When Jeremy Lin landed on the Nets’ injury report with a strained left hamstring, he took most of the motion to head coach Kenny Atkinson’s offense with him.
Lin’s ability to thrive in this offense as a passer and scorer, along with the emergence of Brook Lopez as a threat from long-distance, has made for a mostly entertaining start to the season for the rebuilding Nets.
The motion offense is what makes the Nets go, it’s a key reason why they’ve become a top-ten team in the NBA rankings for pace. The ball gets up the court in a hurry, works it’s way across the perimeter, and, before you know it, the ball is leaving a shooter’s hands before you even have a chance to begin worrying about how many seconds are left on the shot clock.
It all starts, however, with the point guard.
The Nets are currently hurting at the one position on the court most teams can’t afford to hurt.
This couldn’t have been anymore evident than during the Nets 110-96 loss to the New York Knicks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Nets, prior to their game against the Knicks, waived an injured Greivis Vasquez. Rookie point guard Isaiah Whitehead, the primary beneficiary of increased playing time with Lin out, was ruled out indefinitely with a concussion he sustained the night before against Charlotte.
This left the Nets with Sean Kilpatrick, making his first NBA start, playing the point. Randy Foye, still working his way back from a hamstring injury, was in the role of backup. Rookie Yogi Ferrell, just called up from the NBA D-League Long Island Nets, was added for depth.
Lin’s hamstring injury, as it turned out, is just the blasting cap for what’s become a combustible situation for Atkinson to try and contain at the guard position on his team’s depth chart.
The ball movement evaporated in the second half against the Knicks. Kilpatrick, at times, struggled to get Brooklyn into their offense and his overall game suffered as a result of this. The Knicks, after struggling through much of the first half, came alive on both ends of the court.
On the defensive side of the ball, it wasn’t much better. Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings, perhaps smelling blood in the water, attacked the Nets backcourt. The Knicks outscored the Nets 38-25 in the fourth quarter.
Kilpatrick, mostly when not having to play the point, is averaging 15.4 points per game, off the bench. He’s been instant offense for the Nets in a super-sub role, however, playing the point is an entirely different skill set which he’s learning on the fly.
Atkinson had Kilpatrick play some point guard during the summer and in preseason, however teams will most likely continue looking for weaknesses to exploit every time he shows signs of indecisiveness with the basketball.
If the Nets are going to navigate through this stretch they’ll need some creativity to go along with better overall guard play.
One player to keep an eye on is wing-player Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, lately he’s done a better job of finding his way in Atkinson’s offense.
Hollis-Jefferson is averaging 4.5 assists per game thru Brooklyn’s last four game. He’s one way to help take some of the pressure off the Nets in the backcourt until Lin returns.
With Lin out and Whitehead’s status unclear, the Nets now head out west for their next four games. Five of Brooklyn’s next nine games are on the road.
The Nets and their offense miss Lin, while he’s out the Nets must find ways to keep the ball moving. It would also help not to give up 38 points in a quarter.