Archives For New Jersey Nets

Still Wilding

Benjamin Polk —  February 4, 2012 — 3 Comments

One more note on Pekovic’s recent play. On Thursday, Zach wrote this:

One of the most impressive and basic things you see Pek do each time down the floor is he runs as deep into the key as he can, seals the defender to his back and calls for the ball. Many times over the last few games, we’ve seen Ricky Rubio recognize this development, dump the ball into Pek and get a great scoring opportunity for Minnesota. It’s what you teach big men to do at a young age and Pek certainly attempts to comply with such teachings.

My thoughts exactly–and I’d even add that Pek also does this when diving to the hoop off a pick-and-roll, even when he doesn’t get the ball. (On one fourth quarter play against the Nets, he set a screen for Rubio, recognized that the Nets had switched and immediately bulled his away past Jordan Farmar to the hoop. Meanwhile, Rubio had kicked the ball to Love outside. Love missed his three but because Pekovic was able to take advantage of the mismatch and put back the miss.) As Zach alluded to, when Pekovic dives to the hoop and seals his defender–be it off of pick and roll or in transition–Rubio delivers him the ball in perfect rhythm. All that is left to do is pivot and lay the ball in; the seal, the pass, the pivot and the shot seem to occur as one fluid motion.

A few people have raised the idea that, because of Rubio’s role in Pek’s resurgence, it behooves Adelman to play the two of them together as much as possible. And this may be so, but I’d offer that crucial differences between how Pek was deployed this year and last play just as large a part. Pekovic’s great skills, as we’ve noted, are instincts without the ball, his soft touch around the rim and his obvious, raw, fleshy physical force. Post moves and ball-handling, not so much. And yet in the triangle, as administered by Kurt Rambis, Pekovic was asked to use just those skills. He generally caught the ball in the block, eight or so feet from the basket, forced to pound the ball and facilitate the offense; not exactly playing to his strengths there. Given a more appropriate context, both Luke Ridnour and Kevin Love have recently been able to deliver Pek the ball in good scoring position.

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Speaking of Ricky Rubio, if you didn’t get the chance to see last night’s game, you missed some real gems. This one is a must-see; the aspect ratio is weird but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Enjoy:

The amazing thing about this is that the ridiculous around-the-body dribble was clearly both improvised and fully necessitated by the play. Do you see how Farmar bites on the feigned behind-the-back pass? And how that little lean opens up a nice little lane into the corner for Wes to slide into?

Watching the Wolves over the past week, I’ve been struck over and over both by the team’ curiously shaped, oddly angled roster, as well as the crafty ways in which Rick Adelman has managed to patch it all together.  In recent games we’ve been treated to such curiosities as: Kevin Love guarding Pau Gasol; Luke Ridnour checking Metta W. Peace (and Paul George and Anthony Morrow and Deron Williams); Martell Webster doing his honest best on Kevin Martin. These are not exactly dream matchups; the fact that the Wolves have managed to win two of those games speaks highly both of the team’s level of investment and their coach’s ingenuity.

Friday night’s game in Newark offered more for Adelman to puzzle over. Inserting Ridnour into the starting lineup at the off guard has, at the very least, allowed Wesley Johnson to slide over to his natural wing position, where he plays his best defense and is saddled with significantly less ball-handling responsibility (a good thing).  But, drawbacks. As we’ve discussed/lamented many times over, the lineup of Rubio, Ridnour, Johnson, Love and Darko/Pekovic is conspicuously lacking in a bona-fide NBA shot creator and scorer. Enter Michael Beasley and Jose Barea who, theoretically at least, ought to be able to inject energetic one-on-one scoring into the mix.

Continue Reading…

Hopefully you’re all somewhat familiar with Devin Kharpertian and the fantastic work he and his team do at Nets Are Scorching, our Nets blog in the TrueHoop Network.

He and I exchanged three questions each to prepare for tonight’s contest in New Jersey. Here are his answers about the Nets and then my answers for him about the Wolves. Enjoy.  Continue Reading…

Photo by id-iom

One of our culture’s great coups has been to extend the deep allure of celebrity to the everyday. It’s not enough to appear pristine and beautiful in films or photographs, or even on red carpets; there is now an aesthetically polished, celebritized way of doing things like sitting in a restaurant, gossiping about your terrible friends, holding your Starbucks cup, getting into and out of cars. But when you see it up close, outside the carefully crafted lens of TV and awesome magazines, that seamless celebrity world comes unglued. The polished spectacle starts to look as depressing and boring as it really is.

One sight of Kim Kardashian at the Target Center on Saturday should have made that fact even plainer. Even a person as apparently superficial and un-serious as our Kim, whose only real work seems to be making her life appear to be as charmed and sumptuously fascinating as possible, sometimes finds herself in chilly, thinly lit Minnesota, watching some dull, uninspired New Year’s Day basketball.

That Kris Humphries, local MN legend, magnificently biceped Ken doll and Kim’s reported gentleman-friend, has a starting job for the New Jersey Nets should give one a clue to just how thin that team’s roster is. The Nets are still languishing in their post-Kidd/Frank, post-beautifully-impossible-LeBron-fantasy, pre-Brooklyn purgatory; at the moment they are a decidedly terrible basketball team. And much of Saturday’s game was played like the dreary, sparsely attended, hungover contest between sub-mediocre teams that it was.

Continue Reading…

David Roth is a tremendously fine writer and a good friend of this blog (I promise, this is not a joke about David Lee or his spandexed namesake–sometimes real life is more complicated and Paul Auster-y than I want to think about). Though he lives in New York, he grew up in idyllic suburban New Jersey and loves the Nets with a resigned nausea that we Wolves fans can’t even begin to imagine (give us another 20 years of this, though…). Like me, he appreciates the Summer League for its combination of unstructured, all-star game fabulosity, absurdly disjointed amateurishness (it takes 10 fouls to foul out!), and feverish, livelihood-on-the-line competition.

He’s also tuned in to the sad way that athletes who were once iconized for their physical talents can be sloughed off once the league and fans and the pundits agree that their lives as commodities have been used up. (As you may know, this is something that bothers me too; I was recently made awfully uneasy by the chilly, corporate way in which the Wolves cast off Ryan Gomes). As a Nets fan, Mr. Roth has carefully considered the sadly illustrative case of Shawne Williams, a basketball savant who is not very good at making decisions that do not involve dunking.

The piece is terrific and you should read the whole thing because it discusses not just Williams’s significant role in his own demise but also the rather thoughtless, machine-like way that we create narratives for elite athletes (although I think I’m supposed to warn you that its got some swears).  Also: the basketball card business, Darius Miles, Omar from the Wire and, of course, Ndudi Ebi :

The sort of sports fans who wonder what happens to athletes once they stop being the most special people in the room know how this goes. Which is to say that we were about to hear the last from Shawne Williams. When the promise is dispelled, the narrative trail goes dead. There are exceptions to that, if the failure to deliver on past promise is dramatic enough — here, for instance, is what Ed O’Bannon is up to these days — but, for the most part, ‘Where Are They Now’ is a rhetorical question.

Of course, the person who is also the player goes on doing whatever it was he did before the world started and stopped caring. He goes to jail for associating with the sort of visionaries who see a way to get high in a bottle of Triaminic or he goes to Europe and makes a bunch of money and learns a foreign language. Maybe he signs with a pro team in Iran, makes some money, writes a blog, and grows up into an interesting man or maybe he opens a barber shop or coaches or finds God or loses God or looks back and laughs or ferments in all that curdled narcissism into the meanest and most righteous sort of depressive. But all that happens off-camera, and to a certain extent the moral to Shawne Williams’ story, and that story’s ending, are already written, regardless of how the middle chapters fill in. The ending is yours to pick, not his: he’s another knucklehead not ready for the spotlight or unready for failure or an incautiously pampered kid who has never previously been required not to be lazy or a nice kid surrounded by bad influences or a helpless/hapless product of a rotten environment or whatever you choose.

Nice Dreams

Benjamin Polk —  June 24, 2010 — 6 Comments

Photo by Unhindered by Talent

It’s on, homies. The Timberwolves our right now facing the biggest night of the post-KG era. Lets not fool ourselves with predictions or pipe dreams. The truth is, nobody knows what’s going to happen. All we can do is allow the questions to loll about in our heads, to face that essentially Timberwolvian sensation of overwhelming dread mixed with faint hope.

The immediate questions: is New Jersey serious about Wesley Johnson, or is David Kahn just getting royally played? Is Al Jefferson seeing his final sunrise as a T-Wolf? and if so, will the Wolves parlay the moody Mississippian into another top-1o pick, or a coveted young veteran like Rudy Gay or Danny Granger (or, more troubling, just another salary dump)?

And the long-term questions: did Demarcus Cousins, by multiple measures the most productive player in college basketball last year, do so badly on his psychological evaluations that four teams, the Wolves included, are willing to pass him by? Just how good will this dude be? And what will Derrick Favors be like when he’s not an 18-year-old boy? And is any of this enough to entice Ricky Rubio?

And finally, the basic, awful question at the heart of it all: will the Wolves ever be done rebuilding?

Myles will be with you tonight. Tomorrow we’ll all try to pick up the pieces. Hold on to your faces.