(Brook Lopez throws down a dunk past Minnesota’ Gorgui Dieng – @BrooklynNets)
In the early part of the season, one of the biggest positives for the Nets was the fact that they competed as hard as anybody and were in every game.
This team has not shown nearly the effort in the past week, as they have now lost five straight to drop them to 7-20 on the season.
Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center was very revealing of this, as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Nets in every possible way as they won 100-85.
The difference can be summed up in two words: Kevin Garnett.
Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins brought up Garnett a week ago when he was asked about veteran leadership. Hollins coached Garnett the first half of last season in Brooklyn.
“Well, somebody commented about leadership being overrated. What’s overrated about leadership is just having veterans in the locker room. You need to have guys that are solid citizens who very professionally come and work hard every day. That’s what leadership is, that’s what you bring, and they’re able to teach professionalism to the younger guys and teach them how to work. If you just have vets that don’t like to work and are just in the league trying to get another contract or get another year in, that doesn’t help your young guys at all.
“It’s always important to have people that have done it and still doing it. I go back to KG (Garnett). KG was at the practice facility every morning, 8:30 in the morning. Practice didn’t start until 11:30. He’s there going through this workout, and so if young guys are coming late, he can get on them and tell them, ‘hey this is how you do it and then be here when I’m here.’ That always helps when you have your veteran players or your best players, and it works better when your best players are doing it. Funny how this thing works, if a guy is sitting on the bench and doesn’t play, his leadership means nothing, absolutely nothing, nobody’s listening. But when you’re playing in the game and you’re contributing and work as hard as you do and you do it in practice, you can lead other guys.”
Garnett does not take a possession for granted and urges his teammates on throughout the game, which is a perfect example for Minnesota’s younger stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, Adreian Payne and Gorgui Dieng.
Minnesota Head Coach Sam Mitchell said of Garnett’s effect on his young big men, “All our bigs come to him. They ask questions. They work with him. They listen. When he gets on them, they respond. When he pats them on the back, they smile. You guys who’ve been around here and covered Kevin know he’s the ultimate teammate. All the things he’s accomplished as a player individually, the things they leave out is that he’s a great teammate.”
The Nets’ veteran leaders, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, and Jarrett Jack, are very low energy and would not be confused with generals leading an army to battle.
This has been a problem with the Nets since they moved to Brooklyn, and why General Manager Billy King brought in Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry from the Celtics in 2013. They determined that leadership and toughness was the difference between them and the Chicago Bulls, who bounced the Nets in the first round that year.
On Sunday, Garnett played 10 minutes even and played pretty well, racking up seven rebounds and two assists, and missed his one shot attempt.
What was most striking was that the Timberwolves were leading by 20 in the fourth quarter, and Garnett and the rest of the bench were up on their feet urging on their defense.
The Nets were lethargic for most of the afternoon and, by the third quarter, looked like they didn’t care. It’s one thing that they’re not the most talented team in the NBA, but it’s a big concern that they essentially quit on a winnable game against a Wolves team that was 10-16 entering this one.
Hollins said afterwards, “That was a very, very disappointing loss and the way we lost – I take responsibility for us not being out there and ready to go. Obviously, they are young and quick and they took advantage of us in some areas like that, but we have to be prepared to come out and try to keep them in a box, which we have done against other teams that have been quicker than us as well. We had our moments where we were tight and had a chance to make some headway at the end of the first quarter and at the end of the first half, and both times we lost ground. In the third quarter, they just kind of got away from us and then continued in the end.”
Hollins said of the tactical moves the Nets can make, “Effort, energy, competing – that’s what it’s all about. You can’t guarantee that you will make shots every night, but you can go out and compete every night. And I think we didn’t compete today for 48 minutes. maybe 10 minutes, maybe 12, but that’s not going to get it done.”
Brook Lopez said of the Nets’ level of energy and effort being worrisome, “Yeah, we haven’t had a complete game in a while and you can see that. We absolutely have to. It takes every person who steps onto the court to set the attitude and we certainly need the bench to come in and you know, do the same or even pick it up.”
On whether there is a way to improve effort and get everyone on the same page, Lopez said, “Yeah, you know, we just have to dig deep and bounce back tomorrow (in Chicago). I think everyone’s disappointed right now and, you know, I can’t see ourselves coming up in the same way.”