The Nets are off to their best start in a decade — and they’ve got their big men to thank for it.
Despite a minor stumble in Saturday’s loss to the Heat, the Nets finished November with an 11–4 record, their finest showing since the 2002–2003 season when they last reached the NBA Finals.
And the majority of that success should be attributed to the production of their front court on both sides of the floor.
Entering the season, the big men were the biggest question marks surrounding this Nets team. Could center Brook Lopez emerge as a star after missing nearly all of last season with foot injuries? Would reserves Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans gel with the team and provide a spark off the bench? Would Kris Humphries keep racking up the solid offensive numbers like he did last year?
The answers to those questions have been a resounding yes, a resounding yes, and a not quite (Humphries’s numbers are slightly down from last season).
But the much-touted back court hasn’t lived up to the hype — nor the contracts — they were awarded entering the season.
Deron Williams, the Nets leader and one of the best passers in the game, has struggled offensively all season long, shooting a dismal 38 percent from the floor — the worst of his career. Recent wrist and ankle injuries may have contributed to the poor production, but Williams must do better.
His back court mate Joe Johnson and swingman Gerald Wallace have also been disappointing through the first month of the season. Johnson, brought in during the offseason and dubbed the missing piece, has yet to produce the way the Nets envisioned. And Wallace, while excellent in spurts, has yet to find a groove offensively, averaging four fewer points per game than his career average.
Save for the aging Jerry Stackhouse, whose solid play has been a pleasant surprise, the back court hasn’t carried its weight.
Blame it on early season slumps or coach Avery Johnson’s slow paced offense, but whatever the case, the Nets marquee guards must raise their game to match the big play of the team’s big men.
Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the team’s big men.