Nets' Forwards Turning 'Curtains' into 'Walls'
The Nets have walls. Defensively, they're supposed to exist when the first defender is beaten off the dribble; a help defender should be rotating into place, creating that crucial split-second of recovery needed to seal a possession. Coach Avery Johnson is tired of the walls being curtains.
On the second day of Training Camp, Johnson liked what he saw during the morning session: Brook Lopez blocking shots, Reggie Evans fouling hard. The coach has locked in on defensive execution, and that will start with forwards Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries.
"On the defensive end, they bring a lot," said point guard Deron Williams. "Gerald can guard many positions – you saw in the scrimmage how we're going to be able to trap with both of those guys. They're both good at hitting the point guards and getting it out of their hands. We're versatile. We're going to be able to switch a lot – I can switch 1 through 4, 1 through 5 when people are playing small. That'll work to our advantage."
The overall system is easier to implement because Johnson trusts both Wallace and Humphries to guard their man 1-on-1 at one of the most potent positions in the league. Not having to double team opposing forwards is a luxury that Johnson believes will not only help their defense, but their rebounding. Improved spacing could also set the Nets quickly into their transition offense, which could develop into a mighty weapon considering the strong shooters and finishers on the roster.
Wallace and Humphries each re-signed with the Nets this summer, for significant contracts and signficant roles. But with a combined 19 years of NBA experience, the duo seeks no statistical reinforcement for their skills, only wins.
"I'm still hungry, and I'm still hungry for us as a team to perform," Humphries said. "I think for us and everyone involved in this Brooklyn thing, winning is going to help everyone's career and, all around, make us feel better. So we're just focused on winning and doing what we have to do every day to move toward that direction."
Offensively, that will involve filling the lane in transition and helping the system stay fluid. For Humphries, that entails setting bone-crunching screens, fighting for post position and crashing the boards; for Wallace, utilizing a passing ability Johnson deems "underrated" to initiate sets in which Williams or shooting guard Joe Johnson play off the ball
Williams describes Wallace and Humphries as the "do-it-all" starters, the ones that can go for 20 points any given night, but will deliver regular lines that hover around, if not surpass, point-rebound double-doubles. And the role feels familiar.
"I think it's probably gonna be about the same as years in the past," Humphries said. "Just play hard, rebound, run the floor and defend. If I have to attack a slower guy or a mismatch, (I'll) do that. But just out there playing, just a little bit of everything."
Coach Avery clarified that the Nets depth chart, as it stands after the morning practice of Day 2, is as follows: PG – Deron; SG – Joe; SF – Gerald; PF – Hump; and C – Brook (starters) with PG – C.J.; SG – MarShon; SF – Childress; PF – Mirza; and C – Blatche backing them up. He did make sure to mention Keith Bogans and Reggie Evans as valuable defenders and veterans who it'll be tough to keep on the bench. Expect the rotation to dip between 9 and 11 players regularly...Tyshawn Taylor was again limited by a strained right quadricep...Andray Blatche was held out of part of the morning practice with back spasms, but returned for the afternoon session.