In the Nets loss Sunday to the Magic, the team’s starting five logged a total of 10 minutes together, two more than Friday vs. the Heat. Sure, this team is as deep as any team in the league, a solid 11-man rotation right now, but are they too deep for their own good?
Of the five Nets’ starters, Paul Pierce leads them in average minutes with 29 a game. That is right about where his minutes should be all season long, but Joe Johnson, for example, is playing 28 minutes through the first three games this year. Johnson is a career 37 minute player. The drop in minutes is not only unnecessary, but it could be hurting the team.
Are the Nets trying too much to flex their talent by giving everybody a fair amount of minutes? Down the stretch, the Nets depth will be key to their success; it is indeed their x-factor. They will be able to give guys nights off and remain competitive. Also, when there is usually only one off-day in the postseason, the Nets will have some of the freshest legs in the league.
Yes, this is all great, but the you can also argue the Nets shouldn’t be rolling out their x-factor just yet. The Nets need to build chemistry amongst its’ starters and begin to mold themselves into the Eastern Conference power they want to be.
Chemistry was a clear issue in Orlando on Sunday night, when the Nets used 10 players in the first quarter. One play in particular that comes to mind: Midway through the third quarter, down by 11, and the game quickly getting away from the Nets, Kevin Garnett gave Brook Lopez a lob pass that should have been thrown down by the seven-footer.
Lopez didn’t even react to the incoming pass and watched it hit off the backboard and Orland gain possession. Those are one of the plays that don’t happen too often with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, or Paul George and Roy Hibbert, because those guys have played together for some time now, and have built chemistry with one another.
The Nets are still trying to feel themselves out. They are being too unselfish and passing up an open jumper to another guy because they don’t want to take the shot and build that reputation of "the guy who never passes." Similar things happened to the Heat when the Big 3 was first conceived. That team began 9-8 and everyone pegged them as overrated, of course everyone knows the rest, starting with a 21-1 streak. (Of course, the 2008 Celtics, with Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, started 20-2 right out of the gate.)
This is typical for a team that has so many different personalities that need to come together. The Nets showed flashes of greatness on Friday; passing often, but not too much for their own good, they looked like poetry in motion. However, Sunday, the Nets were forcing the issue, trying to get into a groove when their shots weren’t falling and looked out of sync.
If the Nets want to work the chinks out of their armor, it is by playing together. Jason Kidd’s theology does make sense, by not playing his older star players and injury-prone guys too much, the team will be healthy enough for the latter part of the season, but it is hurting their long-term development. Deron Williams minute limit appears to be over, Andrei Kirilenko continues to work himself back, and every other Net is healthy. Now that they are at full strength, the Nets core players should be getting as many minutes together as possible.
This hasn’t been the Nets only issue thus far, but it is one that is integral to their future success, and simple to fix.