All to often, Nets possessions see the following happen:
-Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, or Brook Lopez attack the paint, and dribble into 2-3 defenders, leading to the inability to get to the hoop and a forced shot.
-Williams runs a pick and roll with Lopez. Both defenders blitz Williams, Reggie Evans’ defender guards Lopez and Evans at the same time, Gerald Wallace’s defender also cheats into the paint to clog things further.
-Williams runs a pick and roll with Evans or Kris Humphries. The big man’s defender blitzes Williams so he passes off to Evans or Humphries. Not threats offensively, they pass right back to Williams who has to start the possession anew.
If you follow Nets fans on Twitter, you see a common refrain: #FirePJ has become a popular hashtag from fans, and they are frankly correct. The problems above are easily correctable offensively for the Nets. Too often, the Nets play Wallace and Evans, or Wallace and Humphries, as part of the same lineup. Wallace, Evans, and Humphries are not D-league guys, and they play hard. The problem is that outside of playing hard, and providing intangibles, they do not provide much else. Namely, they do not score Defenders know this, so they sag off them, and gang around Williams, Johnson, and Lopez when they make moves to the hoop. Williams has been criticized for failures to get to the rim this season: 2 defenders waiting for him if he beats his man does not help. Johnson’s shots at the rim for that matter are down for the same reason, and even Lopez sees an army of guys on his paint forays.
The Nets could loosen things up in many ways. They could go small with Keith Bogans at the 3 and Wallace at the 4: a unit that has thrived statistically when utilized this season. That puts Bogans at the 3 point line instead of Wallace: a better threat out there, and makes Wallace a screen setter and cutter that can beat 4’s off the dribble as opposed to a shooter at the 3: a better role for him. Nevertheless, you rarely see Carlesimo use that lineup.
The Nets could also go with Mirza Teletovic more, who has now positively impacted several games, but Carlesimo tends to hold him back until the 4th quarter, when everyone is loose and he is cold. Teletovic for what it’s worth had more points in 14 minutes Sunday than Wallace, Evans, and Humphries had combined over 51: a 5-2 margin. The Grizzlies game was perhaps the first time the Teletovic-Bogans combo played significant minutes together: for a team starving for shooting and scoring you would think they would see more time.
Another concern for the Nets is they never pair Lopez and Andray Blatche together despite Carlesimo saying he prefers to play big. Playing Lopez and Blatche would provide size and length as well as 2 bigs that both score: yet despite struggles scoring this is another lineup you never see.
Distressingly, Carlesimo has started benching Lopez in 4th quarters for reasons that make no sense. He has cited Blatche’s defense, when Lopez is the better defender. He has cited Lopez struggling: but often Lopez struggles are due more to the paint being loaded than to Lopez, and in this league you have to lean on your best players down the stretch: Williams Johnson and Lopez need to finish games even on an off night. He has also cited Blatche playing well: not only is Blatche’s play down from early in the year, but even if this is the case he should play Lopez with Blatche if he just cannot pull Blatche. Bench guys are bench guys for a reason: it’s their job to hold the fort down for the starters, but when it’s time to go back to your regulars you make the move. Plus, the impact on Lopez psychologically cannot be good: Lopez is a sensitive person who, admit it or not, did not handle the Dwight Howard rumors well and felt slighted by them. In addition, the Nets should not feel compelled to play Evans or Humphries next to Lopez in this belief he cannot rebound. Rather, the Nets should develop him as a rebounder so they can go small and use different combinations around Lopez. His rebound rate is way up from the last two years, and that comes with playing next to guys that do nothing but rebound. Playing Wallace, Teletovic, and Bogans next to Lopez puts more onus on him to rebound, but makes the roster more potent. He’s an all star: put that onus on him.
Most media will not blame Carlesimo for many of the Nets struggles for various reasons. Local beat writers need to get quotes from the team, and cannot go after him. National media have long covered the lockout and new CBA, and how judicious this has made teams with their spending: so they see the Nets spending ungodly amounts of money and it breeds resentment. Scouts and others like Avery Johnson and hate the players for getting him canned: they won’t cite Carlesimo as a problem. And I will say this: the Nets’ inconsistency defensively from game to game is on the players. You have seen this team defend excellently, and look like swiss cheese with all the holes defensively. That’s on the players.
Yes, the Nets roster is limited in some ways. Play Lopez with Blatche and there may be some interior defense issues; same if you go small. Go small with Wallace, and he does not hit shots. Go small with Teletovic and he’s barely played. Nevertheless, there are some more creative ways to use this roster than what Carlesimo has done. The example I love to cite is LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes we do not have James, but James’ Cavs in 2008 went 45-37, acquired Mo Williams and Delonte West, then went 66-16 in 2009. The reason was clear: by putting shooting on the perimeter teams could no longer pack the paint on James.
Maybe that’s something the Nets can try with better use of Teletovic and Bogans, But overall, Carlesimo has not shown such creativity, and Evans and Humphries at the 4, along with Wallace at the 3, soak up a ton of minutes. For a team struggling to shoot and score, that is a problem. Carlesimo said when the team was winning that he’s running 90% of what Johnson ran, that guys were just playing harder. He was right. Now that the coaching bump is over (guys were motivated to show they did not get Johnson fired, that has subsided), the team is bogged down once again.
Because PJ stands for “Poor Job.”