Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Brooklyn Nets: Hollins, Harden, Howard and Head-Butts

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Waiting for the other sneaker to drop?
Trade Deadline ~ February 19th

BROOKLYN NETS: The Hoops of Flatbush Rumble with Houston Rockets; Kevin Garnett Head-Butts Persona Non Grata Dwight Howard...

....but Nets still lost.

Unlike the first two seasons in Brooklyn, the new calender year hasn't yet ushered in a successful turnaround like many hoped.

After ending 2014 on a high note with a decisive victory over the Bulls, then winning their first game in January over the Magic, the Nets have since gone 0-6 to establish their longest streak since moving to Flatbush Avenue.

Their best effort during this recent stretch came against the Mavericks, that is, until they petered out in overtime.  Then of course, a pathetic loss to the moribund Sixers was an especially bitter pill to swallow.  The Pistons loss followed, which brings us to Monday night's latest meltdown.

Brooklyn scored 28 points in the 1st period, dropped to 24 points in the 2nd, and scored just 18 points in the 3rd.  They scored 29 lightly defended points in the 4th, which infers Houston's 113-99 victory was already well in hand.

Brooklyn actually scored more fast break points and more points in the paint.  Rebounds, free throw attempts, and most other pertinent game stats were relatively even.

Their demise however, came from beyond the arch.  Led by James Harden, the Rockets launched 40 three-point attempts, and connected on 40% (16) of them.  Otherwise, the Rockets took 86 shots from the field and the Nets ended with 84, but attempted 19 less three-pointers than Houston.

James Harden exploited Bojan Bogdanovic en route to a game high 30 points, and tied Brooklyn's Jarrett Jack with a game high 6 assists.

Kevin Garnett earned his 8th career ejection when his temper got the best of him early in the 1st quarter.  After getting called for non-shooting foul on Howard, Garnett gave Howard a slight shove.   Howard shoved back more authoritatively.  Garnett then threw the basketball at Howard.  When the two drew closer for a sure confrontation, Garnett head-butted Howard, and Howard landed a retaliatory slap to the neck.

After Garnett's ejection, the home crowd and Mason Plumlee took good care of Howard thereafter.   In his first trip to Brooklyn since the whole "2012 Dwight Howard to Flatbush" drama played out, the Rockets center got booed every time he touched the ball, and ended the night with just 8 points and 5 rebounds.  Mason Plumlee (one of the few bright spots on this team), meanwhile, posted his 9th double/double of the season, with a team high 24 points and 10 rebounds.

Forced into early action off the bench, Brook Lopez scored 12 points and pulled down 6 rebounds in 24 minutes.  His opponent, however, had his way against Lopez in Kevin Garnett's absence.   Houston's Donatas Motiejunas was 8/11 from the floor, with a team high 11 rebounds, and a complimentary 18 points behind Harden.

If The Coach Yells Loud Enough, The Owner Just Might Hear Him

With Lionel Hollins, owner Mikhail Prokhorov is getting the best raw analysis of his basketball enterprise without the extra added cost of paying him overtime.  Proactive and image conscious corporations pay small fortunes to outside consultants for this very type of harsh critique.

Prior to Monday's game, Coach Hollins was asked if the team is still searching for an identity.  He answered very matter of fact -  ...the team has an identity; they're a bad shooting team.

(They actually shot 46% from the field Monday night, but......)

If the truth hurts, then the Nets players should be hooked on pain medication by now.  Coach Hollins has been brutally honest in his assessment of this team throughout the season, and his words only cut deeper with each passing game.

Make no mistake, he does speak the truth.  My only question is, how long will Billy King allow his coach to openly mock (!) the team he assembled?

Because the Eastern Conference is polluted with garbage 10 teams playing .500 basketball or below, the 16-22 Nets still have a solid hold on 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, and still rank 8th in the conference.  If the conference were only slightly better, the Nets would surely be worse.

That said, the trade deadline is just over a month away.  What's a general manager to do?

Better question is, considering the present cost of this team, the salary cap hell they're in, the lack of a return on that money, and lack of draft picks, and the fact that the team is on its 4th coach in 4 years, what's an owner to do?

Think about it - Coach has basically intimated throughout the season how this team sucks, to the point where, the owner just might agree with him.


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