During better days in Brooklyn, people often said, "The Nets will go wherever Deron Williams takes them." Although D-Will may be physically gone, it appears he's taken the Brooklyn Nets right with him: down south.
With or without Williams, the Nets would still likely be struggling. As bad as they are now? Maybe not THAT bad, but unlike Joe Johnson's words for hope, it appears to be THAT bad here.
Where we stand:
It hasn't been pretty.
The Nets failed to put up 100+ points in any of those games, or rather, any games this season since opening night vs. the Bulls. They rank dead last in points per game at 90 behind the Grizzlies and tanking 76ers. In the four games last week, the loss margin hovered around nine points as they failed to average more than 92 points per contest.
The numbers only get worse.
They're committing close to 18 turnovers a game, which is somewhat expected with such a young team and poor arsenal of point guards. Jarrett Jack is averaging 12.7 points & 6.7 assists per game, similar to what Deron Williams averaged last year, but he's coughing the ball up about three times per game.
But that's still not the biggest issue. The Nets shot 25 percent from three in last week's contests, by far the biggest concern with this team, after a 6-of-19 night vs. Milwaukee proved to be their best outing behind the arc.
Milwaukee doubled hard out on the perimeter, thus leading to open shots for the Nets when they moved the ball quick enough. That's what made the loss even harder to swallow. They had chances, but they did nothing with them.
(Game notes): Both the Nets and the Bucks started the week with an 0-3 record and were hoping to change the script at the Barclays Center. It was a game the Nets could've had, but poor coaching and a terrible final two minutes did the Nets in. In a tied game, Brook Lopez was benched after picking up his fifth foul with 4:41 remaining on the clock. Sitting him for a minute or two is fine, but the issue was the time remaining when he checked back in.
Hollins inserted Lopez back into the game with 31 seconds left with the Nets trailing by three. Lopez was the Nets leading scorer with 18 points, and they went scoreless with him sitting on the bench. It was hard to assume the Nets would've hit a three-pointer anyway, but Jarrett Jack didn't even let that become a possibility. With 17 seconds remaining on the shot-clock, Jack iso'd to the basket and missed a contested floater. Game over.
It was just the beginning of a heart-breaking reality punch of a week for the Brooklyn Nets, whose major flaws were exposed in the four-game span: poor coaching, lack of a true starting point guard, and most importantly: horrendous three-point shooting. All three are probably the main components to building a successful team in today's NBA. Unfortunately, chemistry amongst teammates doesn't cut it.
But just how bad is the Nets' three-point shooting?
Not only do they rank last in the league in 3-point percentage, they have zero players above the league average of 33 percent from three. Bojan Bogdanovic is 33 percent, nailing his last seven of 14 attempted which is a good sign. But the other guys expected to hit threes -- like Joe Johnson & Wayne Ellington -- have really struggled. Johnson shot 3-of-18 from three in the four games played last week, averaging 12 points in 36 minutes per game. Ellington was 1-of-6.
It's sad to see and say, but Joe Johnson looks wiped out. He has hardly any lift under his shots and it's hurting his productivity against tough match-ups like Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom he played twice in one week. As his productivity continues to dwindle, so does his trade value. With a contract like his, the Nets won't be able to unload Joe unless they take something worse in return. In other words: it might be a painful season to watch Joe try to carry a heavy load.
The poor week continued passed Atlanta where the Nets dropped to 0-5 with Hollis-Jefferson looking on for most of the game. Against Milwaukee, he played just four minutes. Against the Hawks, he played only 11 minutes despite helping the Nets go on a 20-10 run at the end of the first half. He didn't play in the second half and the Nets ended up losing 101-87.
Nets management had enough. The Lakers were in town for the next game and they weren't about to have Rondae be a spectator against Kobe Bryant in his farewell at Barclays. That was the biggest bone-crushing loss for Brooklyn, one of their few chances in the gruesome scheduled month of November. They handed the Lakers their first win of the season as their own winless streak continued straight through their next game in Milwaukee.
The next game is Wednesday night in Houston, where they'll face up against James Harden and the Rockets -- a Rockets team that is also struggling from the perimeter -- hovering around 28 percent per game. Still, much better than the Nets' 19 percent.
Weak of the Week:
Talk about a painful week to be a Brooklyn Nets fan. Talk about an even more painful week for New Jersey Nets fans, the same fans who remember what it's like to be a guest in their own home.
With Kobe Bryant in town for likely his last time, Laker fans were certainly out and about at the Barclays Center. With the Nets winless and tickets cheap because of so, the Lakers' purple & gold faithful flooded Barclays Center and made a statement. Even though their team was winless just like the Nets, they were out there to support the team and their golden boy, Kobe Bryant.
Fans chanted "KOBE! KOBE! KOBE!" and "MVP!" loudly throughout the game. And to make matters worse, symphonies of "LETS GO LAKERS" wrung throughout the arena as the Lakers put the Nets down. Whether it's Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, or anybody for that matter -- it was a sad reminder of where the Nets were at, and where they are now.
In the words of Joe Johnson: "Depending on who you're playing, you're used to it. Everybody in here kind of expected that."
Earlier in the week against the Bucks, the Nets finished with their lowest attendance since moving to Brooklyn: 12,576 filled seats.
Talk about a sad excuse to reminisce. But boy did it get scary bad, or, scary AND bad the next game in Milwaukee.
Brook Lopez was having a big night with 20 points. But towards the end of the third quarter, he was anxiously waving to the sidelines signaling his desire to be subbed out. The initial speculation from the announcer was that he was exhausted. Instead, it turned out to be his right foot, the same one he had three surgeries on.
The Nets went on to lose 94-86 but the worry wasn't anywhere near the game, but rather Brook Lopez's foot. X-Rays came out negative, but nobody close to the Nets was going to sleep peacefully after that.
On a bright note, Lopez is expected to play Wednesday in Houston. He did not practice Monday, but it looks to be precautionary measures. We hope.
What to Watch For:
There aren't many, but Brook Lopez & Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looked phenomenal in the four games, individually and together.
Lopez was feasting on defenders last week, averaging 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocks on 55 percent shooting. If healthy, Lopez looks to be on pace for an All-Star caliber season despite the minimal hopes for the Nets. If the Nets had a legitimate pass-first point guard, along with decent - not even great - but decent three-point shooting, Lopez would be an even bigger threat than he already is.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has also been a treat to watch. In his first start in the NBA, Hollis-Jefferson was flying around the court and extending offensive possessions with an offensive board or tip to keep the play alive. He scored only five points, but grabbed 11 rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Defensively, his quickness and long arms help him stay with -- or recover -- against defenders, forcing turnovers and tough shots that led to opportunities for the Nets. It's tougher for a rookie to adjust his defensive mentality/prowess than it is to develop a jump-shot. The Nets will certainly take it.
Lionel Hollins is going to need to coach better in order for the Nets to at least come close to winning. The team isn't hitting three-pointers, so what is the sense in shredding Hollis-Jefferson's minutes in exchange for a struggling Wayne Ellington? Not to mention, Hollins' play-calling out of a timeout must improve. There's been two games already where the Nets needed to convert on an inbounds play during the final minutes of the games.
Both times Joe Johnson was the number one target. Teams already know that. Jason Kidd especially knew that. But the Nets insist on making him the number one option from inbounds plays, despite it being the most obvious secret in crunch time.
Down three against the Bucks, Johnson was smothered, and the only other option was Jarrett Jack, who then rushed on a desperate floating attempt.
Down three against Los Angeles, the Nets were called for a 5-second violation after failing to feed Joe Johnson in the corner. They had a timeout which Hollins didn't use.
"I wasn't thinking about calling time out, I was thinking they were going to throw it to the open guy," Hollins said after the game.
That type of mentality is the way teams fall to 0-7. Still, it doesn't just fall on him. It falls on everybody.
Next few stops: AT Houston, AT Sacramento, AT Golden State, and then back home vs. Atlanta. It really doesn't get any easier the next few weeks.