Prior to the Brooklyn Nets’ Tuesday night contest against the New York Knicks, Head Coach Jacque Vaughn hopped on the microphone to discuss the team’s recent play. Despite the losses, which have varied in substance and style but not pain, the most recent installment a 22-0 run gifted to the Los Angeles Clippers to close a game, there have been positives.
The defense has finally improved — up to tenth in the month of January — and while offensive signs of life have been few and far between, one Lonnie Walker IV is still bringing the heat.
Prior to a left hamstring strain that cost the sixth-year guard 17 games, Walker IV was lighting it up in limiting minutes, averaging 14.6 points in just 21 minutes a night, shooting an eye-popping 46.3% from three.
Now, Walker’s back, having played in Brooklyn’s last seven contests, all of them with some level of minutes restrictions. He didn’t come firing out of the gates — going scoreless in a pair of six-minute appearances to start — but he's since corrected course. Over the last five games, Walker is shooting the lights out, 12-of-19 (63%) from deep on his way to over 11 points a night.
So, after Vaughn was asked about Brooklyn’s embarrassing loss in Tinsel Town, he then shifted to Walker’s return which has been a success, right? Positive enough to earn more minutes going forward?
Well, according to Vaughn, Walker isn’t there yet. Nope.
My conversation with Lonnie is on both ends of the floor. And so, usually if I have a conversation with you guys, I’ve already said this to the player. So for example, ‘I love what you did offensively in the game, but you can’t foul James Harden on the three. That was just a no-no, you can’t do those things.’ So, in order to get extended minutes, you can’t do those things. You got to help us rebound because we’re small. You got to do those things to warrant extra minutes.
And so, it’s not always just the scoring. Can his minutes go up? Yes, just because he’s shown that he’s coming back from the injury that he had. But there’s other things on the floor that Lonnie has to do to warrant more minutes. So I’m not always looking just at field-goals made and field-goals attempted at the end of the game, especially after watching the film.
It wasn’t Vaughn’s only curious answer of the presser. When asked about what he noticed on film that allowed the massive 22-0 run to Los Angeles, Vaughn replied that the whole team watched the tape at shoot-around.
“There’s a lot of plays throughout the course of the game that our group needed to see because our guys, at the end of the day in this league, don’t watch film from beginning to end. So this perception of what happened in the game, they need to see it with their own eyes.”
Jacque Vaughn said the Nets watched the entire Clippers 4th quarter today at shootaround, something they wouldn't normally do:— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) January 23, 2024
"I think you need to be honest with guys and watch the film with them so they can see what actually happened...Watching it was important for our group.” pic.twitter.com/4NqZIYteS9
While Vaughn may not be incorrect, it was certainly a curious moment to bring up the film-watching habit of, ostensibly, players around the league, and to suggest some of his team may be misguided about what really choked away that lead in the fourth quarter.
Thus, two more storylines to watch for in a nationally-televised edition of the cross-town rivalry between the Nets and Knicks.
Will Lonnie Walker IV continue his hot shooting, and perhaps more importantly, will it be enough to lead to increased minutes? And generally, how will the Nets respond to such a momentous collapse? Did Vaughn’s squad take away the right lessons from their film study?
We’ll find out after tip-off, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday evening from the Barclays Center.