Nets update. Brooklyn (note: I still find myself wanting to say "Jersey") has dropped three straight to the Heat, Thunder and Warriors, all with Brook Lopez on the shelf with a sprained right foot. Lopez missed all but five games last season with an injury to the same foot, so you'd think the Nets will be cautious about rushing Lopez back into action--especially considering their rather baffling decision to give Lopez a max extension over the summer. He did some work in the gym on Saturday but will not play on Sunday. While the former Stanford big man still doesn't rebound a lick, he's been an effective scorer (18.6 ppg, 53% shooting) and shot-blocker (2.6 bpg) early on this season, providing Nets fans at least some hope that he might earn some of the $61 million he's owed over the next four seasons.
In Lopez's absence, Wizards exile Andray Blatche has been piling up big numbers next to Kris Humphries, though it hasn't benefited the Nets in the win column so far. While he accounts for just 1% of the Nets' $83 million payrolll, Blatche leads Avery Johnson's squad in PER (24.3) and win shares per 48 (.193).
JJ, Deron and Crash. The size of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson could be a major issue for Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, though both Deron and JJ are putting up numbers well below their career averages here in the early going. Williams is shooting just 39% from the field and 29% from three, while Johnson is slightly better and broke out a bit in the Nets' last game with 32 points and 23 shots.
Still, JJ's owed $89 million over the next four seasons and at 31-years-old there's little chance he'll be worth even half that. It's a similar story with Gerald Wallace, who inked a new $40 million deal this summer and is off to a similarly slow start. You can argue that acquiring JJ and Wallace were necessary prerequisites for re-signing Williams and making a run at Dwight Howard, and there's no doubt that piling up good-but-not-great players at inflated valuations will help them win games in the short term. But with zero cap flexibility for the near future, is there any way to turn this roster into a legitimate contender? Does it even matter?
Luc Mbah a Moute has historically been the only Buck that had a chance of defending JJ, so expect to see plenty of Luc and Marquis Daniels taking their turns trying to contain the 11-year veteran--and with the athletic Wallace also capable of creating havoc, it seems likely that we see some lineups with both guys on the court.
"We've got a lot of big guys, and that's an issue," Skiles said. "They can't all play and yet they're all good. They can all do something to help you.
"We're trying to find some sort of consistency with the rotation. We took Ersan out of the starting lineup, and he's played a little bit better. Hopefully he's coming back to form.
"We didn't want to disrupt our bench by putting Larry and Ekpe out there in the starting lineup. But when you lose four out of five, it was time to change. We made a change, and it remains to be seen if those were good decisions or not."
I have no issue with Sanders and Udoh starting, especially with Ilyasova showing he can contribute from the bench over the past couple weeks. Dalembert and Henson are more of a toss-up: most of us would like to see more of Henson simply because he's a long-term piece the Bucks will need to develop, but his performance has been rather uneven of late and Dalembert should be a safer pick. I'll happily sacrifice some of Dalembert's minutes for continued looks at Henson, but I won't blame Skiles for not having the same level of patience. As for Drew Gooden and Joel Przybilla, I appreciate their attitude so far but don't see a need for them as long as the other bigs are healthy.
Dunleavy. As noted yesterday, Mike Dunleavy tested out his knee on Friday before the Bobcats game but didn't think he was ready to return, while as of Friday Beno Udrih was still on crutches with a swollen ankle. We'll keep our eyes peeled in case anything changes.
The art of the finish. Brandon Jennings is shooting less (17.0 fga last year vs. 15.8 this year), hitting threes at a good clip (36.4%) and hitting a very healthy percentage of his long twos (46%). So why is his true shooting percentage down two percentage points from a year ago (51.4% vs. 49.3%)? Start with finishing. Brandon is just as likely to score at the rim as he is on a long two (again, 46%), which is awful by any standard. We know his lack of size will always hurt him around the hoop, but he seems to be throwing up way too many off-balance prayers after he penetrates. Refs aren't giving him the benefit of the doubt either--his free throw attempts are also down--so he'd be forgiven for feeling a little hard done by, but that excuse only carries you so far. Jennings converted a respectable 58% at the cup last year so we know he can do it.
Monta Ellis has been equally bad in the efficiency dept (48.6% true shooting, league average is around 53%), but the reasons are quite different aside from neither drawing a ton of fouls. Ellis has been miserable from mid-range (31%) but terrific at creating shots and finishing at the rim (61%).