(Brook Lopez – Photo by Lolita Beckwith)
The Brooklyn Nets’ focus will be on center Brook Lopez this season, and as he goes, the fortunes of their season go with him. With a team with a lot of new pieces, it’s important to see how the new players relate to their star.
Head Coach Lionel Hollins made that clear with his lineup for the first preseason game on Monday night against Fenerbache, which the Turkish side won, 101-96.
Hollins put newcomer Thomas Robinson in the starting lineup, with the main purpose being to see how he plays with Lopez. Robinson took Thaddeus Young’s spot, as Hollins says he knows Lopez and Young work well together from how last season ended.
Last season, Lopez averaged 19.7 points and 9.2 rebounds after the All-Star break, playing some the best basketball of his career. That coincided with Young, a great facilitator, joining the team in the Kevin Garnett trade from Minnesota.
With Deron Williams gone, and Jarrett Jack the starting point guard full-time now, the plays will be run through Lopez, which is basically the offense that Hollins ran in Memphis with the focus on Marc Gasol.
On Monday night, Lopez poured in 18 points on 6-for-12 from the field, including a made three-pointer, and four rebounds in 23:23 of action.
Robinson also had a nice game, notching a double-double with 12 points, on 6-for-11 shooting, and 16 rebounds, with nine coming on the offensive end.
Lopez said of the game, “It was exciting to be out there. We obviously learned what we do well, what we need to work on tomorrow at practice and going forward. You can tell it was our first game out there after five practices, and I thought we had energy for a decent amount of the game. There were some holes, but you’ve got to give credit to them. They played well. They played together. They moved the ball very well. Hopefully that’s something we can emulate down the line. And they hit shots when they needed to. It looked like this was our first game, and, again, there are things we need to work on going forward.”
The Nets are playing a faster style with the younger team they have formed, and Lopez said of that, “It’s just a matter of taking advantage of what strengths we have, and we happen to be young, athletic, and a high-energy group, and so we’ve got to learn to play that way. I’ve got to get adjusted to it. We can definitely go both ways.”
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins said of the game, “I thought we, as a group, were inconsistent. Thomas (Robinson) had great rebounding but we as a group have to be more consistent.”
Hollins continued, “We fought, we battled, we played hard, but we can’t turn the ball over 19 times and give up 20 second-chance points. We also missed 19 shots in the paint, so this is a good barometer and baseline to start from. We’ll go look at film to get back to work and move forward.”
Hollins said of Fenerbahce’s style, “They play a style where they were taking a lot of back screens and they had the help. They would set a pick-and-roll, set a back screen and then flare a guy; it’ the way they play. They move themselves, they set multiple screens and it’s difficult to guard.”
Joe Johnson had five points on 1-for-4 from the field on Monday night, and he said of the Nets playing their first game together and whether they are where they want to be, “Yeah, they’re (things) far off, but we aren’t making excuses. They played great tonight; give them a lot of credit. For us as a team, we just continue to try to get better. A lot of things that we have done and gone over in training camp, we had a lot of miscues tonight so it’s kind of hard to stimulate their game action during practice and it was great to kind of get out there and get an assessment of where we’re at.”
Johnson said of what he liked and didn’t like, “I thought we had a lot of great, great plays, but the thing that hurt the most was defense. We had just so many breakdowns defensively that we were all in trouble, whether it was us as guards getting broken down and being in bad situations or whether it was not getting up on the pick-and-roll, it was making our rotations longer and they were knocking down shots. So it goes hand in hand, we’re not blaming one or the other. It was a collective team effort that we have to get better at.”