Preview: Nets vs. Cavaliers
Nets follow up tight loss to defending champ Golden State with road trip to face LeBron and Cavs
Being part of the Brooklyn Nets locker room makes DeMarre Carroll feel young and old all at the same time.
“It’s great playing with these guys man,” said Carroll after Tuesday’s practice session at HSS Training Center. “They kind of give you that spirit and give you that glow back about yourself. I’m excited and I love it.”
With an average age of 25.35, the Nets are tied for the 10th youngest roster in the NBA, and the 31-year-old Carroll — 11 days younger than Timofey Mozgov — is the second-oldest player on the team.
None of which makes Carroll “old.” By professional athlete standards, the ninth-year veteran might be slotted as middle-aged at most. But he’s surrounded by 25-and-unders like Allen Crabbe, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and the rookie, 19-year-old Jarrett Allen.
Carroll is averaging 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, both higher than his season-long career highs. He’s also shooting 38.2 percent from 3-point range, close to the career-high 39.5 percent from his 2014-15 season in Atlanta.
So he’s more than holding his own around these younger guys, and enjoying the experience on top of it. Occassionally though, they remind him of the age difference, slight as it may be in the big picture.
“Their energy. Style of play,” said Carroll. “These guys get up and down. They make you … ‘DeMarre get out here and run your suicides, get back in shape.’ They come in the locker room, they’re laughing. They listen to the young music. Sometimes I have to remember, I’ve got kids. These guys don’t have a kid. All that kind of helps me and helps me realize I’m excited to be here. Hopefully it’s the beginning of many years in Brooklyn, so I’m just going to keep pushing, keep trying to work these guys and keep trying to do my part.”
Allen Crabbe matched his season high with 25 points against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, extending a string of strong showings from the 6-foot-6 swingman.
Over his last three games, Crabbe is averaging 19.3 points, shooting 51.9 percent from 3-point range and 48.8 percent from the field, in addition to grabbing 5.0 rebounds and handing out 2.7 assists per game. His 34 minutes played against the Warriors were a season high as well.
“Just being more aggressive,” said Crabbe. “I don’t think I’m thinking too much. I think I’m just letting the game come to me. I think I’m just letting it flow now. I think it’s around that time where I’m finally getting that rhythm. Keep playing aggressive and keep looking for my shot. At the same time, keep making the right basketball plays.
“My teammates have been doing a good job screening for me. They’ve been finding me on (dribble hand-offs), they’ve been finding me in transition. So I think it’s just me coming up with that energy and looking to score. That’s what I can do. And this system puts everybody in a good position to have freedom to do what they do best.”
Trevor Booker is listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game at Cleveland after leaving Sunday’s game against Golden State with a sprained left ankle in the first quarter. Booker has started the last three games at Center for the Nets.
After Booker left the game, the Nets used three more players at the ‘5’ spot in the first half agaisnt the Warriors, and coach Kenny Atkinson expects to rely on that depth, with rookie Jarrett Allen, Tyler Zeller, Quincy Acy and even 6-foot-7 starting forward Rondae Hollis Jefferson.
“The good thing, Jarrett’s healthy,” said Atkinson. “His performance the other night was good. We’ve got Zeller too. We do have enough bigs to do it by committee. Rondae. Quincy. Jarrett and Tyler. That kind of looks how the big rotation would be. 5, 4. 4, 5. You guys tell me.”
Allen, the 19-year-old, 6-foot-11 rookie, had missed six straight games with a foot injury before returning agaisnt Boston last week. He did not play in Friday’s win against Utah, but saw 12 minutes against the Warriors.
“Coming off the injury, we don’t want to shove 30 minutes at him,” said Atkinson. “That’s my hope, we get there. And I feel like we’ll get there eventually. But I feel like right now he can go to 15, 20 max. That’s where he is, just coming back from the injury.”
Allen had six points on 3-of-4 shooting and a block against the Warriors, scoring all of his points early in the fourth quarter as the Nets were rushing back from 28 down to get within four points of the defending NBA champs.
“I thought he gave us a boost,” said Atkinson. “I thought, nice block. His ability to roll to the rim, especially against switching teams, I think it gives us a nice dimension there. He fits the way we want to play. He fits our style of play. We just need him to get in peak form. I don’t think he’s in peak form right now because of the setback. He needs game reps, he needs some practice reps. He got some today, so that was good.”
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS
The Nets handed the three-time Eastern Conference champions a 112-107 loss in Brooklyn on October 25, led by a then career-high 22 points from guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who got his first start of the season with D’Angelo Russell sidelined with a knee sprain. Dinwiddie is back in the lineup, and has been for the last 10 days, with Russell out following knee surgery.
After starting the season 5-7, the Cavaliers have won their last five in a row. They’ve gone from a net rating of 0.0 — even with their opponents — to 9.6 during that stretch. Most of that change has been generated on the defensive end. The Cavs have gone from allowing 109.4 points per 100 possessions to 100.8.
“I think they’re a different team right,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “They’re starting to really get it together. It is what it is. Obviously we looked at the tape and there are a lot of good things we did against them that worked against them. But they’ve progressed. Every NBA game is different, so it will be a different challenge. But we will take some lessons we learned from the first game and apply them.”
LeBron James is averaging 28.3 points, 8.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds in a league-leading 37.9 minutes per game, shooting 58.2 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from 3-point range.
After Sunday’s game against the defending champion Warriors, it’s a tough follow for the Nets to go on the road against the team that has played Golden State in each of the last three NBA Finals, winning the title in 2016.
“They tell you about your team,” said DeMarre Carroll about the challenge. “They get you to understand each other. When you’re playing the defending champs and then the other defending champs it’s key to our development. Hopefully we can take a lot of lessons from this and we’ll be better later in the year than we are right now.”