Spurs at Nets Give and Go Preview
The Spurs’ recent 11-game winning streak came to an end on Friday night, so now it’s time to start a new one. That’s the idea, anyway.
To preview San Antonio’s first trip to Brooklyn (BROOKLYN!), we invited Devin Kharpertian — formerly of ESPN TrueHoop Network site Nets Are Scorching and now leading the charge at The Brooklyn Game — to provide us some intel on the Nets.
Devin Kharpertian, The Brooklyn Game: YOUR TEAM SUCKS. Good chat.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Well, my work is done.
DK: Glad to be of service.
AM: What’s up with Joe Johnson’s sideburns?
DK: Good question. I’m not sure he’s found the proper shape-up artist in Manhattan yet.
AM: It seems like they’re struggling to fill in everywhere. Kind of like the thing Paul Pierce has going on.
DK: Yeah, but for Pierce it’s like an identity now. You can’t think about Paul Pierce without thinking about his patchwork face. With Joe, it just looks kind of weird. Though I don’t look at his face for long enough stretches to be bothered by it.
AM: Probably a good thing. Welp, that’s the only question I had. Good luck tonight.
DK: Fair enough. Not much else to discuss in Brooklyn.
DK: Wait! What about you, though? What’s going on in San Antonio? Manu and Duncan are probably not playing? Is David Stern going to fine the Spurs again?
AM: No, they’ve got legit reasons this time. Stern was in Minnesota on Wednesday when the Spurs played the Timbewolves. If he didn’t throw the hammer down then, when he was in the house, he wouldn’t do it know. Otherwise he’d look weak. Like he had to cover his eyes before he pulled the trigger.
DK: Right, and Stern will shoot you in cold blood.
AM: Exactly. When the Nets were in San Antonio, it was a short time after Avery Johnson had been fired. How’s P.J. Carlesimo doing and what’s the longest one of his press conferences has gone?
DK: Friday night’s is still going, actually. I left after the third three-hour answer. P.J.’s been up and down — literally, just once. The Nets were jolted immediately after Johnson got fired, and it was evident. LeBron James said it best: they’re not doing anything different, their system hadn’t changed other than a few minor tweaks, but they were just playing harder under P.J. Unfortunately, after the first bump, they’ve fallen prey to some of the same issues in the past eight games that hurt them at the end of Avery’s tenure: not running through sets or exerting the effort to do them successfully, then falling back on late-clock isolations. It’s cost them bad losses, and P.J. (or something) has to get their energy/effort back up to right the ship. And seriously, probably about 15 minutes.
AM: When he was in San Antonio on New Year’s Eve, his pregamer was a solid 10 minutes. My shoulder got tired from holding up my recorder. And then I just stopped because I knew I wasn’t going to use any of it.
I do love monitoring the dead coach bounce, which is one of Basketbawful’s greatest contributions to the blogosphere.
DK: Yup. It’s pretty clear here. Even if you don’t believe a word that comes out of a player’s mouth, it’s hard not to see that Deron was shooting and playing better once P.J. took over. These days? Kind of going back down the end-of-A.J. road. I have one answer from P.J. that is six minutes long, and he didn’t answer the actual question
AM: That’s the worst. If Pop’s not going to answer your question, he’ll let you know immediately. It’s one of his good qualities.
DK: I’m planning on going to one of Pop’s pre- or post-game pressers tonight just to watch the man in action. I’m far too terrified to actually ask him anything.
AM: I suggest pregame. Depending on his mood, it’s a lot of fun. Either way, there’s more of a back-and-forth than postgame, when the video cameras are in his face. But he loves New York, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to be in a good mood.
DK: Excellent. I’m giddy! I mean, professional.
AM: So what’s with Deron Williams? Is he shooting better than before or was that all a false narrative?
DK: Yes and no? I’m leaning towards yes. His shot does in fact look different under P.J. Perhaps that’s just a byproduct of the shots he’s taking — fewer isolation 3s and more spot-ups means he’s more squared up and doesn’t have to rush or fade away. But one thing I’ve noticed that seems counter-intuitive: the arc on his three-point shots is actually lower than usual in the past month or so, but he’s making more shots. Maybe his wrist is healthier, maybe he just needed to make a tweak, but over the past two to three weeks we’ve finally hit a point where I expect him to hit an open three. That hasn’t been the case since he got to Brooklyn.
He’s still not attacking the basket looking to score — his shots in the paint are way down from his Utah days — but he’s still so good passing the ball that even the threat is usually enough to create an open look for someone else. Usually Brook Lopez.
AM: Let’s talk about the power forward position. Kris Humphries began the season as the starter but Reggie Evans has been starting lately. What gives?
DK: Frankly, Humphries just wasn’t playing well, and Evans was. Evans has the best defensive rating of any Nets rotation player, and that wasn’t an accident: he’s their best pick-and-roll defender, severely limits opponents’ second chances with his rebounding, and generally could defend most power forwards well. The problem is that Evans is so limited everywhere else that when he plays more than 20-25 minutes a game, all of those issues get exposed: he can’t score, he can barely function on the offensive side of the ball, and he gets ripped to shreds by longer athletic forwards. We have a poll on The Brooklyn Game right now asking who the long-term solution at power forward is, and Evans has 3% of the vote. He had 0% yesterday.
Unfortunately, with Humphries struggling, with Evans’s limitations, and with Mirza Teletovic’s airballs, the Nets have a lot of depth, but not a quality starter in the bunch. It’s their biggest issue.
AM: I was really excited about Teletovic in preseason. I hate when I’m wrong.
DK: I was too. And I still am, to some degree. Hey, maybe you can help me with this: I have a theory that it’ll take Teletovic a year or so to get adjusted to NBA speed and spacing. I know they’re totally different players, but how long did it take Manu?
AM: They brought Manu along pretty slowly, in part because he came into his rookie season with a severely sprained ankle from the World Championships in Indianapolis that year. But he only started five games as a rookie and played about 20 minutes per game. The Spurs have been fortunate to be able to develop guys slowly over the years, outside of Tim Duncan. They did it with Manu, Tony Parker and they’re doing it right now with Kawhi Leonard.
DK: Right. The Spurs are unique in the NBA and all that.
AM: All that.
DK: Hopefully Mirza does put it together. He’s hilarious to watch sometimes. I’m convinced he has the highest “seconds touching the ball to shot ratio” in NBA history. And when he’s hitting, it’s so good.
AM: Well we have to talk about Brook Lopez. Why is he so good this season>
DK: BECAUSE HE’S THE BEST. But seriously, he’s really good. He’s basically what we thought he could become when the Nets drafted him. He’s so long, and so tall, and so skilled that if he’s healthy, he gets so many points just by dumping the ball in the basket. He’s got a supreme understanding of space in the paint, and he finds these little spaces in split seconds where he can just catch and lay it in. Having Deron to find him & Joe/Bogans to space the floor has helped create those spaces, but there’s a lot of centers that have those opportunities that can’t attack like Lopez does. And that’s not even getting into his methodically unstoppable post moves or his improved defense/rebounding. He’s the goofiest All-Star of all time, and I’m happy he’s finally had an opportunity to show off how talented he is.
Also: he doesn’t watch basketball. I feel like everyone needs to know that.
AM: He doesn’t watch basketball? You mean in his free time or he doesn’t bother with film study?
DK: I think he does film study. But that’s because it’s a requirement. He’s said it a few times this year. Someone asked him about how the Knicks are doing and he said “I’m the wrong guy to ask about watching basketball.” He then forgot Earl Clark’s name right after they played the Lakers and Clark hit one of the biggest shots of the night right in his face. He doesn’t pay attention to the media. He doesn’t seem to have any relationship with basketball in his spare time, just reads and writes comic books. Part of me appreciates him even more for that.
AM: Yeah, I can both respect and dislike that. At one point you have to take your craft seriously, on the other it’s good that basketball doesn’t completely consume his life. It means he’ll be a better balanced human being when he’s done playing.
DK: Right. The idea is that to be the best you can be you obsess over it. But sometimes I wonder if that kind of detachment actually helps him. I also think he seems like the kind of guy that if he did nothing but think about basketball he’d be miserable. And a happy Brook is a better Brook. Maybe that means he has some kind of “ceiling,” but even considering that, he’s been great.
AM: Right. Well last thing before I let you go: I need one random prediction from you. Something that has nothing to do with the final score.
DK: P.J. & Pop will both get technicals and decline to discuss the officiating after the game. Actually, Pop might not (decline to discuss, that is).
AM: That’s a good prediction.
DK: And in case you forgot, your team sucks.