Nets Notes: Chris Chiozza and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot Show Off Brooklyn's Depth
Combine for 35 points in overtime loss to Memphis
Depth has been a keyword for this Brooklyn Nets roster since it first came together, and at the start of this week that facet has been tested in ways anticipated and not.
Head coach Steve Nash had said that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were unlikely to play all 72 games, and Brooklyn’s first back-to-back set — against Charlotte and Memphis — brought the first test of how the Nets would handle such situations with both superstars returning from injury. Ultimately, each was rested after playing 36 minutes in a down-to-the-wire game in Charlotte the night before.
But against Memphis, the Nets were also without Spencer Dinwiddie, and will be going forward after the guard suffered a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament Sunday night in Charlotte.
TLC on the break from angle pic.twitter.com/750LCPHlFa— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 29, 2020
“We think about it, we talk about it, we analyze it,” said Nash before the Memphis game about how the Nets would manage lineups. “I don’t know that we have answers. We have thoughts, we have debates, and we’re going through this process and continue to learn what we can. But at the same time, you don’t just have the luxury of plugging and playing because of a whole breadth of issues. So, it’s going to be a continual, hopefully, strength of our team and also, hopefully, a problem because we’re trying to find minutes for guys who deserve it. But you can only play so many guys. That would be a great problem to have, but at the same time, we don’t have the luxury of that great problem all the time.”
In digging deeper into the roster, the Nets got solid performances from Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Chris Chiozza. On the outside of the 10-man regular rotation at the start of the season, the two players who turned two-way contracts into opportunity and strong impressions last season have been part of what the Nets call the “stay-ready group.”
“We just get out there and hoop after practice, before practice,” said Chiozza. “We just play as much as we can to stay in shape. We just work hard, encourage each other, try to get each other’s confidence up and build some chemistry for when times like this come.”
THAT'S SOME STRONG CHEEZE pic.twitter.com/cpWQ7t9Dll— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 29, 2020
It was Luwawu-Cabarrot who got the call first, after the Nets lost both Dinwiddie and forward Jeff Green in the third quarter on Sunday night in Charlotte. As the Nets came back from a 16-point deficit, Luwawu-Cabarrot played the entire fourth quarter, making all three of his 3-point attempts, including one to bring the Nets within two points with 40.4 seconds to go.
Back in Brooklyn on Monday night, he kept on rolling while making his first start of the season, knocking down three 3-pointers on the way to 19 first-half points, finishing with 21.
“Tim played really well tonight,” said LeVert. “Being confident, knocking down shots. That’s not easy to do. Especially what he did last night, sitting the whole game and then coming in and knocking down three huge threes. I think it was three threes he made in that game, and then tonight, same thing. As soon as he checked in the game, he shoots his next shot as if the last shot didn’t happen. All you can ask of a shooter is a short memory, and just let it fly. I think he’s done a great job of just getting better since he’s been with us and he’s expanded his game a little bit as well.”
'Stache check before every game. Très important. pic.twitter.com/2QqhIAJ9tV— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 29, 2020
With both Irving and Dinwiddie out, Nash moved Caris LeVert into the starting lineup, leaving a need for a point guard off the bench. He went with Chiozza, getting his first action of the season. Signed to two-way deal for the first time last January, Chiozza impressed with his sharpness, quickness, and aggressiveness when he got an opportunity in March, and played an elevated role through the NBA restart over the summer. He returned to Brooklyn this season on another two-way contract.
Against Memphis, Chiozza scored 14 points with four assists in 27 minutes, playing alongside LeVert through the final minutes of the fourth quarter and into overtime.
“It’s my job to always stay ready,” said Chiozza. “I learned that last year when I got here and got thrown out there when I wasn’t expecting it. But they do a good job of having me work every day, getting extra work in when I’m not playing. You never want to see your teammate get hurt. I’m praying for Spencer, we’re here for him, and hopefully he makes a speedy return. He’s a big part of this team, so, while he’s out, everybody takes it to do a little bit more than what we’ve been doing collectively. Like I said, I hope he gets better soon, praying for him. We’re just going to keep working and pushing forward.”
With the significant lineup shuffling of Monday night, it put off for a few days the long-term answer of who would replace Dinwiddie in the starting lineup, and how or if that decision would affect additional facets of lineups and rotations.
“I think it's sort of next-man up mentality,” said Joe Harris. “Everyone has to step up and embrace that the role they have when two of our most pivotal players on both ends of the ball are gone. So, but the thing at the end of the day, we have enough depth where we can play well, we can play well together when we do have a man or two out. It's just one of those things where it is so early in the year where I think for chemistry's sake, unity's sake it's the first time we have played without Kevin and Kyrie. We've gone through all of training camp, the preseason games everything where these guys are obviously the focal point. And without them out there, guys like Caris, even Chris Chiozza it just provides an opportunity for them to step up and be the primary sort of ball handlers and facilitators on the team.”
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