The Brooklyn Nets did not envision the season starting this way. Yes, they did caution everyone that being able to come together as a team was essential and that might take some time, but nobody thought that would translate into a 2-4 start with loses, until Saturday night, against forgettable teams.
After a 96-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers at the Barclays Center on Saturday night, the Nets continued to preach patience in the process and explained that it’s mostly little things that are hurting the team right now.
“We’re very up and down at the moment,” Joe Johnson said. “Our coaching staff is still figuring out rotations. Us being a new team, a new unit, it’s going to take time for things to gel. Then you have a starting point guard who basically missed the entire training camp, didn’t start in an exhibition game, so it’s going to take some time.”
In other words, there is no reason to panic.
“It’s time for, not necessarily concern, but we definitely have to come out with an urgency.” Johnson said. “Especially coming out in the third quarter, closing out quarters and finishing games.”
The problem on Saturday night was a familiar one as it was the same exact problems the Nets had against the Cavaliers — they struggled on defense, especially late in possessions. The Pacers outscored them on second chances points 20-11.
“It’s a couple of things,” Paul Pierce explained. “We’re still getting to know one another on both ends of the court and the little things are really hurting us. The offensive rebounds, the turnovers late, those are the things that we still have to figure out. Late in games we still have to figure out who we are going to go to and that’s what I think is really causing turnovers.
“Tonight we had about three or four possessions where it was the screens. We’re really rushing things because everybody wants to win so bad. The thing is that we can’t get frustrated. We can still figure this out.”
The other thing that really stood out was how well Indiana played as a unit. It was in stark contrast to the Nets, who never played with consistency.
“Indiana is a well coached team, they’ve been together for a minute and have added some good pieces to their team,” Kevin Garnett said. “When you play good teams that have that chemistry, the error of margin is very small. On the other hand, we’re talking about shooting ourselves in the foot, you find yourself running on quicksand if you will.”
“Just because you have patience doesn’t mean you don’t get frustrated,” Garnett said.
That seems to be the key here — the Nets players need to keep their frustration in check before it snowballs on them. It’s certainly something they have been aware of and don’t seem too concerned with so far.
“Young teams get frustrated when the losing piles up,” Pierce said. “Then the arguing, the whispering behind the back, the negative press, but that’s not this team right here. We’re a veteran team, we show a lot of patience, we’re going to stay positive until this thing definitely turns around.”
WINNING WHILE THEY GEL: One constant theme in the locker room is the importance of gelling and being patient throughout the process. That’s been the excuse for a lot of these losses early on, but Mason Plumlee thinks that winning will actually help the process along more quickly.
“The feeling is that nobody likes to lose,” Plumlee said. “Whether it’s a process or not, you can win during a process. We’re not going to peak tomorrow, but at the same time we need to be winning to get where we’re going because I think that will promote the process better.”
ISO-JOE: Joe Johnson’s biggest weapon is his play in isolation. The problem is that the Nets were too one-dimensional last season in relying on that and with Jason Kidd coming in this season, he said that they would do less of that this year. Except, with less isolation play, Johnson hasn’t been as involved as he was last season. Tonight, for the first time this year, the Nets ran many isolation plays for him. Was it an effort to get him more involved or were they just taking what Indiana gave them defensively?
“It was a little bit of both. Jason drew up the play and it worked so we ran it a few of the times, but it just wasn’t good enough.”
“If it presents itself,” Johnson added when asked if we would continue to see more of that. “It’s not about what I can do or what my game is, but right now it’s about what I can do for this team. It’s about me coming in night and night out…we come in as a unit with one common goal and that’s to in a championship.”
WHAT TOUGH D?: The Pacers have the toughest defense in the NBA and the Nets lost so naturally it makes sense to credit their tough defense. However, Johnson thought that the problem wasn’t with dealing with their defense, but rather put the blame on the Nets for struggling to make the little plays stand up.
“I wouldn’t say that they were tough defensively,” Johnson said. “We pretty much got what we wanted against anybody we played, but, in the third quarter, we just didn’t get those stops or the lose balls to get us over the hump.”
PIERCE FEELING BETTER: Pierce missed practice on Thursday because he was sick and was questionable on Friday. He probably should have taken that game off even as he played poorly and didn’t score a basket in regulation, something he hasn’t done since his rookie season. He said he felt much better on Saturday though.
“I feel good today,” Pierce said. “I was able to get some rest for most of the day. I was feeling weak yesterday, but I’m feeling good today.”
D-WILL PLAYING WITH ENERGY: Deron Williams played a strong game. He finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in a season-high 32 minutes. Most importantly, he looked like he actually showed improvement on his bum ankle.
“Yeah, he came with energy,” Lopez said when asked if D-Will looked better Saturday. “He was aggressive and he was really a motor for us. That’s the kind of Deron we definitely want throughout the remainder of the season.”
D-Will himself seems tired of questions about his ankle so he kept his answer brief when asked about it, but he confirmed that it is getting better. “It’s getting there. Every game I feel better,” he said.
THIRD QUARTER PROBLEMS: The Nets, as they did many times last season, continued to struggle in the third quarter. It’s already been a problem this season and Indiana has been especially good in the third quarter this season so the Nets addressed it before tonight’s game. They just didn’t get the results they were looking for.
“Indiana is one of the best third quarter teams in the league,” Williams said. “J-Kidd talked about it. We needed to come out with a sense of urgency and it just didn’t happen. That happened to us a lot last year and we don’t want to make a habit of it this year.”
PLUMLEE READY TO IMPRESS: After sitting out on Friday, Mason Plumlee got a chance to play and not only did he get 15 minutes, but it came at the expense of Reggie Evans, who didn’t play at all. Afterwards Plumlee discussed the fact that he needs to make the most of his random opportunities and be ready for them when they come.
“I just have to show little by little,” Plumlee said. “Last game I didn’t play, but I have to stay ready. I might get 2 minutes, I might get 10 minutes, I don’t know, but I just have to be ready. To me, whatever I do with those minutes, that can give them confidence in me or if I don’t play well they won’t put me back in. So every time I’m out there I have to prove something.”
DAYS OFF ARE ALL GOOD: The Nets have the next three days off and Kevin Garnett, for one, is very much looking forward to it.
“Days off are always good,” Garnett said. “Make no mistake about it. You get away from it for a little bit, come back refreshed, reboot. So yeah, that’ll be good. Then we went to Fort for the troops. That’s a good time. We get to sit back and look on it, relax and enjoy the experience.”
ROAD WARRIORS: The Nets will be on the road for five of their next six games and eight of their next 11, and both Joe Johnson and Paul Pierced discussed how this can be a good thing.
“It’s frustrating definitely when you get the loses, but sometimes a road trip can get a team together,” Pierce said. “We’re playing three teams that are tough at home — Sacramento, Phoenix, Clippers, it’ll be a big test for us. This is the type of road trip that can turn things around for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Johnson did note that the Nets haven’t played well on the road so far this season and admitted that it does add some pressure to the trip.
“We’re heading out west for a week and we haven’t won a game on the road so that’s an eye opener,” Johnson said. “When we go out west we need to go undefeated basically. We need to find our niche and put this together for 48 minutes. Sometimes you look great.”