Heading into the season, Kenny Atkinson said the power forward position was wide open for the taking.
Trevor Booker got the call on opening day and now it’s his to lose.
With Thaddeus Young headed to Indiana, the Nets filled the 4 spot with a gritty player in Trevor Booker. Small sample size of six games, but he and Brook Lopez are opposites.
For a front-court, opposites attract.
The paint is only so big and the Nets want to shoot the rock at will. Even at the sake of Brook Lopez taking 3-pointers. Lopez does most of the shooting and scoring, while Booker does the little things that every team needs.
More importantly, he works hard and fits the culture Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson are pushing here in Brooklyn, for now, for the future. Thus far, he’s averaged 8.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2 steals (12th in the NBA).
He’s had a double-double in three games and has come up big in big moments. It’s not his offense prowess that keeps him around (0-of-8 from 3-point), but rather his ability to do the scrappy things on defense and within the interior. His energy is infectious and he’s shown confidence in putting the ball on the floor and pushing in transition.
His effort hardly goes unnoticed. After the loss to Milwaukee, Kenny Atkinson referred to him as the ‘best defender on the team.’
In the most recent victory against Detroit, Booker’s contributions didn’t show up much in the box score. But he ended up saving them from a big collapse.
The Nets led most of the game, but struggled to find offense late. Jeremy Lin left the game at halftime with a strained hamstring. Lopez was going off, but he couldn’t finish in the last minute.
With Brooklyn leading late in the game, Booker swatted a fast break bucket that would’ve put Detroit down one possession. Block of the year, so far.
Then, as the Nets led by four with 30 seconds left, the Nets had a chance to seal the deal with a bucket. They missed, but Booker came away with an offense rebound. He got the Nets the victory with his hard work.
“That is why we brought him here,” Kenny Atkinson said afterward about his performance.
Brook Lopez praised him as well after the win.
“He always brings that intensity and it is definitely contagious,” Lopez said after the Pistons game. If we continue to play the way we played tonight as far as energy and effort and plays like that, getting balls, we will be alright.”
His energy has been infectious. He doesn’t fill the shoes of Thaddeus Young’s offense. However, he’s doing the things the Nets need him to do: winning 50/50 balls, coming up with steals and blocks, covering the other team’s best player on the final play of the game. Those type of things.
The things Brook Lopez doesn’t have to focus on.
In 2012-2013, many people saw Reggie Evans as a liability on the court because of his horrid offense and poor free throw percentage, but Evans did the dirty work down low. He averaged 11.1 rebounds and only 4.5 points. Lopez averaged 19.4 points and 6.9 rebounds. It just…worked. The Nets were second that year in rebounding percentage.
Lopez’s rebounding numbers through the six games are, bad, bad at 3.6. Problem is: he doesn’t linger around the paint anymore. He camps around the perimeter and does not possess the explosiveness to crash the boards from out there.
That’s where guys like Booker come in and fit the system well. Everything we’ve heard about ‘grit’ is probably Booker’s best attribute to the team. He’s what Brooklyn represents. Maybe he won’t fill Thaddeus Young’s offensive game, but we’re headed for a fun year, as Trevor Booker becomes a fan favorite.
And another potential Sean Marks heist.
Booker’s competitiveness doesn’t end when he leaves the court. He’s no nonsense on social media and in the business world.
Jared Zwerling of the National Basketball Players Association writes this week about his business acumen, about he and fellow Clemson player, Jonah Baize, have forged a partnerhip that’s a big success.
At the time they were college students, neither thought they’d play in the NBA so they developed an entrepreneurial bent. As Zwerling writes...
They include postgraduate programs and private high schools for standout basketball players, training academies for youth to NBA players, 11 real estate properties (most tied to the academic and basketball locations), and an energy snack and recovery supplement that takes the place of a protein shake. They’ve been developing them for a year with a food scientist in Salt Lake City—where Booker played in the NBA from 2014-16—and they’re planned to debut next June.
Their biggest success is Combine, a six-month program for the young student-athletes—domestic and abroad—that offers college reading and writing placement courses, Microsoft Office training, SAT and ACT prep, and TOEFL prep focused on English for the international students. It started in Charlotte but has now expanded and has been able to help 91 kids make it to college basketball programs.
And like any entrepreneur, Booker thinks big, just as he does on the court.
“I thought I did a great job in Utah, networking and using my resources out there,” said Booker. “But being in New York, it’s a whole another beast because there’s going to be so many more people that I can connect with.”