12:45 pm Oct. 19, 2012
MarShon Brooks made his preseason debut Thursday night for the Brooklyn Nets, who went out and lost to the Boston Celtics, 115-85.
The night served as an unwelcome throwback to the Nets, a reminder of how they used to play when they were the New Jersey Nets, no one came to see them, and they lost far more than they won.
This wasn't Brooks' fault; he played only 15 minutes, managing seven points on 3-for-6 shooting. But it served as a reminder that for Brooks, whose strengths and limitations matched perfectly with those of last year's Nets team, the burden of proof is on him (at least as far the fans are concerned) to show he belongs on a very different Brooklyn Nets team with designs on contending.
When asked if Brooks would be his first player off the bench, Nets coach Avery Johnson replied, “We’re not sure yet. We’re not going to box ourselves in.”
The reasons why are apparent. Brooks, in his rookie season for the Nets, was a high-volume, medium-accuracy scorer who didn't play much defense, pass much, or rebound particularly well.
Brooks shot just under 43 percent on the season, almost identical to the Nets' field goal percentage of 42.5 percent. That was good for 28th in the league. His poor defense matched the team's ranking as well, as did his low assist and rebounding rates.
It would be premature to dismiss him. For one thing, Brooks was a rookie last season, so further development is far from impossible. He came from a college program, Providence College, where he was the first, second and third offensive option, while defense simply wasn't a priority. In Avery Johnson, Brooks has a coach who preaches defense; moreover, on a team where he'll need to provide it or find himself out of the rotation, Brooks could being more of that defensive effort to his game.
For another, the alternative to back up Joe Johnson at shooting guard, Keith Bogans, isn't any kind of offensive player at all. On a second unit with a fellow defensive-minded guard in C.J. Watson at the point, having a scoring-minded player like Brooks would seem to be a better fit.
For his part, Brooks is saying the right things about his approach.
“Play defense, provide energy and when I get my opportunities, just try to do what I do,” Brooks said Thursday. “I’m still a scorer, I still think like a scorer, but we have a lot of scorers, so it’s not always going to be my night. But when we’re struggling to score and coach calls my name, that’s when I try to do what I do.”
The reality of his new teammates, with offensive talent in abundance, is that the Nets aren't going to be struggling to score often. Now it is up to MarShon Brooks to elevate his game, or else find himself a relic of an era the Nets are eager to leave behind.