12:00 pm Mar. 13, 2013
Some of the problems facing the Brooklyn Nets require tough solutions, if they can be solved at all.
There's the season-long slump of Joe Johnson, the shooting guard acquired this summer. In the past few weeks, Johnson's drop in play has been revealed to be at least partially caused by a foot injury. He was held out of Tuesday night's game against the New Orleans Hornets, and it isn't clear how much more he can give the Nets this season.
The week of rest the Nets finally gave Deron Williams last month as he battled through two injured ankles, along with the treatment he received, has apparently made an enormous difference. Williams has been markedly better in every phase of the game in three weeks since. They still have to calculate very carefully, as they increase his time, whether his ankles can continue to hold up over the next two months.
By contrast with their issues at guard, the Nets have suffered through a problem at power forward that seems to be of their own making.
The team has received 9.2 points per game at the power forward position. Kris Humphries, the expected starter, has slumped through much of the season. Reggie Evans, pressed into starting duty, is a true one-dimensional player, rebounding and little else. Mirza Teletovic is really a designated shooter in a power forward's body.
However, the Nets also employ both Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche, a pair of interior players who have Player Efficiency Ratings of 24.5 and 22.3, respectively. Those totals are the two highest on the team by far, and rank fifth and thirteenth in the entire league among players with at least 1,000 minutes played.
On the rare occasions the two have played together, the Nets have succeeded. But Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo has been reluctant to press his advantage that essentially no other team has, using Blatche to limit Lopez's minutes instead while keeping a black hole at power forward.
Tuesday night, prior to the game against the New Orleans Hornets, Carlesimo indicated a willingness to try the two together, though he'd said that before.
If any team is set up to counter this attack, it is New Orleans, featuring the defensive stalwart center Anthony Davis and Brook's twin brother Robin Lopez in the lineup.
After Lopez dominated the first quarter, sans Blatche, and Blatche returned the favor without Lopez in the second quarter, the two began the third quarter on the floor together. Lopez set the tone with this dunk over his brother, and the matchup problems created allowed the Nets to score with impunity inside, while a revitalized Williams dominated at the point.
After the game, Carlesimo wouldn't commit to a regular lineup that included his two most efficient players, describing it as something that is matchup-based. It's not clear why he wouldn't have played this lineup against a big team like New Orleans, who still couldn't keep up, or a smaller team like Miami, who couldn't possibly defend both Lopez and Blatche. Then again, it wasn't clear why he has left Lopez on the bench for entire fourth quarters.
Maybe Carlesimo will watch game footage and change his mind. There's not much else Lopez and Blatche can do to convince him.