(November 18, 2013)
BROOKLYN—The night before the Brooklyn Nets had their first training camp practice of the season, rookie coach Jason Kidd met with his players, assistant coaches and GM Billy King.
He delivered his message in a subdued voice, albeit one with convinction.
“I told the guys to respect, trust and I’ll be real with you,’’ he said. “I’m a new coach and this is new group. I’m going to have to learn who they are, and they’re going to have to learn who I am. If we respect and trust that process, there’s no reason we can’t win.’’
Kidd added something to that dialogue over the weekend: He had to learn who he is as a coach.
He did that in the eighth game of the season. Kidd had been a passive presence on the Nets bench in the first seven games. But the Nets lost five and went into the eighth game at Phoenix on a three-game losing streak and winless on the road.
Their coach that night bore little resemblance to the one they had seen. Kidd was vocal and demonstrative. The Nets edged the Suns 100-98 in overtime.
We have seen the first step in the evolution of Jason Frederick Kidd as an NBA head coach.
“I’m trying to find my way as a coach and this is process for me,’’ Kidd said after the win. “There’s a lot of different theories of what to do and I’m trying to find that. I felt sitting wasn’t doing my part or helping my guys so I was going to try something new.’’
That was the most important revelation that came out of last week’s 1-2 West Coast road swing. Here’s a look at what else we learned about the Nets (3-6) and what we can look for this week:
NOT A PEACH, A PLUM II: Last week we mentioned that rookie Mason Plumlee had opened eyes with his hustle. He’s taken that to another level, moving ahead of Reggie Evans at the backup power forward position.
Plumlee, the 22nd pick in the draft, continues to make the most of his opportunities. In the Nets 110-103 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers, Plumlee scored a career high 19 points, grabbed six rebounds, and went head-to-head with Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin on several occasions.
“I know a lot of guys that get picked later in the first round or the second round, they don’t get to play their first year,’’ said Plumlee. “I would say I’m surprising some other people that made predictions, but I’m not surprising myself. I still feel like there’s more I can do.’’
CROWDED TRAINER’S ROOM: Although none of the injuries appear to be serious, the Nets were reminded of just how fragile a season can be when Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams all suffered sprained ankles and missed the Clippers’ game. Paul Pierce also was held out with a sore left groin.
Williams has been plagued by ankle injuries throughout his career, which should make even the most optimistic Nets fan wary. Lopez has had three surgeries on his right foot and although he could have played against the Clippers, there’s reason to be concerned that, if the left ankle sprain lingers, he might place undo stress on the right foot.
Williams and Lopez did not play Monday night against Portland. Pierce is a game-time decision.
The more time Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) remains unable to play, the harder it will be for Kidd to incorporate him into the rotation. That would be a shame because he has a terrific feel for the game. Watching him and Garnett play together is a pleasure.
BENCH MARKS: The Nets have boasted of their deep and talented bench. We got our strongest proof of that in the Clippers loss. With Garnett, Lopez, Pierce and Williams out of the Clippers game, the bench – especially Andray Blatche and Shaun Livingston – stepped up big.
Blatche had 19 points against the Clippers. Livingston was fantastic against the Suns with 18 points and six assists. The Nets don’t win that game without him. Evans had 11 rebounds against Los Angeles and we haven’t seen the best of Jason Terry, who had off-season left knee surgery.
BIG TICKET, LITTLE SHOTS: For the first time since his rookie season, Garnett is averaging less than 10 shots per game (8.8). He needs to get more involved in the offense.
The Nets are going to face some teams with quality power forwards in the upcoming week – Portland (LaMarcus Aldrige), Minnesota (Kevin Love) and Detroit (Greg Monroe).
It’s time for the Big Ticket to make his presence on the offensive end felt. Garnett has acknowledged he’s feeling his way and had deferred too much early.
GO WIN-STREAKING: It’s fun! The Nets have yet to win two straight.
Yes, we are only nine games into the season but the Nets need to start making winning the norm. This Nets team often has been compared with the 2010-11 Miami Heat team, which added LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
That Miami team started 9-8 but even it had a four-game and three-game win streak in those first 17. The Heat only lost by double digits once and the margin of defeat in the eight losses was 6.75 points The Nets have been blown out by 21 twice and their margin of defeat in those six losses is 10.3