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Trading Places: starring Bojan Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of last week, Bojan Bogdanovic was helplessly buried on the bench, and Sergey Karasev was flourishing in the starting lineup, having taken Bogdanovic's starting spot in December.  Even though he wasn't scoring a lot, he had the highest +/- rating on the team.  Now, the two have traded places, with Bogdanovic seeing significant playing time the past two games and Karasev relegated to garbage time.

In the disappointing disaster against the Philadelphia 76ers last Friday, Bogdanovic saw an increase in minutes, while Karasev, still in the starting role, saw his minutes start to dwindle.  Coming off the bench, Bogdanovic played 13 minutes, most of which were quaility, non-garbage time minutes, and played well, scoring six points on 3-of-4 shooting.  In that same game, Karasev played only 12 minutes and scored two points.

The next day against the Detroit Pistons, Lionel Hollins shook up his starting lineup by replacing Karasev with Bogdanovic.  In 27 minutes, Bogdanovic scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, whereas Karasev played only 11 minutes and scored two points.  The Nets lost, and a surly Hollins vented that the change did not make much of a difference.

"Whatever man," Hollins told the beat writers after the game.  "I mean, we lost the game.  Bojan starting or not starting really didn't make a difference in how we play.  We played the same way, kept it close and turned the ball over and missed shots and that's the game."

Since then, the 6'8" Croatian has been more aggressive even if his three-point shooting is still off.  For the first time in his short NBA career, Bogdanovic has scored in double-digits four straight games after scoring 12 points in Washington. He's averaging 12.5 points over that stretch.  Against Washington, Bogie played a better game than the Hall-of-Famer he replaced. Paul Pierce was so frustrated that late in the game he leveled Bogdanovic on a fast break, earning a flagrant foul.

As often happens under Hollins, Karasev has become a non-factor, falling behind not only Bogdanovic but Alan Anderson.  In Friday night's blowout, he was a bit sick, but did suit up. Still, he didn't get off the bench, even in garbage time, with Markel Brown getting the call ... and scoring five points in two minutes.  Don't be surprised to see Brown start to get minutes. Unlike either of the internationals, he can play defense.

Although the Nets haven't met expectations, they're starting to develop their younger players, even if in a hodge-podge manner.

The reason for letting Pierce walk in the offseason, other than the $20 million in savings, was to give guys like Bogdanovic, a 25-year-old rookie, and Karasev, a 21-year-old second year man, a chance to prove themselves.  Development is a priority in this rebuilding-while-winning strategy the Nets have adopted  Starting Plumlee is a bigger part.  It's one way to compensate for mortgaging a big part of their future in trades. Will it work? Plumlee, Bogdanovic, Karasev (and maybe even Brown) will answer that question ... or not.

Sure, Brooklyn expected to compete for a playoff spot and may still make it -- they start Saturday in eighth.  But they also will tell you it was time to see what their younger players can do,  to give significant burn despite any negative short-term implications.

The move also shows that while Hollins might have a quick hook, once a player is in his doghouse, they're usually not there for long.  Once upon a time, Plumlee was stuck behind Jerome Jordan in the rotation, and now he's arguably the Nets' best player.  So while Karasev's spot in the rotation might be in jeopardy for now, development remains very important and he should see a surge in his playing time at some point again this season.