First the disclaimer: it’s preseason so you try not to get too high or too low about anything. But the Nets showed why there is reason for optimism and reason for concern.
The optimism first after today’s 115-107 loss to the Knicks at the Times Union Center in Albany:
Devin Harris and Brook Lopez look like they’re ready for the regular season to begin, as you would expect, and Chris Douglas-Roberts continues to show he can get to the basket, draw fouls or score. He'll take it to anyone.
Harris (16 points, four assists) got to the hole whenever he wanted and Lopez (19 points, 5-for-9 and 9-for-1 from the line) was a presence inside. Would have liked to see him rebound more, though. He grabbed just four and was scoreless in the second half.
The two played enough together to develop a chemistry and it showed the way Harris worked with Lopez on pick-and-rolls and dumped it into the post.
The Nets are tinkering with the offense again, but one thing they should do plenty of is post Lopez and play through him. They will, but probably not enough for most of our liking.
Douglas-Roberts led the Nets with 21 points. he took 15 foul shots.
Now the concern: the defense, especially on the perimeter, which is what they are concentrating on improving the most – so they say.
The Knicks shot 13-of-31 from three (41.9 percent). During one four-minute stretch between the first and second quarters, five of the six baskets the Knicks scored were threes.
“I’m disappointed defensively,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “This is a little bit of a litmus test in terms of seeing where we’re at defensively. Three-point field goal defense once again is a problem. It starts with our inability to contain that first dribble and puts a burden on everyone else. We’ve got to continue to work at it and find the guys who can get it done.”
No surprises with the starting lineup: Harris, Douglas-Roberts, Lopez, Yi Jianlian and Jarvis Hayes. Substitute Courtney Lee for Douglas-Roberts and barring injury and a wing player just playing off the charts the rest of the month and this is likely your starting five for the Oct. 28 opener at Minnesota.
First guy off the bench was Rafer Alston for Harris. Then Terrence Williams came in for Hayes and Josh Boone for Yi, Sean Williams for Lopez and Bobby Simmons for Douglas-Roberts.
Yi re-entered the game to start the second as Boone moved to center. Harris was the next substitution coming in for Williams. Alston and Harris in the backcourt together is something we could see plenty of this season until Keyon Dooling returns. Then some decisions will have to be made.
Williams struggled in his first NBA game, missing nine-of-13 attempts. He also had his shot blocked twice – by Darko Milicic and Wilson Chandler. Williams started 0-for-6 before hitting his first field goal, a three, in the third period. He had 11 in the second half.
Keyon Dooling was running and shooting before the game, shooting off the dribble, stopping and starting. It’s the first time he’s run and shot like that since he had arthroscopic surgery on his hip in May.
Dooling won’t do anything today. The schedule is a hard day and then and an off-day. They want him to continue to build up.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said.
Dooling hopes to be back sometime during the preseason.
“I’m trying to pick it up,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting back on the court.
At this time a year ago, some of us were writing how Sean Williams was having the best camp of anyone.
“That’s the kiss of death,” Frank said.
You won’t hear anyone say that this season due in large part to Williams’ blocked shots and energy he played with at the Open practice represented his best day of camp. Naturally, Frank is looking for consistency.
“That was his best practice,” Frank said. “That’s who he has to be on an everyday basis. As a team, as a coach, as a teammate it’s about what can we get from this individual everyday. It’s about expected preparation, effort and performance.”
Williams played with similar energy as in the scrimmage but had more fouls than points or rebounds. He fouled out in 14 minutes.
Frank doesn’t know, or wouldn’t say, who will be Lopez’s backup. He has Josh Boone, who should see action at power forward, too, Tony Battie and Williams in the mix. It will come down to who plays with energy, defends, plays consistently and makes the fewest mistakes.
There were some concerns about the court here. They had a hockey game last night – Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate the Albany River Rats play here - and the court was a little “slick” according to Dooling.
They had two huge fans going and the doors open to try and dry it out.
Two years ago, the Nets had a preseason game against the Celtics cancelled at halftime in Worcester, Mass., because of a damp court. That building was home to the Worcester Sharks, an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks.
The Nets will visit West Point tomorrow. When they practice at home on Tuesday, Courtney Lee and Eduardo Najera are expected to participate. Frank isn’t sure how much Najera, who hasn’t practiced with the Nets since January, will be able to do but said, “hopefully he can do something. … He should get on the court.”