Brooklyn’s Finest Kicks - March 2015

March was a solid month in Nets kicks. Jarrett Jack rocked a variety of “Kyrie 1″ color ways, Joe Johnson continued to do his thing, and Cory Jefferson even pulled out a few retro Jordans to wear while he boosted his plus/minus numbers.

However, there was one pair that stood out above the others. Not for its colors, or its style, or its brand. But for its message.

d-will. endit

NBA athletes commonly use their shoes as more than just a means of support and traction. Their sneakers have become a personal canvas, a convenient and harmless way to get a message across. A way to show support, to pay tribute, or even to mourn. And all it takes is the flourish of a marker.

I could go on and on about all the incredible stories behind what NiceKicks has dubbed “Sharpie Salutes”, but for now let’s focus on the message from Brooklyn’s own, Deron Williams.

On March 6th in a game against the Phoenix Suns, Deron adorned his pair of Jordan 10′s with a large red X. TheBrooklynGame’s Devin Kharpertian had an interesting post that touches on the meaning behind D-Will’s message that can be found here.

It turns out that the red X logo is the mark of the “End It” movement, an organization looking to bring awareness and an end to the modern day slavery of forced labor and human trafficking. Deron was introduced to the organization by former teammate Kyle Korver, and has been in constant support since.

In Kharpertian’s post, he quotes D-Will as saying,

“It’s really sad to think [slavery] is happening here, moreso in other countries. To think about a parent losing their kid at an early age and never seeing them again. Never knowing where they are, but they’re over there drugged up in a camp, and really have no control over their life, their body. It was just kind of to raise awareness for that cause. To bring light to it.”

In a time where the focus is often on statistics and analytics, something as simple as a message on a sneaker allows players to remind us that they are human. Their lives extend beyond a leather sphere and a 10 foot goal. The desire to use their platform for something positive should be embraced. If even just one life is changed because of Deron’s willingness to show support, then he has done his job.

End It Movement official website:

Thanks to KeezOnSports for any images.


Nets 99, Hawks 131: Nets would be smart to learn from Hawks

For a game with so many implications behind it, the Nets sure didn’t treat it as such. A win tonight would have tightened the Nets’ grip on a playoff spot while also helping to keep their first round draft pick - which the Hawks ironically own through a pick swap - out of the lottery.

Allowing Atlanta to shoot 64 percent from the field on their way to a 66 point first half certainly wasn’t the way to do that. The Nets kept it close early, but as their starters checked out, so did their defense. The Hawks’ constant movement stupefied Brooklyn, as they used extra passes and weak side cuts to carve up the Nets defense carnivorously. And if you can believe it, things actually got worse in the 2nd half. The Hawks put up 42 third quarter points, before mercifully calling off the dogs in the fourth.

In a game where the Nets could have made a statement, it was disappointing to see them only make a whimper. There’s nowhere to go but up after a game like this, so the Nets will have to rebound quickly. They hold just a one game lead for a playoff spot and finish the season with match-ups against 5 playoff teams before facing Orlando in the finale.


Rather than dwell on the loss, let’s pose a question. How can the Nets learn from this?

Just a few seasons ago, the Hawks were in a position very similar to that of Brooklyn. The pieces were in place to compete, but not to contend. They had a coach in Larry Drew who was respected, but not innovative.  They had a roster chocked full of talent, but talent that wasn’t fit for the newly developing styles of the NBA.

Once Danny Ferry was hired as the Hawks’ General Manager, he quickly changed the status quo in Atlanta. While the casual NBA fan tabbed Ferry as crazy, he made a series of calculated moves that have set up a standard for success that should sustain within the Hawks’ organization for years to come. Let’s take a look at a few areas where the Hawks have excelled and see how the Nets could use Atlanta’s example to improve their own organization.


Once he joined on in Atlanta, Ferry quickly determined which parts of the core were worth holding on to. Al Horford and Jeff Teague are the only remaining Hawks from the team that Ferry inherited. He shipped out a few hefty contracts right away (Brooklyn’s own Joe Johnson as well as Marvin Williams) and allowed Josh Smith to sign elsewhere the next season. All 3 of them were icons of regular season success in Atlanta. All 3 were supremely talented, but red-flagged players. Johnson for his tendency to default to iso-ball, Smith for his decision making/attitude, and Marvin Williams for his Marvin Williams-ing.

For every bloated contract that Ferry jettisoned, he procured an equally intelligent one. In  moneyball-esque fashion, he found the unheralded talent that slipped through the cracks. The perennially underrated Paul Millsap, 2 yrs./19 million. The American Sniper, Kyle Korver, 4 yrs./$24 million. And a trio of multitalented wings, DeMarre Carroll, Kent Bazemore, and Thabo Sefolosha. for a combined $8.5 million per year. Ferry continued to tear apart the thrift store to find the vintage jerseys and unassuming antiques, items worth infinitely more than what he paid for them. These 5 key players that he has signed - 2 of whom were featured in February’s All-Star Game - combine to make about one million dollars more this season than Joe Johnson is currently making in Brooklyn.

Ferry has cultivated a roster that is Queen on paper, but The Beatles on the court (I swear that makes sense in my head), and the Nets would be smart to follow a similar path. If/when they are able to clear the decks of their current glut of cap-hogging contracts, it is more important that they spend their cap space smartly rather than quickly. Instead of spending high on a Reggie Jackson or a Draymond Green, spend it wisely on the next of their kind.


The players are important, but no team can compete for an NBA championship without the right coach. While I could use much more detail to say this, I’ll keep it simple: Danny Ferry hired a hell of a coach in Mike Budenholzer. Sure, one could argue that attaining a top-5 NBA coach might take a stroke of luck. They could argue when it comes to hiring first-time head coaches that for every Budenholzer, there’s a Jacque Vaughn.

But it’s not just about the fact that Ferry hired a first time coach who is leading his team to their winningest record in franchise history in just his second season on the job. It’s that the Hawks now have a coach who is adaptive. A coach who is innovative. A coach who understands things like the benefits of limiting minutes and how to tailor a system to the strengths of his personnel. In a league that is thriving on offensive spacing and ball movement, Coach Bud’s squad leads the league with an assist percentage of 67.9 and is 2nd in true shooting percentage behind only the historically-excellent Warriors. All while maintaining a top-10 defense and fostering a rotation where no single player averages more than 33 minutes per game.

Meanwhile the Nets hired Lionel Hollins. A solid get. He has proven that he can lead a team deep into the playoffs. But is he the right coach to have as the game of basketball evolves? The same guy who was recently quoted as saying, “I don’t think managing your minutes lengthens your career by one minute”? It remains to be seen. But there’s adequate proof to believe that his stubbornness will get in the way of the need to adapt his outdated schemes and way of thinking to a more modern approach.

If things don’t work out between Brooklyn and Hollins, it would be smart for them to nab someone with a Popovich-ian mindset. Whether it be by plucking someone from the Spurs bench or not, it will be important for the Nets to find a coach who understands the evolutionary nature of the NBA game and who is willing to make the proper adaptations.

Draft Pick Philosophy

Since Danny Ferry took over in Atlanta, the Hawks haven’t been perfect in their drafting. Nonetheless, they have done solidly enough with their choices, while also showing an understanding for how valuable a draft pick is.

In his 3 drafts with Atlanta, Ferry’s best picks have been Dennis Schroder (17th overall, 2013) and Mike Scott (43rd overall, 2012). Schroder has flashed enormous potential this season, with some fans envisioning him as the longterm starter at point guard ahead of Jeff Teague. Scott has blossomed into a solid role player and the perfect guy to have as the 7th or 8th man on a contender.

But it isn’t in the drafting of these two players that the Hawks have made their coup. It was within one of Ferry’s calculated moves, where he pulled off what could eventually be seen as a Bonnie and Clyde-esque thievery. While trading Joe Johnson to Brooklyn the Hawks received what was seen as simply a throw-in compared to the other picks that they were getting. It was a pick swap for 2014 and 2015, allowing them to switch draft spots with the Nets in either year. While the swap was meaningless last season, it could become a top pick this season if the Nets were to miss the playoffs and have some Cavalier-esque lottery fortune. Because of Ferry’s inclination to ask for the pick swap, and Billy King’s willingness to indulge it, a scenario exists where the team with the NBA’s second best record could add a number one overall pick to their roster in the offseason.

The lesson here is, the Nets need to value draft selections. They mortgaged their chance at a future for what they had hoped to be a quick fix. They emptied their cupboard of assets for the acquisition of very solid players like Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. But none of those players were truly elite-level talent worthy of what the Nets surrendered. And now they’re stuck fighting for the bottom seed in a historically weak conference.

After reading these past few sections, it might seem that Brooklyn’s future is bleak; that no hope exists beyond yearly fights for the 8-seed. But the purpose of this article is, in fact, exactly the opposite. Team’s go through rough stretches. Just 3 years ago the Hawks were in a similar situation, mired in mediocrity. It took a few pushes of the right buttons, but here they are now, serious contenders to compete in the NBA finals. While the Nets have put themselves in an unenviable position, a few smart moves could have them back amongst the league’s elite.





Nets 114, Raptors 109: Is it time to start believing?

Chants of Brook-Lyn could be heard through the TV in what was quite possibly the best crowd the Nets have had since last year’s playoffs. The Nets lived up to the crowd by playing an exciting game from start to finish, and ultimately walking away with a big victory.

The Nets started off the game attacking. The Raptors defense hasn’t been very good all year, but has been even worse of late, and the Nets were able to take advantage. They got into, and scored in the paint in a variety of ways. Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez pick-and-rolls were used to success early, and when that wasn’t working Deron Williams was easily able to slice past Greivis Vasquez into the lane either to get his own shot or setup someone else’s. Joe was also able to get looks in the paint by using his size advantage on Demar Derozan that was so crucial in last year’s playoff series. All the looks in the paint allowed Brook Lopez and Thad Young to crash the offensive glass, and the Nets walked away with a cool 34 first quarter points, of which 22 came in the paint.

In the most predictable news of the game, the second quarter did not go as well. Jarrett Jack came in, and the offense immediately stagnated. Jack couldn’t get in the lane against either Lou Williams or Vasquez, and the combination of Bojan, Alan Anderson, Earl Clark, and Plumlee wasn’t able to create much either. Mason played a measly four minutes before being pulled for Brook, but Brook was also stifled by the Nets second quarter woes. Deron briefly checked back in for Jarrett, but after he picked up his second foul Lionel went back to Jack. In Jarrett Jack’s 9:42 he played in the second quarter he was a -11, and the Nets had a 47.7 Offensive Rating for a Net Rating of -57.2! That is really amazing, the Nets had a crazy good 126.5 ORTG for the game, yet Jack managed to play nine minutes of sub-50 ORTG basketball.

The Nets were able to turn things around in the third quarter by going back to the starting group, and neither Mason or Jack saw any second-half minutes. The defense in the third left a lot to be desired; they frequently were late on rotations and allowed Valancunias to get open around the hoop, but they were able to make up for it on the offensive end. Deron was able to carry the Nets through the third almost single-handedly. He had 13 points on 5-8 shooting, was 3-5 from three, and had five assists. Brook Lopez’s five offensive rebounds also helped the Nets keep plays alive.

Going into the fourth the Nets were down two, but strong play from the quartet of Deron, Brook, Thad, and Joe pushed the Nets to the win. Deron hit a huge three late, Joe played great defense on Demar in the clutch, Thad had a couple huge offensive boards to go along with nine points in the quarter, and Brook carried the load with 14 points of his own.

It was an exciting finish to a great game. After not practicing yesterday, and canceling shoot-around this morning, Coach Hollins had the confidence to ride the Nets starters in the second half, and it paid off. Going into a back-to-back against the Hawks it might not look as good tomorrow, but getting one of these two games was crucial for Brooklyn. It’ll be interesting to see how Hollins manages Mason and Jarrett’s minutes going forward. Mason hasn’t been playing poorly, but with the way Brook is playing right now you want him on the court as much as possible. Deron has not been consistently good, but Jack has been consistently awful so Lionel would be wise to limit his minutes over these next couple key games.

The heavy minutes load inflated their numbers, but Brook had 30-17, Deron had 31-11, Thad had 29, and Joe dropped a quite 13-5-5 line. The four of them combined for a ridiculous 103 of the Nets 114 points. The defense wasn’t great, but the Nets came up with the much needed win. The Nets are currently sitting in seventh, 1 game up on Miami and 1.5 games up on Boston. They play next Saturday night at Atlanta.


After tonight’s win the Nets are in the midst of a 10-2 stretch, and on a six game winning streak. With the playoffs around the corner, is it possible the Nets are a hitting a stride?

This is probably the 15th time that question has been posed this year, so it is worth seeing if the Nets really might have turned things around. The wins have been unconvincing, and the losses have been blowouts, but there have been a lot more wins than losses. The Nets aren’t and don’t really have any chance at being “good,” but maybe they can be the 6th or 7th best team in the East.

First, let’s see if this stretch by the Nets is any more impressive than the ten other times this season where they’ve “turned it around.” Over the last 12 games the Nets are 10-2, and have a NETRTG per 100 possessions of +3.8, but the combined winning percentage of their opponents is only 42%. The only comparable 12 game stretch this year was from December 11th-January 3rd where the Nets went 8-4 with a NETRTG of +2.5 against teams with a combined winning percentage of 44%.

Given this information it’s fair to say this is the Nets best stretch of the season, but also that the enthusiasm should be dampened a little. Playing good ball against mediocre teams isn’t a sign the Nets have any chance against the Hawks or Cavs in the playoffs, but it would be fun to end the season on a high note.

One thing that will be pivotal for the Nets remaining playoff push is how Lionel allocates minutes. Over this 12 game stretch the starters have been playing great, but the bench hasn’t improved much. Brook has averaged an all-star level 25-10 with a NETRTG of +9.7. Deron has been inconsistent, but managed to average 14-8 with a NETRTG of +7.5. Joe has been the least impressive of the starters, but has averaged 14-5-4 with a NETRTG of +4.1. Alan Anderson and Markel Brown have been the two impressive role players, shooting 42% and 38% from three with NETRTG’S of +11.0 and +7.1 respectively. Thad’s averages of 14-6 don’t leap off the page, but his +11.0 NETRTG in 33 MPG shows how awesome he’s been for the Nets.

Those six are clearly playing great ball right now, and how much Lionel can play them without them getting to tired could determine the Nets playoff fate. If they’re able to keep playing at a high level under extended minutes the Nets should be able to get the 7th seed despite the challenging upcoming schedule. Also, even if it is only a game or two it would be fun to see the Nets come away with a playoff victory.

The Nets are not close to the contender they hoped to be, and not even as good as last year’s team. They are playing their best basketball of the season, and are consistently exciting for the first time all year. These next couple weeks should be fun; the Nets success has made the playoff push and possible appearance way more interesting than anyone was expecting.


Nets 100, Knicks 98: What’s next for the rivalry?

That was a bit too close for comfort.

Against the 14-win New York Knicks, it took a follow with two ticks remaining for the Brooklyn Nets to squeak ahead and win 100-98. The game-winner by Lopez was a fitting end to a 18-point, 7-rebound and 5-block outing from the big who has carried the Nets as of late. Despite those numbers, it wasn’t Lopez who deserves the lion’s share of the praise tonight. That belongs to the guy that missed the shot Lopez recovered in the closing seconds.

“Deron Williams really likes playing at Madison Square Garden” is what I typed before finding this:

dwill at msg

Nevertheless, he loved playing there tonight. In one of his better outings all season, Williams was aggressively looking for his shot and attacked the paint at every opportunity, leading to 26 points on 11-21 shooting from the field. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven assists with a +20.

Markel Brown, despite taking a hard fall on one of the game’s opening plays, finished with 14 points on 5-8 shooting.

The game went as one would expect with the Nets dominating the first quarter thoroughly, letting the Knicks get back in it with another putrid second quarter, taking back control in the third before ultimately nearly blowing it in the final period. Andrea Bargnani could not be stopped for whatever reason, scoring 22 points on 9-16 shooting. I’m already anticipating a $10 million per year contract being offered to him by Billy King this summer.



Nets 111, Pacers 106: Second quarter struggles

Good news: the Brooklyn Nets are now the eighth seed in the East. They’ve just won four consecutive games for the first time this season. Brook Lopez is destroying everything in his path, including tonight’s 24-point, 11-rebound performance against one of the league’s best defenders in Roy Hibbert.

Bad news: the Brooklyn Nets are still disappearing in second quarters.

We’ll get back to that in a moment, but for now:

Okay, the Nets aren’t there yet, but this game was huge. Brooklyn now owns the tiebreaker with the Pacers and have a ton of momentum heading into the home stretch. Here’s how they did it:

The Nets got off to their best first quarter of the season, outscoring the Pacers 33-15. 33-15! Only one other time this season have the Nets outscored a team by that much in a single period. The pick-and-roll was carving Indiana’s defense apart. The Pacers were hellbent on attacking Lopez with Hibbert on the offensive end, and it didn’t work out well. Brooklyn hit four threes and shot 61.9% from the field in the quarter while Indy shot 31.6%. Joe Johnson was moving the ball and Deron Williams looked very good.

Then the second quarter arrived and the Pacers kind of sort of maybe came back after scoring 39 points in the period. Doesn’t matter, we’ll get back to this later.

With both teams neck-and-neck in the second half, the game came down to crunch time. The Nets pulled away behind a timely defensive stop and score on the other end. Lopez led the way but two other Nets scored over 20 points in Alan Anderson and Joe Johnson. Bojan Bogdanovic couldn’t repeat his success against the Pacers with an empty stat line and -16 outing in eight minutes. Jarrett Jack had 13 points and four assists but did so in that Jarrett Jack fashion that makes you cringe.


Now, to the Nets and how they fare in second quarters. Spoiler alert: poorly. Read More