The Brooklyn Nets ended 2013 with a 10-21 record but turned their season around with a strong finishing kick as the calendar turned to 2014. By that season’s end, the Nets had the 2nd best record in the Eastern conference from January 1 onwards and they also finished with the 6th best record in the conference to make the playoffs. This season, the Nets are off to a better start than last season, but a bad start considering where they left off last year. But with the new year about to begin, it looks as if the Nets are doing it all over again.
It was reported in early December by espn.com that the Nets had let the other teams know that their top three superstars (and former NBA All-Stars) Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson are available via trade. And although the team admitted that there were no imminent moves involving those three players, the mere fact that they began to reach out to the rest of the league meant that a change was bound to happen sooner or later. The year is about to close and the Nets have not made much progress since that statement. They were 8-11 when that news broke, they are 15-16 after playing their final NBA national Basketball Association game of the year.
Coming off the Bench
While no trade has happened since the Nets’ made their initial sales pitch, Coach Lionel Hollins has made changes to his starting line-up. After the Nets’ 23 point loss to the Atlanta Hawks on December 5, Hollins has pulled out the struggling Brook Lopez from the starting lineup. In his place, Hollins inserted 6-11 sophomore Mason Plumlee, the 12th man added to Team USA’s 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup line-up. In the team’s last five games, Hollins also pulled off another stunning move by opting to play Deron Williams off the bench and starting resident back-up Jarrett Jack instead. But while the move has created shockwaves all over the league, it may be the breath of fresh air that this embattled team needs.
Rise of Plumlee
Mason Plumlee has accepted the challenge and has risen to the occasion. The sophomore center from Duke has been averaging 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in the month of December. He was only doing 5.1 points, 45 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game in November. Plumlee has also improved his FG% from .387 in the previous month to .612 this December. In the last 10 games where he’s started, Plumlee has been averaging 16.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting at a very high .685 clip. Like Plumlee, Jarrett Jack has seen his numbers rise. The 31 year old Georgia Tech alumnus has averaged 18.6 points, 4.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game while shooting at a high .524 from the field and .500 from the three point line. But these aren’t all that’s happening on the other side of New York.
New Lease of Life
Coach Hollins’ new starting unit of Kevin Garnett, Jarrett Jack, Joe Johnson, Sergey Karasev and Mason Plumlee have gone 4-1 in the team’s last five games. During their December 30 game against the Chicago Bulls, Kevin Garnett received a “day off” to rest his 38 year old body in the second leg of a back to back. Brook Lopez started and played his biggest game of the season, notching 29 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Nets snapped the Bulls’ league best 7 game winning streak and moved within one game of .500 to finish 2014. The Nets are now 5-1 in their last 6 games after starting the month of December 4-6. So is this team headed to another turnaround as the calendar ushers in the New Year? They did it before, there is no reason they can’t do it again. However, without Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston this year, it won’t be as easy.