2:42 pm Dec. 24, 2012
Say this for Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson: In his efforts to turn around the recent skid of his team, he's been unafraid to try new things.
So it was on Sunday, when Johnson chose to bench his starting power forward, Kris Humphries. This wasn't simply turning Humphries into a weapon on the second unit; Humphries didn't play at all in Sunday's 95-92 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
“I visited with him in my office before [the game], and this was basically a coach’s decision,” Johnson said. “It’s nothing to do with Humphries. He was healthy ... He is fine. He’s not in the doghouse. We just had to try something else, and we’ll see how long we can go with it.”
This is a shocking turn of events. Humphries received a two-year, $24 million contract this summer to return, and start, for the Nets. Moreover, his development from bench player to frontline starter came under the very coach, Johnson, who is now benching him.
It's hard to say that this benching was responsible for Sunday's victory, given the numerous other moving parts associated with it that worked against this opponent, but might not against others.
With Humphries out of the rotation, the Nets went with Gerald Wallace at power forward and Keith Bogans at small forward. Wallace is a strong rebounder and defender for a small forward, but as a power forward, it isn't clear that he'll be able to leverage his strengths against bigger opponents. (The Sixers happen to play small at the moment.)
As for Bogans, he is a solid defender of two guards, but asking him to defend small forwards is potentially problematic for the 6'5", 215 pound Bogans. And his offense on Sunday (13 points, on 5-for-6 shooting, including 3-for-4 from three) deviated mightily from a ten-year career of shooting below 40 percent from the field. He is unlikely to be a true asset on offense.
And the same is true, and then some, for Reggie Evans, who will soak up the rest of Humphries' minutes, despite doing little that Humphries does other than rebound. Evans has now gone five games, and more than 96 minutes, without a field goal.
For his part, Humphries said the right things about the move.
“[Johnson] just said he was starting Gerald [Wallace] and it was going to be inconsistent for a little while,” Humphries said. “I didn’t know it was going to be a DNP, but you have to be ready for anything in the N.B.A.”