Whew, what a win for the Brooklyn faithful on Monday night. The Brooklyn Nets rallied to defeat a very tough, well coached team in the Charlotte Hornets. This can easily be viewed as a microcosm of the 2016-17 NBA season for the Nets. More on that later. The wins and losses do not tell the whole story, but better days are ahead for the Brooklyn Nets.
Better Days Ahead in the Brooklyn Nets Future
A Moment of Truth
Let’s be totally honest for a moment here. How many fans can honestly say they knew and were confident in the abilities of many members of this team? Not many. Fans were hopeful but knew this season would be an uphill climb. Even the Nets marketing wing embraced this struggle and became “Brooklyn Grit”. The players are doing ‘yeoman’s work’ on a nightly basis. Trivia question to all: Name five Nets not named Lin or Lopez! The fact that you encounter difficulty in this endeavor is normal.
Through Adversity, Character Emerges
The Nets have been beset with injuries throughout this campaign. This however has not prevented the team from competing and playing hard through each and every contest. Yes, there were blowouts here and there, but by and large the Brooklyn Nets have weathered the storm admirably. There are no complaints from players in the media. Each member has mindfully and willingly sacrificed for betterment, and the improvement is self-evident.
Sean Kilpatrick, Isaiah Whitehead, and Joe Harris are revelations. Kilpatrick is the team’s second leading scorer (averaging 15 points and 4 rebounds per game). No one could have forecasted that. In the absence of starting point guard Jeremy Lin, Kilpatrick has proven himself nightly. Rookie Whitehead has had his bumps transitioning to basketball’s elite competition. Whitehead is tenacious on defense and versatile on the offensive end. Joe Harris was a throwaway player from the Cleveland Cavaliers. In twenty-three minutes, Harris averages 9 points and 3 rebounds per contest. This is a far cry from his days in Cleveland. Each of these three men may have had major problems making and staying on an NBA roster prior to this season.
Forwards Trevor Booker and Bojan Bogdanovic have both stuck manfully to their tasks. Booker in particular proves that he is the player that’s willing to do anything to assist the team’s progress. He has been particularly effective rebounding the basketball and providing a solid interior presence on defense. This veteran, in his seventh season, brings an attitude of professionalism each game and is very workmanlike in practice. Booker is averaging close to a double-double this season (9.6 PPG and 8.9 RPG) in 27 minutes per contest.
Then there is Bojan Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic has been delightful this season.
As he continues to embrace the added responsibility of being a lynchpin of an NBA team, Bogdanovic has been brilliant at times. He has also struggled at times. Transitioning to a fulltime starter has been tough for him, resulting in slightly lower shooting percentages than previous seasons. Factors to this end include the fact that the opponent’s best perimeter defender is checking him. Also noteworthy is that Bogdanovic must in turn attempt to defend an often-superior athlete than himself. The fact is Bogdanovic is not a premier defender by any stretch, so a premier small forward may torch the Nets and him on any given night. That said, he is a sniper and has had his moments thus far. This is all part of the growing process.
Health Remains a Huge Factor
Jeremy Lin was sidelined for 17 games due to hamstring troubles. When he plays, the Nets are a much better unit. In the most recent win versus the Hornets, Lin left the game midway through the third quarter with reported hamstring issues again. Not much information given on that front just yet. All Nets fans are hoping for is a little good fortune for Lin on the injury front. His value cannot be overstated to this team.
Rookie Caris LeVert is back and playing, but it’s a period of transition for him. He will improve as he sees more time on the court. Coach Atkinson when asked about him, called him “a bundle of energy’.
The good news is Brook Lopez has been consistently good to excellent this season for the Nets. As the team’s best player, Lopez continues to show enthusiasm and strong leadership through what some may call a trying season. His demeanor in front of the media is always cool, and his words are always encouraging. The wins and losses may not stack up in the Nets’ favor but Lopez wouldn’t show you that. His rebounding could improve however, but this team is undoubtedly his, and he has embraced being the leader. Though rumors of his impending departure swirl around Brooklyn and through the Association all season, Lopez has been resolute in performing his task.
Back to That Win on Monday Night
The Nets were on a five-game losing streak. Following their victory versus the Los Angeles Lakers, they were winless on a three-game east coast road-trip. Following those games, they fought very hard but ultimately came up short against the powerhouse Golden State Warriors. Then they traveled to Cleveland where the defending champs Cleveland Cavaliers showed what a quality team they are, defeating the Nets by 20.
It was the night after Christmas, Boxing Night as the British and Commonwealth calls it, and the Nets played the Hornets. At times it appeared that the Hornets were going to run away with it, but the Nets fought back each time for the Flatbush Faithful. Randy Foye came into this Nets team as a back-up combo guard with experience. However Foye lacked consistency on both ends all season. This is not dissimilar to the Nets’ season. Down one, with 2.5 seconds to play, the Hornets made sure Brook Lopez not touch the ball, allowing the pass to Foye. Foye dribbled calmly to his left and fired from 28 feet as time expired. The rest is history.
As the new year approaches, the Nets are consistently saying and doing the right things. it is only a matter of time before the results return in their favor. Talent is an issue for this team. Compared to most of the NBA the Nets are not the best, but they fight. Each and every night fans, players, coaches, and pundits get a chance to see and feel the meaning of ‘Brooklyn Grit.’