Three Man Weave: Week 16 Edition
It’s been a few weeks now since the Brooklyn Nets simply left us frustrated - instead of downright despondent - after a week of basketball. Since compiling a 3-1 record from December 29th to January 4th the Nets then went 0-4, 1-3, 1-2, and 0-2 in the ensuing weeks, before showing signs of life again in Week 15 of the season. The Nets’ 3-1 week coincided with the return of point guard Deron Williams to the rotation, after the three-time-All-Star missed 11 games with a fractured rib cartilage injury. The team’s record in those 11 games? 2-9.
In his four games since returning, Deron’s played at least 26 minutes in each as the backup to Jarrett Jack. Monday’s home contest against the Los Angeles Clippers served as his return and most successful game of the four, as he played for stretches alongside Jack in the backcourt and to close out the fourth quarter of a two-point victory, finishing with 15 points (5-8 field goals, 3-5 three-pointers, and 2-2 on free throws), 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 turnovers in 29 minutes.
Deron Williams again scored in double figures in his next game, Wednesday at Toronto, but struggled in shooting the basketball (4-12 from the field for 11 points in 33 minutes). He was much better at running the offense, though, with 6 assists to no turnovers and allowed Jack to play a meager 36 minutes in the 16-point win.
In the next two games combined Deron wouldn’t reach double digits in scoring, as the Nets pulled out a four-point victory at home Friday against the Knicks and then lost the next night in Washington by 37 points. He scored 5 points on 9 shots versus New York, with 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers, and a team-low -6 in his 26 minutes, then notched just 3 points against the Wizards Saturday on 0-8 shooting. Deron again moved the ball and hit the boards, and finished with 7 assists to zero turnovers, with 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and 6 free-throw attempts.
Outside of Deron’s much-needed return, things were pretty quiet on the Brooklyn front. A 3-1 record repelled any trade rumors this week, along with Brook Lopez’s continued strong play off the bench. Lopez averaged 18.3 points, 7 boards, and 2 blocks in 32.3 minutes per game in his four games last week on 52.2% shooting, and even played well while sharing the frontcourt with Mason Plumlee in limited minutes. The “Days Without a Brook Lopez Trade Rumor” board at the Brooklyn’s Finest office is up to almost a full week!
We’ll see how long that streak lasts, as the Nets finally reached their dreaded eight-game, February road trip that we’ve discussed on the last few editions of the Three Man Weave. Next weekend’s All-Star break will thankfully alleviate some of the time spent on the road, as the Brooklyn Nets will play twice this week and then next in Los Angeles against the Lakers February 20th. Until then they’ll get the (29-23) Bucks Monday night in Milwaukee (spoiler: the Nets lost…) and then play the (38-13) Memphis Grizzlies the following night. Even after Monday’s loss in Milwaukee the (21-30) Nets sit just a game back of the Miami Heat in the loss column for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
In Week 16’s Weave, our three experts will try to discuss last week’s 3-1 record within the context of the Brooklyn Nets’ season, and how susceptible they are to “buying back in” on the Nets after they played well for their first stretch of games in over a month. They’ll also address the alternating minutes distributions to Bojan Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev this season, and if head coach Lionel Hollins can play one without burying the other. Finally, our panel will get to make some predictions for Saturday’s Slam Dunk Contest at the Barclays, where our own Mason Plumlee will battle against Zach LaVine, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Victor Oladipo in a matchup of some exciting, young, NBA athletes.
Monday @ Milwaukee
Tuesday @ Memphis
1.) What’s your level of cynicism when watching the Brooklyn Nets this season? For instance, last week did you fall more into the “three straight wins against the Clippers, Raptors (oh, and the Knicks)” category or would you prefer to point to Saturday’s 37-point blowout loss to the Washington Wizards as more indicative as to the team’s ability?
Jonah Jordan: A blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. Good teams will lose to bad teams throughout an 82-game season like the Clippers and Raptors lost to the Nets. I think the Washington Wizards’ 37-point drubbing of the Brooklyn squad is indicative of where the Nets are currently. This team is just not good, but they are fighting for the right to be swept by the Hawks in the first round so that’s admirable.
John Mazlish: In general at this point in the season my level of cynicism is pretty high. I go into every game expecting a loss or a close win against bad team, and when that isn’t the result I’m surprised. I will say that after the three-game winning streak last week I had a little bit of hope; the Clippers and Raptors wins were both great, and the Knicks win at least wasn’t too close. Going into a game against a struggling Wizards team I fully expected the Nets to at least make it competitive and they got blown out by over 30. With the lack of shooting on this team they can go cold and can get blown out easier than just about anyone else in the league. Until I see a longer stretch of success I consider myself a pretty cynical fan, and am waiting for the Nets to convince me otherwise.
Brady Jennings: I think both the 3-game win streak and the 37-point loss are indicative of this team’s inconsistent, up and down play all season, though the 3 wins in a row are more surprising to me than a huge loss. Its a really, really good thing the Nets play in the Eastern conference.
2.) Is there enough room in Lionel Hollins’s rotation for both Bojan Bogdanovic and Sergey Karasev?
Jordan: There isn’t enough room for both of them. I think that Bojan is the most likely candidate to stick around because he has been playing at a level Lionel Hollins deems acceptable as of late. The problem with Karasev is that he is not a good defender and Hollins wants the back end of his rotation to play some sort of defense.
Mazlish: I touched on this a little bit in my recap of the Wizards game, but I think there is. Right now Coach Hollins is divvying up the wing/backcourt rotation between Deron, Jarrett, Joe, Alan and Bojan with Sergey being the odd man out, but I think there is room for all six. The Nets could cut down on Jarrett’s minutes a little bit if they play less Jack/Williams, two-PG lineups, and in that time I think it would be worth it to give Sergey a couple of minutes. Also, Joe Johnson could use a little more rest so Sergey could grab a few there. Karasev doesn’t need or deserve a lot of minutes, but it would be worthwhile to give him a little time here and there in order to build his confidence. Playing all three of them consistent minutes will also allow Coach Hollins to figure out who’s playing best and deserves to play in crunch time each game.
Jennings: I think you have to pick one or the other, but on a 21-30 team you have to exercise all of your options. I would probably go with Bojan if I had to choose between the two.
3.) The Nets will feature two players in next weekend’s All-Star festivities, when Mason Plumlee and Bojan Bogdanovic will face off against each other in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge (AKA the old Rookie/Sophomore Game) at the Barclays Center. Mason will also compete in Saturday’s Slam Dunk Contest, along with Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Minnesota rookie Zach LaVine. Does Plumlee have a chance at taking home the title, and who are you most looking forward to seeing perform in the Dunk Contest? Who’s the favorite?
Jordan: It would shock me if Mason Plumlee won the dunk contest. Don’t get me wrong he is a great in-game dunker, but the field is stacked with guys who are much flashier. Zach LaVine has to be the favorite and Plums shouldn’t be ashamed when he loses to him.
Mazlish: I imagine my answer here is going to be about the same as everyone else’s: Zach LaVine is the favorite, and Zach LaVine is my prediction to win. He and Gerald Green are the two best dunkers in the league, and LaVine might be the only player in the NBA who can do a windmill from the free throw line. All that being said, he is by no means a lock to win, even the best dunkers can miss their dunks and submarine their scores by going for too much. If LaVine flops, Mason is still not the favorite, but he has a chance. Mason can dunk with a lot of power and has decent hang time, so if he comes up with something creative he could certainly bring home a good score. Personally, I think it’s pretty unlikely he does anything special, and I will be surprised if any of the dunkers can compare to the show LaVine is going to put on.
Jennings: I don’t think Plumlee has much of a chance. Not because he isn’t capable of throwing down some cool dunks, but I think of him more as an in-game dunker rather than a slam dunk contest dunker. I predict Plumlee will put down a few power dunks and finish 4th in this contest.
I’m very intrigued by the other 3 guys in the contest. Oladipo is one of my favorite young players to watch and will surely do some impressive things this weekend, but I think it comes down to LaVine vs Antetokounmpo. We’ve all seen the clips of LaVine dunks and I think he wins unless Giannis dunks from beyond the free-throw line, which he is probably capable of. When it’s all said and done, I think a lot of people (probably myself included) will say the dunk contest is back after this weekend. I feel like the dunk contest is the most important aspect of this season for LaVine; I see him doing something crazy and winning the contest. This should be a lot of fun.
(Paul’s note: I usually try to stay impartial and avoid answering any of my own questions here on the Three Man Weave, but put me down for a Giannis Antetokounmpo victory and a really entertaining Slam Dunk Contest.)