Need a break from the Melo nonsense? Will J is here to recap the last seven days in the second edition of The Week That Was.
This might be the last time we read a performance recap of the current iteration of the Nets. The Carmelo Anthony trade rumors have been relentlessly pouring in since the weekend and I'm sure many of the fans would love nothing more than to have this over. Most of the players involved in trade talks have been playing. Some are out with injury and some are superglued to the bench, like my man Troy Murphy.
It's all contributed to a higher than average blood pressure reading for the Net's fanbase, no doubt. A blockbuster could transpire as soon as today, and the team will look nothing like the one who trotted into the locker room, defeated, on Saturday. We shall see what unfolds, but in the meantime we have some basketball to talk about!
Nets 96 - Bulls 94
This past week began with a triumphant bang. After entering the new year with the type of performances that fans can typically find at their local D-League affiliate a game against the Bulls seemed treacherous, at best. The Bulls were surging int he standings, ESPN was talking about them as sleepers behind the Celtics and Heat, and they had just got a taste of what the Net's had a week prior and demolished them. It looked like it was going to be another embarassing loss, but...what's that? The Nets...won? The Nets won!?! That's right, they won - regardless of the fashion.
The Net's looked good in this game, with Derrick Favors getting his first, much anticipated start. Despite only playing nine minutes he racked up a very concentrated seven points, five rebounds, and a block. Promising, but his play wasn't the reason why this game was so entertaining. Kris "lunch pail" Humphries decided to put together his finest game as a pro. He dunked, alley ooped, and hustled his way into almost every Nets fan's heart last Wednesday. Twenty points and eleven rebounds later and you would have sworn Carlos Boozer didn't even suit up. A starter-caliber performance from one of the only 2009-2010 holdovers. Devin Harris had a strong game, actually deciding to pass the ball this game, on his way to dishing out eleven assists.
The game looked to be firmly in hand, but let's not forget what team we're watching: the Nets! They were bound to blow it! After having a sizable lead down the stretch the Bulls edged their way back to a tie with a minute left. Avery Johnson reached into his "Harlem Globetrotters for Dummies" playbook and decided a rocket of an alley-oop entry to the slumping Lopez would be just the thing. After a goofy ricochet off of the hoop Vujacic somehow slid in underneath the ball, received it, and as quick as he possibly could forced it back up again. An unlikely Net turn of events to be sure. Even MORE unlikely was Derrick Rose whiffing on the buzzer beater. Over these last two years Nets' opponents have seemed to possess magnetic accuracy in game deciding jumpers. Maybe this finally bucked the trend.
Biggest highlight of the game undoubtedly came when Petro dunked it leading to an Ian Eagle call of "Ohhhh!! International Flavor!" Well done, Ian.
Nets 77 - Wizards 97
Any positive feelings that may have been left over from the Bulls upset were definitely erased with this loss. It wasn't just an 'Oh, they lost by three or four, but played tough,' no. This was as ugly as a game can get. Here are some statistical "highlights" from the game sure to drive any over 21 Nets fan straight to the bottle:
- The Nets shot 34.6% (28-81!!)
- They had more turnovers (17) than assists (12)
- Starters Harris, Graham, and Outlaw combined for 14 points in 77 minutes.
- Brook Lopez had his second straight sub-five rebound game, while being outplayed by both Javale McGee and Andray Blatche.
- Johan Petro played only 12 minutes but was a -19!
What else is there to say? A season low in points, Devin Harris get's hurt, and we get beaten by one of the few teams with a more deplorable record than the Newark boys sport. The one person who played over 30 minutes was Travis Outlaw, who put up All-Star caliber numbers to the tune of four points, five rebounds, and two turnovers on 1-8 shooting. Decadent stuff, Travis.
What hurt almost as much as the absolute drubbing the Nets received was the maddening play of Lopez. To put it frankly, he does not look good. He is playing a slow, unaggressive, emotional, and relatively soft brand of basketball right now. It's hard to pinpoint the problem, but seeing BFF Ryan Anderson frolic up and down the court last week with a championship contender couldn't have felt good. Lopez has to pick it up, and play much better. He needs to rebound better, there is simply no way around it.
On a brighter note, Lopez's sideburns are looking pretty groovy these days.
Nets 92 - Bucks 115
Wow. The Nets REALLY want you to forget about their great victory against the Bulls. In a game that pitted the two worst offenses in the league against each other many of us were poised for a sluggish matchup. It turned out to be far from it for the Bucks, but much of the same for the Nets. Without their two best players, the Bucks blew out the Nets early in the first quarter and never looked back.
Once again we were treated to an exhibition on how NOT to rebound by our savior Brook Lopez. He finished the week with eight rebounds in three games. Our starting wings, Graham and Outlaw, combined for 3 points in 51 minutes, shooting a white hot 1-12 from the field.
On the bright side, Humphries racked up twenty-two and eight, while Farmar had a nifty double double of the points-assists variety. Also, for the third straight game, Favors showed moatloads of promise. If he remains a Net, he projects to be a good one.
This game might have been the last with this roster, and they certainly played like they had given up. Let's hope something get's resolved soon on the trade front so that thse players can get back to playing a comfortable style of basketball.
Now that those last two ghastly games are out of the way, let's break down our players...
Brook Lopez - Played worse and worse each game this week. His hands seemed thoroughly buttered each game, as rebounds couldn't help but miss his mitts on a routin basis. The scoring remains, though at a low rate, but the defense and rebounding are just atrocious at the moment. After a week where he couldn't contain the Minnesota Euro-trio he succumbed to more arguably less heralded players in Andray Blatche, Javale McGee and (gasp!) Ersan Ilyasova.
His body language and temperment still seem a bit immature when a call doesn't go his way. You never really see the guy celebrating or looking happy on the court. Something seems to be a bit off and it's hard to figure out exactly what it is. Though it must be tough when your GM says that you, essentially, can't rebound, we're still waiting for a reprise of those 25-plus point, 10-plus rebound games you tossed out so many times in the past two seasons. I half expect to see Lopez's face on the side of a milk carton, because the guy we saw play the last two years is all but gone.
Derrick Favors - One thing is for sure, the kid knows how to deliver a foul. All kidding aside, he improved each game, made his free throws for the most part, and provided both exciting dunks and unexpected rebounds in traffic. For the short amount of time he played against the Bulls he barely gave Boozer an inch. He put up double digits against both the Wizards and Bucks in less than thirty minutes.
If we won't have the privelige of seeing him develop some other team will, and chances are they will be thrilled at the result. He's 19 and tip slamming his way into a starter's role at 19. Of course, it helps when your backup is scoring twenty or more twice in one week to ease the pressure.
Travis Outlaw - He made four shots this past week through three games. Wasn't he heralded as a shooter in the offseason? His handle has been streaky as well, contributing to some herky-jerky bobbles as he lumbers into the lane.
Rarer yet is Outlaw's ability to get to the rim. His off balance jumpers of supreme elevation haven't been getting the job done, and the lack of results have been glaring when checking out the box scores. You hate to look back at free agency, but there were other guys out there priced at a similar contract that are doing far better thus far. Outlaw, like Lopez, needs to find his game all over again.
Stephen Graham - A role player/deep bench player is the Nets' starting two. He can make the deep two point jumper, and even drive the lane is he has a big enough opening, but he looks slow for a small forward, let alone a shooting guard. With Graham as the starting two the Nets lack a true scoring source from the starting guard spot. He will not be starting for long, but recently it has been somewhat painful to watch.
But besides his relative shortcomings in regards to his position placement he certainly looks the part, no?
Devin Harris - Oh, brittle Harris, when won't you miss a game? He put in a very strong performance against Chicago, but then proceeded to hurt himself and miss the rest of the week vs some very sub par comptition.
He looks good when he's on, but the honeymoon that is Harris' solid play lasts only a short time, typically, as a bump or bruise will send him to the infirmary for a couple. Perhaps he sees the writing on the wall and knows his days are numbered. In any event, when he plays he usually plays well, but he needs to get tougher. Leadership is not the Nets' strong suit. As much as Harris is a likeable guy he doesn't play the role of floor general like the coach once did.
Kris Humphries - Contract year, shmontract shmear - he's just playing great basketball. Gone are the days of out-of-rhythm jumpers at the free throw line. In are the days of ferocious dunks in traffic, nice touch on putbacks, unlikely rebounds, and smart decisions. Who would have thought that Humphries would act as a calming agent amongst the chaos the rest of the roster provides. His steady play was elevated another notch when he was moved to the bench as well. If a trade goes down there is no reason to be upset about the Nets best big - right now, anyway - sticking with the team.
Is it just me, or does anyone else hope Humphries is part of a long term plan? His style of play is not only likeable, but necessary.
Jordan Farmar - Now this we aren't used to. Usually when a Nets point guard goes down with injury he takes a while to come back, and when he does his play appears have been eroded since healthier days. Not the case with Farmar. He was out with a torn ligament in his knee and bounced right back to provide the Nets with scoring, assists, and much needed leadership through this time of media-fueled uncertainty.
Even though the Nets got dismantled by both the Wizards and the Bucks, Farmar's play was solid. He moved the ball and created chances for his big men. He, along with Humphries, are fantastic veterans to have on a team going through an overhaul. They've played on top flight teams, have earned their minutes, and they know their roles.
Sasha Vujacic - Despite being the arguably more talented player than Graham, and without question a better shooter, he had a pretty lackluster week. His play was highlighted by a 1-14 shooting performance that had Nets watching Vujacic take and miss a shot every two minutes or so he was on the court.
He still had his double figure moments against the Bulls and Bucks, but he needs help scoring ball at the two spot. Morrow can't come back fast enough, if he even comes back to the team at all.
Johan Petro - "International Flavor!" A true highlight moment for Petro, who has been slightly better than he usually is. His mind-numbing decisions to jack up a gross shot from 14 feet have seemed to drop off this week. He's playing closer to the basket and hasn't been as big a hindrance on the flow of the offense as he has been in recent weeks.
There are some stats to highlight the true plight of the Nets current state. Johan Petro grabbed four more rebounds than Lopez this week despite playing only forty two minutes across three games. Oh, and then there was that -19 in twelve minutes against the Wizards. How is that even possible?
Ben Uzoh - Congrats to the little guy for finally getting that NBA money. Even though people have been trying to trap him near midcourt (his ball handling is pretty weak, not to mention indecisive) he's had a pretty productive week for someone thought to be the last man on the bench for a fairly lousy squad.
He put up eleven points, four rebounds, and two assists in twenty two minutes against the Bucks, and he even made a three against the Wizards. Keep it up, little guy. You may have years beyond 2011 in this here National Basketball Association.
Quinton Ross - Scoring? Nah, that's not his thing? Rebounds? Sometimes, but not really. Passing? Tough to find too many assists coming from this guy. Defense? Well, he has to be good at something right? The roster is brutally thin and someone has to play some bench minutes on the wings. The Nets sort of HAD to play Ross. Can't say it was pretty though.
Anthony Morrow and Damion James - Get well soon, please?
Troy Murphy - Keep your head up, it'll only be a little while longer, trust us.
The Dear Leader - Nice play call against the Bulls at the last minute, Avery. I always took Lopez for a riser. We won the game though, so, kudos. The rest of the week was pretty bad. Almost as bad as it can get. I can't believe I'm saying that after what happened a week ago, but oh well, it happened. Avery is probably playing a very stressful balancing act between development, trade rumors, commanding a team devoid of on-the-floor-leadership and managerial pressure from Moscow. Let's see how the week unfolds.
Let's see what happens this week in regards to trades, and on a more close-to-home front Morrow's health. We need you back, buddy.