The Nets Looked Unstoppable Early. They’ve Proved to Be Mortal.


Raise your hand if you thought the Knicks would have a better record than the Nets through the first 10 percent of the season.

We’ll wait.

Just one: James L. Dolan? OK, then.

The Nets are 4-4, which isn’t a disaster but does reflect an uneven start. They looked unstoppable in the preseason, and then opened the regular season with dominant wins over the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics. Since then they’ve lost four out of six and have looked quite mortal.

One of the losses was against the Memphis Grizzlies in overtime when the Nets sat their two best players, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Another came against the Washington Wizards when both Irving and Durant missed quality looks at the end of the game. The team could just as easily be 6-2.

But it’s not. And while it is still early, the Nets have less time than usual to collect themselves because the season is 72 games rather than the usual 82. It’s also unclear when Durant, who missed Tuesday’s win against Utah because of Covid-19 health and safety protocols that will keep him out for at least seven days, will be back in the lineup. The team has not specified which aspect of the protocols prompted Durant to be held out of the game.

So it’s Luwawu-Cabarrot’s fault, right? No, not quite. He’s having a solid year, averaging 8.9 points per game on 46.4 percent shooting, both above his career averages. This outpaces Dinwiddie, who was putting in 6.7 points per game on a dismal 37.5 shooting.

Where is the problem then?

It involves Jordan and Jarrett Allen. The Nets brought in Jordan, 32, before last season, even though they already had a young, promising starting center in the 22-year-old Allen.

Jordan had been moved into the starting lineup late last season, and Nash kept him there, but the team has been significantly better offensively with Allen on the floor than with Jordan.

Nash appears to have seen the light on this: On Tuesday night, Allen got his first start of the year, and he rewarded the Nets with 19 points and 18 rebounds. Allen is exceeding his career averages in points (10.8 points this season), rebounds (11.6) and blocks (1.8). Jordan, meanwhile, is averaging 4.4 points and 6.8 rebounds a game.

Allen had been playing more minutes than Jordan, even before the starting lineup switch (22.9 minutes per game for Allen before starting Tuesday; 19.1 for Jordan). After the big win over the Jazz, that gap seems likely to grow.

Caris LeVert, 26, has been considered a foundational piece of the Nets since he made his debut in 2016-17. He’s versatile, hard to stop in the open floor, and has improved his playmaking. His development has been hampered by injuries over the past four seasons, but he’s healthy now.

This season, Nash made the surprising decision to start Dinwiddie and bring LeVert off the bench as the sixth man. LeVert showed that he could run the offense in the bubble over the summer without Dinwiddie, who missed the summer restart after testing positive for the coronavirus.

— Landry Shamet, acquired in the off-season to add shooting to the Nets, has not been shooting well. He’s only hit 23.1 percent of his threes, even though his career average coming into the season was 40.2 percent.

— Harris, whom Nash moved to the bench on Tuesday, has feasted off playing with Irving and Durant. He’s hitting an absurd 51.1 percent of his 3-pointers, far above his career average and a better rate than when he led the league in 2018-19.

— Jeff Green is shooting 60.9 percent from the field. You read that correctly.



Source link Nytimes.com

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