After beating the Orlando Magic on Sunday afternoon, 104-96, the Brooklyn Nets moved to 4-2 on the season, which, really, isn't all that bad. Think about it; last season the "should be 60-win" Nets hadn't won their 4th game until Tuesday, November 26, under then head coach Jason Kidd.
Still, there seems to be strange things happening that probably aren't so strange after all and most likely just normal things that happen within all locker rooms among all professional sports teams. So, with that said, let's clarify a few things here and see if we can make sense of things.
Joe Johnson is Mad and He's Not Going to Take it Anymore
After the Nets win over the Magic on Sunday, Joe Johnson tweeted this tweet:
I'm off this shit!!— Joe Johnson 4real (@TheJoeJohnson7) November 9, 2014
Yes, this for the 4-2 Nets, who had just beaten a Magic team they were supposed to beat, but who they let stick around for most of the game. Is he mad that they couldn't put this team away earlier than they should have? Here's Tim Bontemps on Joe's locker room demeanor:
Joe Johnson wasn't happy at all with how the Nets played today. Made it clear in the locker room. RT @TheJoeJohnson7 I'm off this shit!!— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 9, 2014
Bontemps also wrote in his NY Post column, "It shouldn’t even come down to the last three or four minutes of the game. It was a tight game, and Coach [Lionel Hollins] had to make a decision to put me at the four, and it shouldn’t have come to that."
There's a chance Joe Johnson's subway car got derailed and he was stalled for 45 min underground....— eLone (@eLonePB) November 10, 2014
Joe's mad, and rightfully so, I suppose. You win the games you're supposed to win, but probably not at the expense of having to play your best players down the stretch against a Lottery team.
Still, the Nets are 4-2 on the season and could easily be 6-0 right now. So, things aren't all that bad. Unless, of course, you are Brook Lopez.
Brook Lopez and the Best Seat in the House
Yes, Brook Lopez did NOT play in the fourth quarter against the Orlando Magic on Sunday. No, not because the Nets had this one wrapped up early, but because he was being embarrassed by Nikola Vucevic on offense -- Vucevic scored 27 points in the first three quarters against Lopez; he was held scoreless in the 4th quarter while Lopez was on the bench.
After the game, of course, Hollins was asked about Lopez's performance and he had this to say.
Lionel Hollins on Brook Lopez's 3q defense on Vucevic: "He wasn't guarding him. I want him to guard him."— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) November 9, 2014
Lionel Hollins on Vucevic: "The kid made a lot of shots tonight, and Brook watched him make a lot of shots tonight."— Tom Lorenzo (@TomLorenzo) November 9, 2014
Hollins goes entire 4th w/?Brook Lopez on bench. Hollins said Brook wasn't guarding Vucevic, who had 27+11 after 3 but finished w/1 more reb— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) November 9, 2014
Lopez was miffed, after the game, as he met with the media wearing not a Hufflepuff shirt, but an angry, sour look on his face. He was not happy with his performance and, you have to believe, the comments made by his coach after the game. This was, however, two times this week where Lopez was embarrassed by an opposing center. Earlier in the week it was Nikola Pekovic and, of course, Sunday was Nikola Vucevic.
Not a great week for Brook Lopez vs. Montenegrin centers.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) November 9, 2014
Truth is, this was not a very good week for Lopez. And while there may are some of you who are concerned about how Hollins has handled it, "though the media," as some of you like to say, the fact here is that Hollins isn't going to baby these guys. And if you don't think he let Lopez know these things prior to talking to the media, well... If you don't play well, he's going to let you and everyone else know -- no one is immune to it.
If you'd prefer we had a coach with canned answers, such as "it's a process" and "he's a basketball player," well, you might enjoy the weather in Wisconsin this time of year.
Beyond Sunday's game and the faux-outrage about Hollins handling Lopez, there are no long-term implications here. Hollins benched Marc Gasol on many occasions during his time in Memphis and we all know how that's turned out. He's old school, he won't baby these guys, and to be honest that's quite refreshing.
Kevin Garnett will See You Next Tuesday
Here's a fun one that we can dive into and see if we can pull a crazy conspiracy theory out of it. Let me set the scene:
After the game, the media is in the locker room waiting on the players, and one of the first guys to come out -- not dressed, but just to come out into the locker room -- was Kevin Garnett. Now, KG is usually one of the last players to show in the locker room because he spends time after the game getting worked on, getting treatment.
KG takes a step out into the locker room and in a loud voice calls for everyone's attention. He then puts his hand up to his neck and makes a swiping motion like the "I don't want to talk to the person on the phone (I'm not here)" gesture or as it's also know, the "don't say anything" hand swipe. Then, this happened:
Kevin Garnett just walked into the locker room and announced he would "See y'all Tuesday." Guess he's not talking today.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 9, 2014
Fifteen minutes later, this happened:
Change in plans, here comes Kevin Garnett.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 9, 2014
Is it fair to say, "where there's smoke there's fire"? Probably not. Garnett may have simply changed his mind and the awkward, stop you in your tracks barking to his teammates might have just been him saying, "see y'all Tuesday" before deciding, 15 minutes later, that he wanted to speak with the media.
There may something, though, to the fact that Garnett will have to play the role as mediator and mentor for the Nets. When you have a number of young players mixed with a few silent leaders -- like, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez -- there does need to be a voice to step in and make sure that the team message is clear. And that role naturally falls on Garnett, who really is the only player on this team who has absolutely nothing to lose.
If he needs to step into the locker room and code-out a call to the young players letting them know not to share their private post-game conversations, then so be it. There's nothing wrong with that.