This column was originally going to be about how Brooklyn’s backcourt is finally pulling its weight and the Nets’ big guys need to step it up.
The team ranks 28th in the league in rebounding, and their performance on Friday the 13th — overwhelmingly out-muscled by Detroit’s front three — was scary bad. Meanwhile, the Nets had racked up to back-to-back wins against teams with strong point guards. Surely these were signs that the backcourt was doing what it needed to do.
All that changed last weekend with the news that All-Star center Brook Lopez is out for the season with a broken foot.
General manager Billy King says no trade is on the horizon, and that Brooklyn can still win with guys like Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans filling the void.
That may be true, but it leaves unspoken a paradigm shift in how the Nets will have to operate to get to the playoffs. No longer will it be passable for Brooklyn’s guards and small forwards to simply hold their own on an average night. Without Lopez, their leading scorer and paint anchor, the Nets’ little guys must completely dominate their opponents.
This shouldn’t be totally out of the question. The Nets’ two most expensive players, point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson, were brought here to wreak havoc on opposing backcourts. Both are former All-Stars who have shown flashes, and sometimes sustained stretches, of their rare talent.
But now they must go from better-than-average options to players having breakout years. They must look like the Williams and Johnson of old, and back-ups Tyshawn Taylor and Shaun Livingston must attack the glass with abandon when the other two need a rest.
Andrei Kirilenko must finally get off the bench, and start pitching in on the glass. Jason Terry has to find the stroke that made JET so dangerous in Dallas for all those years. Paul Pierce, now the leader of the bench unit, must use his veteran wiles to make opposing second stringers look silly.
The Nets’ backup big guys might be able keep the team from falling apart — specifically, Blatche has the ability to put up some big numbers with Lopez sidelined. But for better or for worse, Brooklyn’s fate is now in the hands of its backcourt.
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.