11:35 am Mar. 5, 20132
The Brooklyn Nets, losers in four of their past five games, are considering a big change.
With both Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche providing good offensive production, Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo plans to play the two of them together for significant time.
Lopez and Blatche have played just 60 minutes together all season, but they've been productive minutes, with the team's best stretch against the Miami Heat, for instance, coming with the pair on the floor at the same time.
The Nets have gotten almost no offensive production out of their power forward spot, and their two most efficient players by far are Lopez, with a Player Efficiency Rating of 24.5, and Blatche, who checks in at 22.2.
Carlesimo isn't ready to commit to this lineup against smaller teams, which is odd; in the case of the Miami game, it was a smaller team that suffered as a result of the Lopez/Blatche combo. It would seem to be less risky, as a coaching decision, than benching Lopez for Blatche in the fourth quarter of games.
What it would be is a stark departure from the Nets' original plans. The team was built to rely upon star production out of their expensive backcourt, point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson. That hasn't happened yet, though, thanks to injuries.
The real issue the Nets have faced over the recent stretch has been Williams returning to earth after briefly improving following treatment on his ailing ankles. More rest could have improved his condition further, but Williams and the Nets, for whatever reason, seemed to think the better choice was to play him extra hard since his return, with an average of 38.7 minutes over the past seven games, and more than 40 three times. The games in March are important, but far less so than the games in May; and any homecourt the Nets could earn from riding Williams hard now would be pointless if he cannot excel in the playoffs anyway.
The same is true of Johnson, who returned from his injury, still hobbled, and scored just 11 points in each of his first two games back. He nevertheless played 37 minutes in the second game of a back-to-back Saturday night against Chicago. The same principles apply to Johnson as they do to Williams. C.J. Watson and MarShon Brooks need to be utilized more.
The Lopez/Blatche combo may be the team's only hope of presenting true matchup problems for playoff opponents, of Williams and Johnson are to be far less than their healthy selves for the duration of the season. If that is the case, it is incumbent upon Carlesimo to play them together as often as possible. It will help the Nets win games now, and get them comfortable with a Lopez/Blatche lineup when it matters most.