The Nets have a pretty good starting lineup with Brook Lopez at center, Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young at the forward spots, and Jarrett Jack at point guard.
These were the four that carried the Nets to the playoffs last season, but Head Coach Lionel Hollins had issues finding a fifth starter then, and that has continued into this year.
Hollins put Wayne Ellington into the starting lineup for the first two games, then Markel Brown for the next three. Brown started a lot of games in the second half of last season, but had little impact.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the rookie out of Arizona whom the Nets acquired on Draft night from Portland, got the nod on Friday night to start at shooting guard.
Hollis-Jefferson became the second youngest Net to ever start a game within the first six games of a season. He is 20 years and 307 days old. Cliff T. Robinson was the youngest player, at 19 years and 213 days, to get a start so early in a season, in 1979-80.
Though the Nets lost to the Lakers 104-98, Hollis-Jefferson had a pretty good game. He scored five points, all in the fourth quarter, on 2-for-3 from the field, with 11 rebounds and three assists.
Hollis-Jefferson said before the game of getting the start, “Dream do come true, and then to be playing against Kobe (Bryant), you know, him being one of the greatest, it’s definitely a big step in my career. It doesn’t matter who’s out there, you have to come ready to play and you gotta be ready to lace your shoes up and go after it.”
On when he was told he would be starting, Hollis-Jefferson said, “Yesterday (Thursday), I believe. I was just like, I was ready, man, I was excited, and it’s every kid’s dream to be able to start for an NBA team. I was definitely excited to be in that position and to get this chance, to do what I do.”
When looking at the Nets’ roster, Hollis-Jefferson is someone the Nets can build around. He is the one blue-chip prospect they have, as he has a lot of upside, certainly more than Brown, Ellington, or Shane Larkin.
It also is interesting that Hollins is using Bojan Bogdanovic as the sixth man, or first off the bench, instead of in the starting lineup.
The sixth-man is a guy that can provide a spark off the bench, and Bogdanovic can do that because of his ability to hit threes. When he is hot, he can carry the Nets.
Friday night against the Lakers showed how tough the Nets’ bench situation is, as Bogdanovic (5 points),Ellington (2 points), Andrea Bargnani (0 points), Thomas Robinson (9 points), and Larkin (0 points) accounted for just 16 of the Nets’ 98 points.
Robinson had a nice night on Friday night, at least stats-wise, with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting, with seven rebounds, but it was largely invisible. He could work in the starting lineup because he would not have to do as much, and could facilitate Johnson, Lopez, Young, and Jack. Who is he going to pass to among this second unit, Bargnani?
Lopez led the way with 23 points on 8-for-19 from the field, with 10 rebounds and an assist. Johnson had 22 points on 8-16 shooting, and 1-5 on threes, with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Jack had 18 points on a disappointing 8-for-22 from the field, and 1-6 on threes, with 12 assists and 7 rebounds. Young had 14 points (7-15 FG, 0-2 on threes) with five rebounds and two assists.
Lopez said of how disappointing the loss was, as the Nets fell to 0-6, “We need every one at this point, you know, so it’s tough. We came out so strong, and we just stalled many times. You know, you can see what it’s like. Obviously, they (Lakers) were fighting just as hard to get their first win. It’s tough.”
Jack said of what went wrong in this one, “We allowed them back in the game. We didn’t take care of the basketball as well as we did in the first half and allowed them to get some momentum. They took the lead a halftime (52-47), and you know, they kind of just carried on from there.”
Jack said of the most frustrating part about the lack of execution, “Because it’s unforced errors that we’re making. You have to give it to them (Lakers). They fought hard and got the W, but it’s more so us – what we’re doing and what we’re not doing that’s keeping us in these positions of missing opportunities to be able to close out ballgames or extend leads or, you know, whatever is necessary for us to get it done.”
Johnson said of the loss, “Oh, it’s tough, you know. Knowing the record of both teams and us being at home, I feel like we had a great chance of winning tonight, we came up short.”
On the state of the team, Johnson said, “It’s tough, obviously. Nobody is happy about it, but you know, eventually we got to snap out of it. So, now we’ll go to Milwaukee and see what we can do.”
Hollins said of the Nets losing focus at 0-6, “I don’t worry about that. If it were to happen, I would know when it happens but that’s not something that is even on my mind. That’s not even in my thought process. My mindset is to get on a plane tonight, go to Milwaukee, and try to get a win tomorrow night. After that, come back and work as hard as we can. We’re working and making improvements. As I said, we played with an intensity level that I haven’t seen for as long as we had tonight in all the games. We played with a high level of intensity but we just didn’t get the win.”
Hollins said of the crowd cheering heavily for the Lakers, “We’ve been here before. We played the Jewish team last year, they were rooting for them. We played the Turkish team, they were rooting for them, it happens. When Cleveland came to town and Miami comes to town, they root for them. We have to step up and become the Brooklyn Nets by our playing performance and make them want to cheer for us. I have been in other situations where the same thing happened. I was in Memphis, I was in Phoenix. Every time we played a game in Phoenix, the other team’s color would fill up the stadium. When I was in Memphis, in the beginning, every team we played, they were wearing jerseys of the other team. You have to win your fans over by going out and playing hard, playing well and being successful.”