The good news: the Nets seemed to have found some success in a new approach. The bad news (at least for this columnist): the team is doing it with small ball! Small ball!
Through the first three games in 2014, the Nets are 3–0 — with probably the smallest lineup possible. Despite Deron Williams missing one of those three games (ankle) and Kevin Garnett missing another (rest), coach Kidd’s philosophy has remained the same: get the best offensive playmakers on the floor (Reggie Evans for KG notwithstanding).
Kidd has shifted his starters to a bigger position in order to get an additional ball handler into the Backcourt. Shaun Livingston has entered the starting lineup at the two spot, Joe Johnson at the three, Paul Pierce at power forward, and Kevin Garnett as a makeshift center.
And while this half of the column is certainly encouraged by the Nets’ mini-winning streak, we still want to see more of the big men, and Andray Blatche in particular.
In the eight games since Brook Lopez went down with a season-ending foot injury, Blatche has missed four games due to personal reasons. In the four he has played, however, he is only averaging just 8.25 points on 30-percent shooting with 4.25 rebounds.
Simply, Blatche doesn’t need to be Lopez, but he needs to do enough to keep defenses honest. The other Frontcourt options aren’t exactly low post scorers. Garnett defers more to his mid-range game at this point in his career. Teletovic prefers to play behind the arc. And Reggie Evans isn’t exactly known for his scoring. Blatche needs to be that guy.
Without an interior scoring threat, it won’t be long before opposing teams counter the Nets’ small-ball approach. Blatche needs to provide that inside scoring punch off the bench.
Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports-world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the team’s big men.