DeMarre Carroll reaching career highs for Brooklyn Nets
Veteran forward posts double-double vs. Pacers and may be playing best basketball of his career
The march to the All-Star break is possibly the NBA's toughest grind. The early-season freshness has worn off. The schedule is packed. Between Christmas and Wednesday night's 108-103 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Brooklyn Nets played 26 games in 51 days.
"These guys are fried a little bit," said coach Kenny Atkinson before the Nets lost for the 11th time in 12 games, and the recent results are surely a part of that.
You couldn't tell with DeMarre Carroll, who put a bow on a really sharp stretch of basketball by signing off for the next week with 21 points and 10 rebounds against the Pacers, shooting 5-of-8 from 3-point range and 6-of-13 overall. Plus four assists.
The Nets have seen Allen Crabbe break out over the last week. They've seen rookie Jarrett Allen emerge after New Year's. They've seen D'Angelo Russell offer promising signs since returning from knee surgery, like Wednesday night's 18 points and nine assists. And they've seen Spencer Dinwiddie embrace crunch-time moments.
But it's Carroll, the Nets' not-quite-oldest player (fellow 31-year-old Timofey Mozgov has him by a week) who has been Brooklyn's most consistently reliable player through much of the season.
"I just think I'm healthy," said Carroll. "The performance team, the coaching staff, everybody's doing a great job managing me, keeping me lifting, keeping me strong and keeping me working on my game, because I feel like this season I'm doing more things I never did. I never played pick and roll, so all this is kind of new. I think I'm only getting better. Some guys blossom late in their career and I feel like that's what I'm doing, I'm blossoming late in my career. Because early on I didn't play that much in my career. So I think now, even my body feels like it's getting stronger and getting better. That's a positive for me."
Four years ago, Carroll revived his career as a glue guy with 3-point range on an Atlanta team that would go to the conference finals the next season. A knee injury interrupted his first season in Toronto and things never got back in sync for him with the Raptors. The Nets were thrilled to take him in a trade over the summer and reunite him with Atkinson, his assistant coach in Atlanta.
With the Nets, Carroll has exceeded the expectations of just about anybody who doesn't count HSS Training Center as their work address. He's averaging 13.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, career-high rates in both categories.
There was a dip in his shooting in December. But since missing two games in early January, Carroll has found another gear. In Brooklyn's last 18 games, he's leading the Nets with 15.0 points per game and shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range.
"Especially those two games early on, I think I was a little beat up," said Carroll. "I'm never the guy that squeals my injuries. I've played through a messed up knee, messed up elbow. I think just having those two games off and regrouping and then my body regrouped, has been great ever since. I've just been trying to take care of my body, eat right, get my proper sleep, do what I need to do in the weight room. Our coaching staff and the performance team hold me accountable. They've been holding me accountable, and it's been a plus. I'm just happy. Like Kenny told me, I've just got to stay healthy. If I stay healthy, everything else is going to play out."
Carroll has had seven games of 20 points or more this season - matching his single-season career high - and four of them have come in the last five weeks. Carroll's double-double against the Pacers was his ninth of the season. He had eight double-doubles in his first eight NBA seasons combined.
He's even leading these young Nets in minutes played, with 29.7 per game.
Is it possible that Carroll, in his ninth season, is playing the best basketball of his career?
"I'm just trying to get better," he said. "I'm just trying to continue to keep growing."