It’s about time, but that doesn’t make it any less sweet.
For months, my taller colleague penning the Front Court column has argued that Brooklyn’s big men have provided the team with the little stability it has enjoyed, with center Brook Lopez pouring in points and the rest of the cast contributing to the Nets grabbing about two more rebounds a game than their opponents.
But now, finally, the gazill-ion-dollar back court is beginning to pay dividends.
In the first four games of the new year, point guard Deron Williams shot 48 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from three-point land. Shooting guard Joe Johnson made 50 percent of his shots from the floor and 44 percent from long range. If you’ve been following the Nets at all this season, you know those numbers are a significant improvement on the shaky output seen previously from the $20 million-a-year scorers.
Johnson sunk his second game-winner of the year in double-overtime against the Wizards, following a massive 33-point night when the Nets stunned league-best Oklahoma City. Williams has stopped making excuses (this is the guy who pinned his poor play on persistent injuries, tired legs, and the lack of an offensive system all in just a few short months). Strange how a few good nights can curb navel-gazing.
The smart-sounding explanation of the new, and finally improved Nets back court would be that D-Will’s complaints about now-fired coach Avery Johnson’s disorganized offense have led to a more fluid, motion-based attack.
But according to Synergy Sports Technology, Joe Johnson’s possessions in isolation have risen since D-Will’s comments and Williams’s pick-and-roll sets have dropped a full percentage point, despite interim coach PJ Carlesimo’s pledge to heed this column’s advice by bringing Lopez out to screen more for the franchise point guard.
Nope, it looks like what we have here is two players simply growing more comfortable and confident in each other’s court presence. Some of that is probably feeling like they have more freedom under Peej than they experienced under the “Little General.”
Deron looks capable of deconstructing defenses the way one of the game’s elite point men should, and Johnson is rising and firing like an All-Star.
Please, guys, let this be the new normal.
Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.