Youth movement. The Bucks' overtime win in Washington saw the sort of rotations Bucks fans have been dreaming about: 26-year-olds O.J. Mayo and Ersan Ilyasova were the oldest players to see any consistent minutes, with Luke Ridnour the only player older than that to even see the floor...and only for three minutes. Instead it was Nate Wolters (4 pts, 5 ast, 1 to) who served as Brandon Knight's primary backup, while Giannis Antetokounmpo saw 19 minutes deputizing for the red-hot Khris Middleton (career-high 29 pts, 7 rebs). Gary Neal was a DNP-CD while Zaza Pachulia's absence meant it was up to John Henson to anchor a paper-thin frontline--and he did that and then some, with season-highs of 19 points and 17 boards.
Nets update. The league's two most disappointing teams reside in New York, which meant that something had to give when the Knicks and Nets met on Thursday in Brooklyn. And much to the disappointment of the hipsters in Williamsburg, that something was the Nets.
Jason Kidd's men allowed the Knicks to shoot 57% from the field in a 30-point Knick blowout that raised further questions about Kidd's coaching credentials and Brooklyn's ability to defend...well, anyone. While the Bucks have the league's least-effective offense, no team has been worse defensively than the Nets, who rank 23rd or worst in each of the defensive four factors (25th in eFG%, 25th in turnover rate, 25th in defensive rebounding, and 23rd in free throw rate). And before you think it, keep in mind that the Celtics get the better of the Hawks or Nets pick in the upcoming draft, meaning that there will be no Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle to provide a silver lining in Brooklyn this year.
They're better but still well below average on the offensive end (24th), with a 4th ranked free throw rate and strong post play from Brook Lopez their only real saving graces. Lopez is having another terrific year offensively, scoring 19.7 ppg on 61% true shooting in just under 30 mpg, and he's the main reason Brooklyn is 4th overall in post scoring per play. He's shooting 55% and scoring a devastating 1.1 points per play on post-ups, 3rd best in the NBA via MySynergySports.com. He still doesn't rebound (11.9% rebound rate, 6.1 rpg) but he is among the league's leaders with 2.2 blocks per game, just ahead of John Henson's 2.1.
Just Kidding! Brooklyn's willingness to hand Jason Kidd a head coaching gig without a second of bench experience was supposedly driven in part by the insurance of bringing former Nets and Pistons coach Lawrence Frank along with him. But just 19 disastrous games into Kidd's tenure it was Frank who was effectively shown the door earlier this week, a product of rising tension between Kidd and his one-time coach in New Jersey. Nets players continue to publicly back their embattled rookie coach, but their performance on the court hasn't been much of an endorsement, has it?
Knight and day. Brandon Knight's season numbers remain modest at best: .359/.333 shooting, 10.4 ppg, 4.4 apg and 2.8 turnovers in just 24 mpg. A stop-start return from a hamstring injury that cost him eight games and parts of two others is a big reason why Knight's overall numbers leave plenty to be desired, but he's showing real signs of progress of late. His numbers from the last five games: 16.8 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.6 rpg, and 2.0 turnovers on 54.8% true shooting. We'd all be thrilled with those kinds of numbers over a full season, but sample size blah blah.
It wasn't exactly encouraging to to hear how many Pistons fan had given up on Knight after just two seasons, but there's reason to hope that a change of scenery will deliver real results for the just-turned-22-year-old. He's quick, he's proven he can drill threes, and he has the tools to be an ace defender to boot. So what's standing in his way? Turnovers and a penchant for shooting slumps would seem the most obvious answer, though playing point guard is nothing if not a subtle art. Knowing when to change speeds and reading pick-and-rolls probably needs a fair bit of instinct that can't be taught, and it's anyone's guess if Knight can figure that piece out, The hope is that Larry Drew and Nick Van Exel can work the same kind of developmental magic with Knight that they did with Jeff Teague over the past few seasons.
Missing Nets. Knight gets a break tonight with Deron Williams on the shelf with a sprained ankle, with Tyshawn Taylor and former Buck Shaun Livingston forced to pick up the slack. Aside from not being Deron Williams, that pair has combined to hit just 3/12 threes all season, meaning Knight will probably spend plenty of time going under screens and daring Nets point guards to miss jump shots. With Paul Pierce and the Artist Formerly Known as Jason Terry also out, Brooklyn will be left to rely on Joe Johnson and reserves Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic for floor-stretching services.