Put MarShon Brooks in, coach — he’s ready to play

In the Nets’ Twitterverse, one hashtag has been gaining traction in recent weeks: #FreeMarShon.

Right on, I say.

The hand-wringing over shooting guard Joe Johnson’s massive contract and disappointing production should begin now, if it isn’t already in full force. Meanwhile, Coach Avery Johnson needs to give MarShon Brooks a chance to show why he predicted a Sixth Man of the Year-worthy season for himself.

In their 102–89 loss to reigning champs the Miami Heat on Dec. 1, Brooks was the only active Nets player who didn’t play. In case you think I’m talking about a different MarShon Brooks: yes, it’s same one who started as a rookie for the Nets last year and who, in his very limited minutes this season, has shot 57 percent while ranking 20th in the entire NBA in player efficiency.

Meanwhile, Joe Johnson was the only Net on the floor against the Heat who appeared inactive for much of the game. Miami shooting guard Dwayne Wade abused him and the rest of the Nets D, dropping a season-high 34. In two games against Brooklyn, Wade has shot 70 percent from the field.

Let’s not kid ourselves: at this point in his career, Brooks is a defensive liability. But if that’s the coach’s reason for keeping him out of the game, what excuses Joe Johnson’s matador-like moments against Wade? Besides a need to justify the team’s most expensive contract, that is.

Johnson is 31 and playing the most of anyone on the team. While the coach may be giving the hugely hyped signing time to work himself out of an early-season slump, this much is indisputable: in the Nets second failed attempt to beat the Heat, a game that was their third in four days, Johnson looked his age and then some. It’s hard to see a valid reason for refusing to let Brooks’s 23-year-old legs pick up the slack.

Matt Spolar is a nearly 6-foot-1 journalist with a middling high school basketball career who is sure the Nets win thanks to team’s top-tier guards.