(November 24, 2013)
BROOKLYN—Before he had worked his first regular season game, before anyone knew he would be so severely tested this early in his career, we asked rookie coach Jason Kidd how he would handle a veteran player that wasn’t putting forth effort.
“You ask him, ‘Are you here?’’’ replied Kidd.
Kidd didn’t ask that question Sunday after the Nets lost their fifth straight game, a loss that was disconcertingly similar to the four prior losses. The Nets got pushed around in the paint, outplayed on the boards and obliterated in the third quarter of a 109-97 loss to the Detroit Pistons in Barclays Center.
Kidd didn’t ask his players, ‘Are you here?’ He showed us which ones he believes are not getting it done.
Trailing by 16 points midway through the fourth quarter, Kidd put one of the least expensive lineups in the NBA on the court:
Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Shaun Livingston, Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic rewarded Kidd by slicing the Piston’s lead in half. Johnson, who had a game-high 34 points by hitting a career-high eight, three-pointers, was the only projected starter before this much-anticipated season began.
“They deserved to play,’’ said Kidd. “I should have let them play the whole game or the whole quarter. They’re playing, you know, for one another. It’s not perfect but that group that gave us an opportunity.’’
Starters Brook Lopez and Deron Williams didn’t play because of ankle injuries. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce didn’t play because they had been ineffective.
Kidd began this season as a passive presence on the bench. When he realized that was not working, he became much more vocal and demonstrative. The Nets responded by snapping a three-game losing streak with a win in Phoenix.
Plan B is holding players –superstar players – accountable.
“That’s what he felt as far as who plays, whatever decision he’s going to make is how it is,’’ said Garnett. “If we’re not carrying our weight then obviously he’s going to put somebody in there that is.’’
The rub, of course, is obvious. Management did not assemble a $190 million roster as some grand experiment to learn what players would carry their weight. This roster was assembled to compete for an NBA title.
Several key stats question the Nets’ competitiveness.
They were outscored in the paint, 56-22, in the paint, to a Detroit team (4-8) that had lost two straight and 3-of-4. They gave up 13 offensive rebounds.
They were outscored 34-15 in the third quarter.
“We’ve got to be the worst team in the NBA when it comes to the third quarter,’’ said Garnett. “That’s just not acceptable.’’
Nets fans agree. They let their feelings known in the second half when the Bronx cheer replaced the haunting ‘Brook-lyn’ chant that has become so popular in this building.
There’s no cheering for a team this is 3-10 and has lost 8-of-9. These fans know these loses can’t be attributed to the injuries. Yes, Lopez, Williams, Jason Terry (knee) and Andrei Kirilenko (back) didn’t play.
But there is no guarantee that a healthy Nets team would play with more passion and intensity for 48 minutes. That’s just wishful thinking.
“There’s no excuses,’’ said Andray Blatche. “We’re playing poorly. There’s no excuses. Every guy needs to play with more pride. I don’t know. I have no excuses. We’re just all playing bad.’’
“Whatever the coaches tell us, we just fade away from it,’’ he added.
The head coach found another way to tell his players they are not getting it done. If that doesn’t snap the Nets out of this early-season funk, you wonder if anything will.