Dec 09, 2013 3:23 PM EST
MILWAUKEE – Within an offense catering toward inefficient isolation sets a season ago, Brook Lopez had seen critical possessions gone astray under motionless one-on-one plays, under the watch of Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo. For Lopez, there was a private belief that a more spirited offense best benefited the Brooklyn Nets, and that had been part of the lure of Jason Kidd.
Early in training camp, Kidd sold his Nets on a lively offensive system, Deron Williams pushing the fastbreak as Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce spread the floor, as Lopez and Kevin Garnett fill the lane. Injuries haven’t allowed those players to bring Kidd’s vision to fruition, but mostly no one has shown the assertiveness to save these Nets – no one but Lopez.
After pouring in a graceful 32 points on 11-for-13 shooting – on effortless jumpers and disciplined post-ups – in the Nets’ 90-82 win over the Bucks on Saturday night, Lopez nodded about his continued maturation into the decisive, go-to scorer Kidd desperately needs with a depleted roster. A year ago, Lopez would always speak as the ultimate role player citing a need to get others a flow on offense, before himself. A year ago, the skilled seven-footer was pushed away from the block far too often and at times resisted constant feeds inside.
“I’m just trying to be more patient on the block, patient reading all the options to attack,” Lopez told RealGM. “There’s a lot more ball movement, and everyone on the floor is getting a lot more opportunities.”
Compared to last season?
“It was very stagnant last year,” Lopez said.
Despite everyone’s talk about Kidd’s issues as a first-year coach, despite the Nets’ fumble on the hire of Lawrence Frank, the fact remains that Williams has played just nine games and has performed below his past All-Star state. Andrei Kirilenko has missed all but four games, occurring setback after setback in his back, and the injury list goes on and on.
For all the missed games from players this season, none drowned the Nets more than the seven that Lopez missed last month. They had a 1-6 record to show for the 12 days Lopez had to sit out because of a sprained ankle, and it’s no coincidence this sluggish team has gone 4-4 when the 25-year-old scores at least 20 points.
Kidd hasn’t gained sympathy throughout the NBA for his spilled cup incident, nor for his handling over the hiring and demotion of Frank, but give him this: He’s committed to fully utilizing the guy – Lopez – whose previous coaches instead accommodated to players around him.
“Brook lets the ball come to him, and then he finds the open guys,” Kidd said. “That’s what makes this team special, because it’s not just Brook. It’s everybody moving the ball.
“We’re going to slow it down. We’re going to try to get the ball inside.”
The trick Kidd used for the late stoppage of play against the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 27 opened him up to everyone’s shots at his coaching acumen, how it was an amateur move. Yet, players league-wide applauded the rookie coach for pulling the stunt to give his team an edge, and it demonstrated the mentality that Kidd had as a player – win at all costs.
The second-year player involved in the cup job, Tyshawn Taylor, admits he was caught off guard when Kidd told him that night, “Hit me.” Here was a respectful, dedicated Taylor, lost in the moment.
“I really didn’t know what was going on,” Taylor told RealGM. “I’ve seen the video, but I wasn’t really paying attention when that happened. His words got caught on camera, but with a whole crowd, a packed arena, I couldn’t pay attention.”
No matter. The Nets’ season won’t be decided by the cup situation, as much as Kidd agreed he should have known better, especially in this media age. They know the importance of the rest of this month, and Lopez pointed specifically to the next three games – at home against the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers, then at the Detroit Pistons. “But it’s on us to string together the wins,” Lopez said.
From stagnancy to all sorts of movement around him, Lopez is establishing himself with more force now, and this had been part of Jason Kidd’s coaching pitch about a revamped, passing offense. For all the missteps, yes, the future Hall of Fame point guard has come to understand: not much stops Brook Lopez in the post anymore.
Dec 09, 2013 2:41 PM EST
A surprisingly weak set of games made more interesting by the Rudy Gay trade.
Denver Nuggets @ Washington Wizards: Ty Lawson and John Wall are two of the fastest players in the entire league and have been playing well as of late. Unfortunately, this game will not have JaVale McGee returning to his old stomping grounds.
Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks: Even though it looks like Rudy Gay will not play in this game, it still has Isaiah Thomas and Monta Ellis on the same court.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Atlanta Hawks: While clearly not at the same level as the strong teams in the West, Atlanta has looked pretty good this season and has a 7-3 record at home so far. Jeff Teague and the Hawks bigs need to have strong games in order for them to win this one.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Detroit Pistons: Reports as of this writing indicate that Kevin Love will be back for this one, so it should feature two of the best frontcourts in the entire league. Andre Drummond has continued his monstrous play with more minutes but will have tons of trouble with Nikola Pekovic’s strength.
Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers: A fun little test to see how the Lakers are adapting to playing with Kobe again. The loss of Jordan Farmar will hurt substantially against Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
Orlando Magic @ Charlotte Bobcats: Before Michael Kidd-Gilchrist broke his hand, this game had even more luster since the Bobcats were playing better defense. Even without MKG, this should be an interesting matchup of young teams and a strange but potentially fun Center tilt between Al Jefferson and Nikola Vucevic (if Vucevic is back from his sprained ankle).
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Memphis Grizzlies: Far less interesting without Marc Gasol on the floor but a potential playoff preview warrants inclusion on the list anyway. Having a good game against Russell Westbrook could help Mike Conley get the respect his game deserves.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio and Michael Carter-Williams. Yep.
Utah Jazz @ Sacramento Kings (Game of the Week): After going to overtime on Saturday, these two teams go at it again but the Kings will look substantially different after trading four players for Rudy Gay. As of now, this should be Rudy’s first game in a Kings uniform.
Washington Wizards @ Atlanta Hawks: The third and fourth best records in the Eastern Conference, as of now. Plus, fun big man talent for both teams and the John Wall / Jeff Teague PG duel.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ San Antonio Spurs: This game features two of my favorite teams to watch even though Minnesota has sputtered after a strong start. I sincerely hope we see Kevin Love and Tim Duncan battle on both ends of the floor.
Portland Trail Blazers @ Detroit Pistons: Intriguing individual matchups all over the floor, especially if Josh Smith guards LaMarcus Aldridge for extended periods of time. Damian Lillard may end up playing the biggest role in deciding the winner since he will need to score and distribute for the Blazers to get a nice road win.
Golden State Warriors @ Phoenix Suns: Phoenix has been one of the more entertaining teams so far this season and they have a chance to make a statement against a division opponent. Golden State has been reeling somewhat since Andre Iguodala’s injury but need to put away teams like the Suns on the road if they want to host a playoff series. Plus, Eric Bledsoe could be an incredibly fun defender to watch pitted against Stephen Curry.
Dec 07, 2013 2:15 PM EST
Although there wasn’t a conference crowned the champion of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge because of a tied 6-6 outcome, plenty of story lines and questions emerged from the event. We take a glance into some intriguing aspects seen in the challenge.
Syracuse Backcourt is Special
There was a big void to fill at Syracuse with the departures of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, but freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and junior shooting guard Trevor Cooney showed in a 69-52 win over Indiana that they are more than capable of taking over the backcourt.
Ennis impressed in an all-around display with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting to go with eight assists, seven rebounds, and only one turnover in 38 minutes of action. He’s a mature, pass-first floor general who makes an impact in all areas of the game.
Cooney adds a lights-out shooter next to Ennis. In the win over Indiana, Cooney had a game-high 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting with a 5-for-9 showing from three-point range. With his ability to stretch the floor, Cooney opens up driving lanes and leaves a risky decision for defenders who leave him to play help defense. With the new backcourt leading Syracuse, the Orange are a legitimate championship contender.
"They played well. They really have the whole Hawaii trip," Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said of Ennis and Cooney in an article by Brent Axe of Syracuse.com.
"Those two kids have really played well. One is a first-year player and the other guy didn't play a lot last year. I don't think you could ask them to play on a higher level than what they played. It's really amazing the level they have played. They have really picked up the whole team. I don't think you can say enough about the way they played this year."
Cook Shows Potential
Duke may have two future lottery picks in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, but it was sophomore point guard Quinn Cook who led the Blue Devils to their biggest win of the early season.
Cook did it all, with 24 points, nine assists, four rebounds, and two steals in the victory. Despite Jabari Parker’s lowest scoring outcome of the season, Duke was never panicked because of the stellar play from its point guard.
“Quinn was magnificent,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told Steve Wiseman of The Herald Sun. “Even though he didn’t score in the first half he managed the team well. We told him to be very aggressive in the second half.”
If Cook can remain a consistent scoring option for Duke then the Blue Devils will be tough to defeat. Another scoring option would certainly help relieve Parker and Hood, who are combining for 48% of Duke’s total scoring.
Rice Playing Inspired
Despite a 67-64 loss to Georgia Tech, Rayvonte Rice of Illinois showed that he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder this season.
The hometown native of Champaign wasn’t offered a scholarship to Illinois out of high school and signed with Drake, where he averaged 13.8 points per game during his freshman season and 16.8 in his sophomore year. When Bruce Weber was fired and John Groce replaced him, Rice saw an opportunity to transfer to his dream school and Groce was more than accepting of a new addition. "I don't know if I've seen a guy who's sitting out on a transfer make the number of strides that Ray did," Groce told Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. "It's hard for guys … to understand that there's a light at the end of the tunnel and they have to grind every day to get to that light. He grinded."
After sitting out last season due to transfer rules, Rice is averaging 18 points and 5.9 rebounds per game this year. He had 24 points against Georgia Tech on 8-for-15 shooting.
Charles Odum from the AP added, “Rice, a junior transfer from Drake, is the first player to score in double figures in his first eight games at Illinois since Kiwane Garris opened his career with 10 straight games of 10 or more points in the 1993-94 season.”
With the loss of Brandon Paul, Illinois needed the talent that Rice has provided.
Michigan Misses Burke
It’s surprising that a team who returned three potential first round picks is 5-3 early on with losses to Iowa State and Charlotte, but Michigan is off to a slow start which was highlighted in a 79-69 defeat to Duke. It wasn’t a game the Wolverines were expected to win, but the ten-point margin seemed much closer than the game actually looked.
Michigan has gotten decent play at the point guard position from freshman Derrick Walton, but there are big shoes to fill when replacing the National Player of the Year. Burke simply took this team to another level that this year’s team lacks. Walton is averaging less than half the amount of points (8.6) and assists (3.0) that Burke did last season (18.6 and 6.7). Again, it’s a very tough position for the freshman to be thrown in, but it shows exactly how big Burke was to the lineup.
“I think I just need to keep remaining confident in myself, and the inconsistency will go out the window,” Walton told Adam Renuart of isportsweb.com.
Despite being held without a field goal against Duke, Nik Stauskas has shown his scoring ability by scoring 20 points or more in five of the seven games he’s played in this season. He was also returning from an ankle injury, which may have limited his impact. Caris LeVert has also shown progress, but this team is far from where they want to be.
However, we must remember that it’s still early in the season and the youngsters will adjust. Head coach John Beilein added, “They are 19 year old kids trying to figure things out, and the coaches don’t have all the answers either. It’s a game.”
We Still Don’t Know UNC
With wins over Michigan State and Louisville, the Tar Heels could be considered a top ten team. But, then again, with losses to Belmont and UAB, North Carolina may just be the most unpredictable group in the country.
Part of the equation may revolve around sophomore point guard Marcus Paige. When Paige scores over 20 points, UNC is 3-0, but when he scores under the 20 point mark, the Tar Heels are 2-2. With such a reliance on Paige’s scoring, North Carolina must get points from Paige each game. He’s also the only threat from behind the arc, as Paige has taken 66 percent of North Carolina’s attempts from three point range. Even more shockingly, he’s made 86 percent of the team’s three pointers.
There’s also the uncertainty of a backup scoring option. Brice Johnson, James Michael McAdoo, and J.P. Tokoto have shown flashes of supporting this role, but there’s a lack of consistency in the scoring department.
North Carolina has been the most unpredictable team this season, but the win over Michigan State will be a quality victory on the resume during the selection process.
"You can't tell in college basketball what's going to happen," North Carolina head coach Williams said to CBS Sports. Safe to say, this will be a long, fun season.
Dec 05, 2013
The Hawks have long been on the mediocrity treadmill and that continues as they were unable to acquire a superstar with cap space this past offseason in free agency. They must stay the course and eventually pounce on a James Harden-like trade.
Dec 04, 2013
Once the Grizzlies waived him in the 2010 training camp, Tre' Kelley played parts of two seasons overseas where he starred in Europe, and where he scored two 50-point performances in China. Through it all, his sights remained on finding a way back into the NBA, so he decided to return to the D-League with Austin.
Dec 04, 2013
The Western Conference is nine degrees warmer on average than the Eastern Conference, which must be considered as a factor in why it has been a far deeper conference over the past two decades.
Dec 03, 2013
There are eight NBA games on Wednesday night and what better way to add excitement than entering the $55 Daily Fantasy Basketball Championship Qualifying Event at DraftStreet.
Dec 02, 2013
Aaron Gordon isn't putting up other-worldly stats, but he's been doing the little things on an Arizona team that is loaded with the presence of T.J. McConnell, Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Rondae Holis-Jefferson.
Dec 02, 2013
The category of points in the paint is clearly important enough to be on the box score. You could argue that it should be at the top of the box score instead of the bottom. Itís the one stat that can determine how dominate a team can be either offensively or defensively or both.
Dec 02, 2013
The week after Thanksgiving features a shockingly large amount of great games, many of them involving the Pacers. The leagueís only one-loss team goes on the road to face the Clippers, Blazers, Jazz, Spurs and Thunder in an eight-day span.
Nov 26, 2013
Typically in college basketball, point guards see the most dramatic improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and Shane Larkin were prime examples last season. Now it's Marcus Smart, Marcus Paige and Jahii Carson.
Nov 25, 2013
Strangely, none of the major market teams have the competitive advantage of their location and a top-flight organizational reputation. History and money are still (largely) on their sides but players have become more conscious of organizational quality in recent years.
Nov 25, 2013
The NBA-best Spurs average 107.3 points per 100 possessions, while allows 95.1 on defense, giving Gregg Popovich's team a +12.2 differential.
Nov 25, 2013
Taking Thanksgiving off actually helped give the NBA a more stacked schedule the other days of the week, leading to quality games throughout the holiday weekend. We have some quality tests for teams trying to establish themselves and a few truly high-level matchups of teams expected to make noise in the playoffs.
Nov 21, 2013
With Joseph Young and a mixture of other key transfers, Oregon is looking like a contender in the Pac-12 conference.
Nov 21, 2013
Sign up at Draftstreet and pick an NBA fantasy team for Fridayís games. The top 10 scores win entry to their Daily Fantasy Basketball Championship Qualifier and a free shot at Basketball Fantasy Glory.
Nov 20, 2013
Transitioning to a new generation of consoles provided an opportunity for game development teams to create new properties or transform existing ones to take advantage of new hardware. For NBA 2K14, the boldest decision was debuting a completely new mode on the next generation version of the game, called MyGM designed at replicating the experience of a GM.
Nov 19, 2013
RealGM spoke with Alexis Ajinca to talk about the restart of his career, his plans to get back to the NBA, France's national team and much more.
Nov 19, 2013
Itís early in the season, but Adreian Payne might be the most improved returner in the country. With Payne and other key experienced pieces in the mix for Michigan State, the Spartans should hang around the top of the rankings for most of the season.
Nov 18, 2013
The Suns are off to a fast start behind new additions in Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee in what was supposed to be a season focused on the 2014 NBA Draft.
Older Blog Posts »
Basketball Wiretap Headlines