As the Brooklyn Nets frittered away another chance to salvage respect during their 104-98 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Friday, they moved a giant step closer to becoming the NBA’s most disappointing team in 2015-16.
That’s saying something, because no prognosticators expected greatness from this squad. Most anticipated a challenging campaign and a step down from the playoff picture, but not this kind of ineptitude. Brooklyn’s inconsistent offense and nearly non-existent defense has resulted in an 0-6 start and a seat in the league’s cellar.
Other teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and the Lakers have gotten off to unsightly or disappointing starts of their own (we’ll give the Philadelphia 76ers a pass, we knew they’d lose a bunch). But the Nets are making a strong case as the bleakest club, especially after their home loss against Kobe Bryant’s formerly winless unit.
In a close, winnable game against the visiting Lakers, Lionel Hollins’s crew showcased many of the features that have helped them fall short of our already-low expectations this season. The Nets’ early-season schedule is rough, but this was thought to be one of their most favorable opportunities.
Sieve-like defense, errant perimeter shooting and botched execution in crunch time all fueled Brooklyn’s loss. To add insult to injury, the decidedly pro-L.A. crowd dominated the Barclays Center as 11 different Lakers reached the scoring column and Bryant sank the game-sealing free-throws:
“KOBE! KOBE! KOBE!” chants reverberating through Barclays Center. Might be the loudest cheer yet.
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) November 7, 2015
The Nets’ defense delivered sporadic sequences of admirable effort. But for the most part, the slow-footed backcourt was exposed by quick youngsters like D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams.
Brooklyn’s guards have had trouble pressuring and containing playmakers at the point of attack in all six losses, and everyone has struggled to execute proper off-ball positioning. That unfortunate recipe haunted the Nets Friday.
On the offensive end, the woeful outside shooting continued. Brooklyn went 3-of-19 (15.8 percent) from three-land on Friday, a dreadful mark even if a few of those misses were desperation attempts at the end. The Nets are now at 22.7 percent from beyond the arc for the season. That helps explain their league-worst offensive rating of 93.7.
Passing execution was an issue as well. While Jarrett Jack and Co. dished 21 assists, the team still failed to convert key plays. The most glaring of those shortcomings was a five-second violation on an inbounds play with 24 seconds left in the game.
Brooklyn had just forced a turnover and earned a chance to tie the game, but Thaddeus Young couldn’t find an open man quick enough and didn’t call timeout:
The Nets get a steal … only to fail to inbound the ball within five seconds. I mean, seriously.
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) November 7, 2015
Thanks to that miscue and several others, the Nets are one of only three winless teams left in the Association. There’s still time to regain some respect and climb out of the very bottom, but it looks like Brooklyn is indeed worse than we actually thought they’d be.
As Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com notes, this inevitably painful transitional year has hurt even more than expected, thanks to the expensive roster moves of recent years.
No one said this season was going to be easy. But the trickle-down effect from the ill-fated blockbuster trades by general manager Billy King and owner Mikhail Prokhorov for Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce feels worse and worse by the day. The current roster has some decent pieces, but it is lacking in so many key areas — most notably, point guard play. Hope is nowhere to be found.
This isn’t about the Nets kicking off the season with a six-game losing streak. It’s how they’re losing and failing to meet their own modest expectations.
A young, rebuilding squad like the Sixers may finish in dead last this season, but Brooklyn looks like an early favorite to be the most disheartening outfit in the league, and the situation is made even more bleak considering the Nets’ first-round pick is going to the Boston Celtics in 2016.