Brooklyn blew a 22-point, third-quarter lead against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday Night, and Nets fans may have found themselves fighting off bouts of deja vu. Time and again, Brooklyn guard Shaun Livingston brought the ball down the floor and immediately began backing down his defender in the post as the rest of the team looked on.
Those familiar with how a point guard normally operates may be confused by the above scenario. Doesn’t the point guard start at the top of the key and pass or drive toward the basket to initiate the team’s offense?
On most teams, they do. Which raises another question: is the Nets’ backcourt too big for its own good?
To be clear, I am not implying that Deron Williams, at a hefty 6-foot-3, and Livingston, a rangy 6-foot-7, are too slow to keep up with their smaller counterparts across the league. Nor am I saying they aren’t nimble or deft enough to make the plays required of top-level guards.
Far from it.
What I am saying is their size makes it tempting for the Nets to use them in ways that aren’t necessarily in the team’s best interest. Livingston’s repeated post-up attempts in New Orleans were an extreme example, likely because the Nets were a tired bunch, playing shorthanded after an overtime game in Dallas the night before. But it was not the first time he and D-Will have begun possessions with their backs to the basket, looking more like Karl Malone than John Stockton.
The novelty of the situation — point guard as big man — might seem like a clever wrinkle for the Nets’ small-ball lineup. Without a dominant post player to pass to in the lane, the point guard initiates the offense down low, then kicks the ball out to one of the shooters lined up along the three-point arc.
But Coach Kidd, a legendary point guard himself, should stop his squad from getting carried away with this idea, mainly because it leaves Brooklyn vulnerable to one of its worst vices: a stagnant offense.
The Nets’ offense is at its best when the ball is whipping around the floor, and at its worst when four players are standing around watching one. Livingston and Williams may be big for their position, but their size should be used mainly to enhance normal guard play, as they break down defenders in the lane and find teammates cutting to the basket. Now that Brooklyn’s backcourt is rolling, it is not time to reinvent the wheel.
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.