) thought that the Raptors would be looking to rebuild and position themselves for a high pick in a draft class that is expected to be pretty stacked. However, due to the trading of Rudy Gay and the terribleness of the Knicks & Nets, Toronto finds themselves competing for a playoff spot. As of this writing, Brooklyn finds themselves 5.5 games out of the division lead. This will also be a rematch from the game on November 26, a game that Brooklyn escaped with a 102-100 win. The odds of Brooklyn making the playoffs are unlikely at this point, but if they want to make advances to making the postseason, a win here would help their chances.

  • January 16 vs. Atlanta in London

For the NBA's sake, this game better not get postponed like the Spurs-Timberwolves tilt from Mexico City was. Assuming this game takes place, the first game these teams play against each other on the sixth could serve as a guide as to what will likely occur here. Williams has played well to start this month, and the point guard matchup with Jeff Teague should be very intriguing to watch. The game starts at 3:30 Eastern, so plan accordingly.

  • January 26 in Boston

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will be making their returns to Boston in this one. It's a national TV game and it

figures to be a very emotional night for the former Celtics and Boston fans. After the emotion subsides, the Nets will

try to weaken Boston's chances of making the playoffs. This is a rematch of their matchup on December 10, a game that Brooklyn won 104-96. In that contest, Deron Williams returned from his ankle injury, and in this one, we might be seeing the return of another star point guard. All Star and Connect Four champion Rajon Rondo has been on the comeback trail since tearing his ACL last January. He's been working out and might do some time in the Developmental League before rejoining the big club. It's no guarantee he'll be here for this game, but if he does, it will add one more layer to an already busy game.

Writing about the conflict in emotion fans have when players they love have moved to new teams, Romy Nehme wrote:

It is, after all, a situation rife with stirring emotional conflicts(!!). Chief among them is the pressing question of what happens when both your flavor of the month and your main squeeze's worlds collide. Does loyalty err on the side of an organization with which fans have toasted a celebratory bottle of Gatorade after having endured decades of drought and famine? Or does it sneak into the luggage of the players who have chiseled its collective identity and restored pride in a starved fan base?

Going into the season, no one expected the Celtics to be competing for a playoff spot. However, circumstances and dreadful play by teams expected to compete have forced Boston into playoff contention. It should make this game even more intense and complex for Boston fans.

  • Friday January 31 vs. Oklahoma City

This is a rematch from the game on January 2 that Brooklyn won at the buzzer. The Nets had perhaps their best defensive performance of the season and will look to pull off the upset again. Facing Oklahoma City is always a difficult, but this game takes on added difficulty for Brooklyn because this is night one of a ferocious back-to-back. After this game, they travel to Indiana to face the Pacers.

Player to watch: Deron Williams

At some point, Williams will have to go on a month long stretch of excellent play for the Nets to avoid the lottery make the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Nets, Williams is dealing with another injury, although he declined to specify where he's injured. He's off to a good start this month, as he's shot efficiently from the field and has buried seven three pointers through two games. Whatever issues you have with Williams' demeanor or performance this season (or throughout his stay with the franchise), he's the team's best

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