Nets Lack Championship Mettle


(Photo credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Five games in, and the Nets have an identity for all the wrong reasons.

This is a soft basketball team that can’t handle physical play and adversity. That’s the book on them. Sure they are talented, but they also showed they can be beaten when the other team makes a run and throw the first knockout punch. The Boston Celtics exposed the Nets for that in a four-game sweep in this past season’s NBA playoffs. Now, it seems other teams took notes from what we saw so far against the Nets.

The Mavericks went on an 11-2 run to start overtime including three 3-pointers to show for it, and they went on to a 129-125 victory over the Nets at Barclays Center Thursday night. The Nets are now 1-4 for the season, and this latest loss put beleaguered Nets coach Steve Nash’s job security into focus. If the team doesn’t recover soon, there will be a new head coach.

But firing Nash may not make as much of a difference as an average fan would think.

The problems do not end with the head coach. It’s the roster. There are too many guys that don’t play with effort. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that plays defense on the Nets roster. There’s not much basketball smarts, either.

Yes, the Nets boast  scorers who can change a game in a hurry. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant provide that. But the problem with those two is they don’t play defense along with their teammates.

The Nets went on a 7-0 and 14-2 run to take leads, but the Mavericks were not fazed. They were confident that their opponent would let them be in the game. The Mavericks found ways to tie the game as a result of so many lapses by the Nets defense such as when Luka Docnic and Maxi Keiber shot threes in an open spot. There were also too many easy baskets made by the Mavs. The Mavs received second-chances opportunities as a result of the Nets inability to grab a rebound.

The Mavericks knew they can tie it and win it in the end because they knew the Nets were not tough enough. 

That’s the problem. Push the Nets, and they wilt.

Ben Simmons represents everything that’s wrong about the Nets. He can’t shoot, and he is hesitant to do anything on offense. He also apparently is scared to play defense. Seeing the Mavericks push him around was sad to watch. He has offered nothing so far in his five games as a Net. He has yet to score in double figures in a game, and he scored only 28 combined points in those five games with all his points being pedestrian rather than impactful. 

He turned the ball over 14 times in all five games, and he fouled out twice.

We knew Simmons would be rusty, but it shouldn’t take rust for him to show effort and energy out there, especially on defense. The Nets reflect his identity in a nutshell. He is passive and disinterested. He defends like I would defend in a basketball drill during my physical education days in my failed high school stint, and that’s not meant to be a compliment.

I am not sure what Yuta Watanabe does for this Nets roster. All he does is stand around and watch what his teammates are doing. There’s a measure of inability or unwillingness to get back on defense.

Durant and Irving seem more worried about getting their points rather than play defense. Come to think of it, so is everyone on the roster.

When a team is thinking offense first, it’s hard to take them seriously as a championship team. This isn’t just a small sample size. This has gone on for the last two seasons.

Even with the Nets being effective on offense, they seemed flawed out there. This is a team that is too iso rather than dish the ball and find the open guy. As soon as any Net has the ball, he shoots it. It’s not good basketball when anyone stands around on offense just to see Durant and Irving to shoot it. It’s also clear no one trust each other on offense. 

It’s a mess all around. There’s no solutions all around. Durant and Irving will not change for the common good. Simmons seems shot. The rest have a terrible basketball IQ.

The players can say it’s hard to be a finished product in October. The coaches can talk about guys need time together. Ownership and management will preach stability. But there’s no denying the cold hard truth: The eye test tell you this roster does not have the championship goods.

The Nets can get by with this offense when it comes to surviving, but that can only go far.

There is no toughness on this team. It’s a troubling identity that’s not going away. The roster is what it is.

There’s no reason to take the Nets seriously as a championship team.

This writer can be reached on Twitter: @LeslieMonteiro6

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