(Joe Johnson looking for an opening on Friday night –@BrooklynNets)
When the Nets fired Head Coach Lionel Hollins a couple of weeks ago, the idea was that a fresh voice was what this young group needed.
Interim Head Coach Tony Brown was that bit of enthusiasm the Nets needed, as evidenced by them winning a big game against the Knicks in his second outing on January 13.
That good feeling was short-lived, as just nine days later, they quit on Brown and put out an embarrassing effort in a 108-86 loss to the Utah Jazz at Barclays Center on Friday night.
The Jazz are 19-24, hardly the best team in the Western Conference, and a game that actually would seem winnable for the Nets.
Early on, the Nets showed some signs, as they controlled play and raced out to a 19-8 lead. Utah quickly erased that, and cut the Nets’ lead to 23-22 at the end of the first.
The Jazz dominated the second quarter, taking advantage of the pitiful Nets second unit of Willie Reed, Shane Larkin, Markel Brown, Andrea Bargnani, and Thomas Robinson. When Bargnani is the best player on the court at any given time, you know your team is in sad shape.
The Jazz outscored the Nets 26-17 in the second to take a 48-40 lead at the half, and go on a prolonged 40-21 from when the Nets held their 11-point edge.
The third quarter might have been one of the worst in Nets history, or at least their four years in Brooklyn.
The Jazz did whatever they wanted in the third, as they shot an incredible 16-for-22 as a team, and outscore the Nets 37-17 to take an 85-57 lead into the fourth.
In the fourth, the Nets didn’t get any closer than 24 points, and the remarkable thing was how Brown was acting.
Instead of scolding his players or looking dissatisfied, Brown was seen clapping whenever they made a basket.
This is still the NBA, not high school. There should be a high standard held, despite how little talent the players may possess.
The Nets players, especially Thaddeus Young, voiced support for Brown in the days after he was hired, noting how positive he was compared to Hollins.
Young all but admitted that he found Hollins too tough, like this is the NBA, coaches are supposed to be tough on you and if you can’t take it, there’s the door. If he thought Hollins was tough, what is Young going to do if they hire Tom Thibodeau?
After the game, Young said of how difficult it is to stay positive, “Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not. It just depends, I guess, on the situation, but as of right now, something has to change and what we’re doing out there on the court coming into the second half. We just have to figure it out. Right now, we’re not doing it, and we’re coming out and getting off to bad starts. The game is within reach and we lose it for the first five minutes of the third quarter.”
Being encouraging and can lead to being viewed as a softie. This can be a double-edged sword, as the players know that Brown will not give it to them when they put on a disgraceful display.
The fact also that they know Brown is a caretaker and really has zero chance of being here next season does not help matters. The players basically have no incentive to play hard for him, and can have an attitude of ‘what are you going to do to us?’
In fact, if there are more outings like this, Brown may not even finish out this season. How many performances like this can ownership tolerate in the remaining 38 games?
After the game, Brown amazingly found positives to take from this one.
“After starting out the first quarter with the pace we like, ball was moving, getting some really good looks, I thought we had a good rhythm to start off the game, and after the first quarter, we kind of lost it, and really broke down in the third quarter – giving up 37 points and only scoring 17. Obviously, the game was over at that point, so I wasn’t going to bring back starters – give these other guys a chance to play,” said Brown.
Brown continued his far too upbeat assessment of the proceedings, “I thought Willie Reed was good, Bogie (Bojan Bogdanovic) is getting his rhythm back, made some shots. I thought Andrea (Bargnani) does what he does, giving us space and making oipen looks, and Sergey (Karasev) – I really like what he did tonight, in the fourth quarter, just his IQ showed up.”
Reed was awful, including a stretch where had three misses from within five feet of the hoop. Bogdanovic was awful on defense, and he should put no stock in what Karasev did in the fourth quarter.
Brown actually showed some reality of the situation when asked how he can fix something like effort, and he said, “I have no idea. All I can do is keep encouraging them to do it the right way. I am not going to change my approach. I am going to keep coaching, but you know, there is some soul searching to be done. I am going to keep fighting, I just hope they do. I wouldn’t say that they quit, but the other team played well and we didn’t play to the best of our abilities.”
If that is as negative as Brown will get after a loss like this, the players know they have a free pass for the rest of the season.