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Pregame Notes & Quotes: Jacque Vaughn on Team Morale, Lineups, and More / Dec. 22

Jacque Vaughn talks about Brooklyn’s defensive strategy, guys who’ve helped the team push through this losing streak, and more

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

For the second time this month, the Brooklyn Nets will take on the defending champion Denver Nuggets by way of a back-to-back sequence. This time, the Nets are at home, playing it on the front end, and coming off a four game losing streak rather than a thrilling victory over the Phoenix Suns. Here’s what Jacque Vaughn had to say before tipoff.

Q: Dennis Smith Jr. mentioned individual ‘sacrifice’ as a key component in generating more attempts at the rim rather than settling for so many mid-range attempts. Is ‘sacrifice’ a big part of those discussions? (via Lucas Kaplan)

I think the discussions we’ve had is — it includes that, but I think we’re growing where, let’s say a play call happens. It doesn’t mean that play is for you, and you have to shoot the basketball, and you have to score it. So we’ve addressed that. That is something to get us into drive-and-kick or some sort of continuity. Because it started with the play, it doesn’t have to finish with that guy, so that piece of it.

I think there is a piece of cutting that also is unselfish, that you’re probably gonna cut and you’re not going to get the basketball, and it’s going to end up in someone’s hands. And so again, that’s an error that we’re learning, especially this first group who is offensive-minded. And so you get a lot of guys out there thinking that that play call is probably for them. So we’re going to grow in this area. I’m going to challenge this group. That’s an area that we definitely can improve on.

Q: How do you inject life and energy into a group that is currently struggling? (via CJ Holmes)

It’s a great challenge. I think the biggest part is realizing what we do for a living. Like there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, and for me, I try to make things simple and bring it down to earth to our guys, to when they were in fifth and sixth grade, they decided to play this game for a living, and it’s basketball. And so for me, it is really challenging them to accept where we are. Like, we’re going through a little challenging stage right now. I want to see who’s going to respond and how we’re going to respond as a group. So I think, continuing to challenge our group, because they are competitive. And those challenges hopefully conjure up something with our group to continue to push us.

Q: The Nets have added some new stuff this year on defense such as the drop. How would you evaluate how you guys have been able to commit to that change? (via Erik Slater)

JV: Yeah, it’s been interesting just taking a look at that. I’m still evaluating. I’m not in the position to say that I’ve loved it. I think we’re entering tonight 21st in defense. Last year, we were an average team playing a majority of switching defense. So there’s going to be a decision of, “Do I try to switch a little bit more like in the past, where Nic [Claxton] is able to use his natural gifts and abilities to defend? Do I continue to challenge Nic to be able to do both? To be able to be impactful at the rim, be able to play pick-and-roll, drop coverage, but also rebound the basketball?” Our rebounding has taken a slide, so a big piece of the change was to try to rebound better.

But I haven’t been pleased with the combination right now. It’s definitely still under a coach’s surveillance of what’s the best thing for this group. The reason I’ve been holding out is because we haven’t been healthy. You take Lonnie Walker, who is extremely athletic and can defend lanes. You take Dennis, who can defend any guard in this league, and then Ben, who was leading us in rebounding, hasn’t been available. That’s the reason I stayed with this starting lineup. It would be unfair for me to make a lineup change right now when this group hasn’t had a fair chance to prove if this is the right starting team, the right defensive coverage, all of the above.