“Don’t it always seem to go/that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?”. Damn, it felt good to have the third worst record in the NBA. There are some things in life you really can’t avoid, though, no matter how actively you try to. The win tonight was one of them; these Nets were completely listless, especially on the boards, and apart from the first minutes of the game couldn’t hit anything. But alas, how can we complain about a win against a bad team, giving again a lot of minutes to our juniors? I guess it’s ok, after all. And we had the chance to witness a few spicy highlights, too!
And, with no further ado…
– Guys, I just love Noah Vonleh (8 pts, 10 rebs, 2 ast, +17 +/-). He’s just everywhere, pestering opposing bigs on multiple plays, grabbing boards in traffic, looking in fantastic shape and almost always playing within himself. This season he’s posting a career high percentage of shots taken inside of 10 feet (81,8%) and a career high in multiple other facets, such as TS%, Oreb%, Dreb%, a bunch of other stuff and even quadrupled his Ast%. He’s an amazing cog to have on your team, unless he regresses badly, but I’m not convinced he will. I mean, there’s nothing unsusteinable about what he’s doing. He’s a serviceable big who doesn’t get in over his head, defends averagely, moves well without the ball and seems content to shoot sparsely. In the mean time, he’s not a ball-handler for his size, and has a knack for finding guys in the right spots around the basket. He also got me salivating in the first quarter when he initiated a 4-5 PnR with Mitch that ultimately yielded no results but looked very organic and fluid. I hope to see more of that. About his game tonight: throughout all of 30 minutes of play his level of effort was very consistent, he was in the right place most of the times, and he dunked the ball with ferocity and a bit of swag, even hanging from the rim a few tenths of seconds more than it’s allowed, earning a stupid but sweeeeet technical.
– Tim Hardaway Jr. (25 pts, 5 rebs, 8 ast, +11 +/-) finally gets a mention here, and for good reasons. This was the most team friendly performance of Timmy this season, what with his 8 assists and general focus on letting the team get involved. He started slowly but steadily, finding a bunch of guys for easy shots. In the second quarter, he lobbed a sky-high pass that was clearly intended for Mitch, and found him perfectly. His shooting keeps on being a bit subpar (another sub .500 FG% night – for what it’s worth, last season he reached that threshold only 13 times), but this was the all around showing that we needed to see from THJ. For the sake of the tank it’s okay if he saves those nights only for very bad teams; for the sake of this team development, I’m not that sure, but we’ll take what we can. Nice to see him compliment Trier on a two on one fastbreak where Allonzo could have easily passed the ball for an easy layup but instead chose to go the rack himself. I don’t know how bright Tim is, but certainly seems a good-natured kid. He took another charge, sacrificing some of his face in the process. I always liked that part of his game (the charge taking one, not the blood losing). Currently he’s tied for seventh in the entire league for charges taken. Chuck Hardaway wasn’t anywhere to be found tonight.
– Frank Ntilikina (16 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, +15 +/-) was very shaky with his jumper inside the arc, and lost Russell a few times in the first quarter, but was again pretty good for his standard. His scoring numbers in the last two games are a bit inflated from unsusteinable sharpshooting ability from three (6-for-12) and from lucky bounces on weird floaters, but his aggressiveness is not a fluke. Now, don’t get me wrong. All of this is in context; it’s not like Frank has become prime Derrick Rose, barreling towards the rim with explosiveness and extreme quickness, but he’s not shying away from shooting the damn ball, and that is very good for his development. Oh and guess what? Zero turnovers for this bad guy tonight. I maintain he’s our best PnR initiator, only he does that at a typical SF speed, while we’re expecting him to be a lot quicker and nimble on his feet. My guess is that won’t ever happen, but that’s not a shade on him. It’s just that we need an above-average player as our first primary ball-handler to untap the full potential of Frank as a part-time PG. In the meantime I’m totally ok in developing his confidence with a streak of double figure games to shut his detractors down, and then getting back to focus on other aspects of the game. 32 minutes is more like it, Fiz.
– Damyean Dotson (10 pts, 5 rebs, 40% FG, +21 +/-) did not post gaudy numbers tonight, but hit double figures for the fifth straight time and was amazing on defensive rotations, as mirrored by his game-high plus minus. Even if his shot didn’t fall (1/6 from three) and his passing game keeps on resembling that of the late Yinka Dare, his place in the rotation looks cementified by now. I know it’s incredibly early in the season, but this kind of 3-and-D player, with the added feature of elite rebounding. Damyean is currently tied for fifth in DReb%, and ahead of him are noted board chaser Westbrook, huge human being Ben Simmons, small sample size Kevin Huerter and good rebounder Lance Stephenson. I think this guy is for real.
– Hey guys, do you know how to solve the problem of a dislocated jaw? Asking for a friend who’s stuck with his mouth open after that incredibile sequence of steal, run, dunk from Mitchell Robinson (11 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, +6 +/-) in the third quarter. That play alone was worth the ticket for the MitchRob experience tonight, who in limited minutes (just 15) posted his first double figure scoring game. He’s still raw and gets pushed around a little too much, but moves adequately on offense and… well.. jumps high enough that every lob in the rim vicinity is his by default. A perfect 5 for 5 from the field, by good measure he ate a Jarrett Allen in the most humiliating way possible. It has to be said, though, that said Allen attempt would have never happened if Mitch knew how to box him out. His defense leaves a lot to be desired in a lot of occasions, especially when he tries to block guys on the perimeter and ends up so far away from the basket that there’s no chance in hell that he’ll corral the rebound. He also committed a couple of very stupid fouls. Anyway, I’m amazed about how NBA ready this guy is and can’t believe our own luck.
– Allonzo Trier (12 pts, 5 rebs, 2 ast, +3 +/-) showed up tonight and played a very competent 25 minutes, scoring efficiently and with purpose. His defense was on point and acted as Fiz’s release valve when it was clear that Mitch was being badly exposed in the fourth quarter by the Nets. Fiz inserted him with around 6 minutes to go and never looked back, securing the win for the night. A good Zo game here and there is always something I can hang my hat on.
– Trey Burke (5 pts, 50% FG, nothing else, 0 +/-) is slowly, and surprisingly, falling out of the rotation. I’m not completely against it, since his usefulness is questionable on this roster, save for the fact that it would open up playing time for Mudiay, who’s notoriously terrible. We’ll just wait and see if this is just a rough patch or something more. Maybe I’m oversensitive, but it feels like there are the first cracks in Fizdale’s shining armor as a communicator. I hope I’m wrong, but I have bad vibes about it. Anyway, Trey played only 14 minutes before Fiz caught up on his uselessness tonight.
– Enes Kanter’s numbers (15 pts, 15 rebs, 2 ast, +6 +/-) should have earned him a mention in the good column, but honestly there’s something about him that worries me. His body language is horrible at times, especially since he’s got benched. Even in the half-game interview with Rebecca Haarlow he looked sad and out of sorts. I don’t know if it has to do with the coaching staff, but after his first three games he looked more and more disconnected. Watching him now fills me with sadness, like watching from afar an ex that used to be extra funny when you were together but now passive-aggressively ignores you while treading water. Don’t know, I expect him to be somewhere else on January. Also, a couple of defensive possessions where he doubled on the ball handler went horribly, with him completely forgetting to get back to his man after the double, and he committed a few terrible turnovers.
– Last two paragraphs got me thinking about the Fiz-Gasol debacle in Memphis. Is it possibile that Fiz isn’t quite able to connect with people who feel (right or wrong as it may be) entitled about their role in the team? I’m not sure, but Enes went very quickly from exhilarated guy to semi-productive sad sack. That’s in contrast with Vonleh, who was good when starting from the bench and he’s still good now. I don’t know, but I’m perplexed at this development.
– Mario Hezonja put up a transparent 11 points, 4 rebounds game. You tend to forget he’s even on the roster when he’s not on the court, given what he provides to the team. Not a lot of substance in him. Beasley was better, at least he was a lot more rootable.
– Lance Thomas played 10 minutes. That’s good game planning, coach.
– Ron Baker has to be the most expensive player ever to incite a “We want (insert mascotte guy here)!” chant. It’s ok to love a hustling player, but it’s also a bit humiliating to be treated like a token scruffy walk-on while making 5 millions. The very brief Mills stint as a GM without Phil Jackson was really weird.
– Tonight NBA League Pass malfunctioned for an entire quarter, making me see the action from strange camera angles without any commentary whatsoever. During those 12 minutes I realized once and for all how much Breen and Clyde make the games more tolerable when we’re losing and exciting when we’re winning. I hope it doesn’t ever happen again, it was like watching a Marvel movie directed by Tommy Wiseau.
So, we bag this win and head to next game with the exact record of the Nets. Weren’t they supposed to maybe be a dark horse for the playoffs this year? If Caris LeVert is not cooking, they don’t look so well, and I think that D’Angelo will soon end up on the overhyped, underperforming 2015 lottery picks list, which as of now is looking longer that it should be.
Let’s see you on Halloween night against the Pacers!