It’s only one game ... against a 10-win team, on their home court ... but the Brooklyn Nets and their fans have to be encouraged by what they saw from Dennis Schroder and Ben Simmons on Saturday night vs. the San Antonio Spurs.
Schroder, traded to the Nets for Spencer Dinwiddie and a $20.4 million trade exception, looked very much like the Dennis Schroder who took Germany to an undefeated and gold medal winning FIBA World Cup in September. The 30-year-old, showing traditional point guard skills, finished with 15 point and 12 assists, twice his season average, in 24 minutes. Fans chanted his name at game’s end and why not. He gave them this...
Meanwhile, Simmons showed fans what they’ve been missing during his 38-game injury rehab and subsequent five-game ramp-up. He scored 13 points, the most he’s put up this season, hitting 6-of-7 shots, grabbed five boards, handed out three assists and recorded three steals and two blocks. While the numbers were solid for his 22 minutes on the court, what was more encouraging was his aggressiveness...
And if the alley-oop from Schroder to Claxton was the highlight of this so far disappointing season, then Simmons post-game quote, describing his own progress and hopefully the team’s, was the season’s best line. “The storm doesn’t last forever.”
It wasn’t just the two of them on the court at the same time either. Jacque Vaughn even used them and his third point guard, Dennis Smith Jr., for a while in a lineup that may be bereft of shooting but long on speed and decision-making.
So, can the Nets make it work long-term or at least for the rest of the season, putting two or even three traditional PGs on the court at the same time? Schroder thinks so.
“I played a three-man point guard lineup in OKC back in the day,” said Schroder post-game..
“We can help each other pushing the ball. Whoever gets it, just push the ball. I think we can play faster, make sure we get into the paint and find open guys. We did that great [Saturday]. That was the second day we’ve been together. So, we’ve just got to keep going and keep getting better every single day.”
Getting better will be a tough task with so few games (30) left and Brooklyn two games out of the play-in, their five-year record of making the post-season in jeopardy. As Brian Lewis writes Monday morning, “The Celtics, whom the Nets host Tuesday and visit on Wednesday, are a far cry from the sad-sack Spurs.” Indeed, we don’t even know if Simmons will play both ends of the back-to-back.
Nic Claxton certainly thinks it can work. He finished with 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting as well as 10 boards and two blocks against Victor Wembanyama who had only one rebound to go along with his 19 points, a performance the Spurs hometown paper called “sub-par.”
“His IQ, he’s been in the league for a while. He’s a seasoned vet, and he just made it easier for everybody including myself,” Claxton said specifically of Schroder. “Just the overall team, just playing fast, having a good flow, [Schroder] coming in and also just being another catalyst for our offense getting us going.
“He’s been in league for a while. I’m definitely gonna benefit a lot playing alongside him and I’m looking forward to building chemistry. … Pick-and-roll is universal. And I’ve also been in the league for a while … so I know when to slip out. I’m also ready in the pocket and I’m also really good at catching lobs.”
Jacque Vaughn says he needs to see more both in Monday morning’s practice and early round of games.
“We haven’t seen him with Ben,” Vaughn said. “I substituted and used Ben as the substitute for him, and we’ll see what that looks like going forward. But he gives us a lot of flexibility.”
There will be other issues besides figuring out whether Dennis the Menace and Ben10 can play together. Where will Lonnie Walker IV, back from his own injury Saturday, and Cam Johnson, who’s still not back from his, fit.
Flexibility, however, is the post-deadline mantra for Brooklyn. Sean Marks focused on it in talking post-deadline about the Nets going forward. And as Lewis writes, people around the league think the Nets are likely a better team going forward.
“He was great. A pocket pass here, a quick decision there,” a Western Conference scout told The Post. “I hope he keeps this up, because this is amazing.
“I wrote in my notes he’s always been a guy who holds the ball too long, but when he gets it out of his hands after the second dribble, he’s very dangerous. And this is an example.”
Numbers of course are hard to come by with such a small sample against a young and mediocre club. but as Lewis points out, there are some out there that look positive. Schroder, Simmons and Dennis Smith Jr. played alongside Claxton and Jalen Wilson for 8.7 minutes and had a net rating of +6. Overall, the Nets’ effective field goal percentage (66.1) and true shooting (67.0) were both their best of the season.
Simmons pointed to another thing Schroder can bring to the Nets: leadership.
“I think it’ll be simple,” Simmons said. “He’s already trying to push me now, really make sure I’m getting better each day. So it’s great having him, another leader on the team.”
That was for certain.
- Dennis Schroder quickly a ‘seamless fit’ in Nets’ three-guard lineup - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Nets’ Ben Simmons ‘feeling better’ as he gains confidence to be more aggressive - Brian Lewis - New York Post