Williams re-sprains ankle as Bobcats sink last-place Brooklyn
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Chemistry. Communication. Sacrifice.
These were the words the Nets used most often in the days leading up to what was supposed to be their breakthrough season, one that had many prognosticating their ascension to the top of the Atlantic Division and perhaps even the franchise's first-ever NBA title.
Following Wednesday night's 95-91 loss to the Bobcats in front of 13,843 fans at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena, backup center Andray Blatche had a couple of new words for the disappointing Nets: "Embarrassing" and "Unacceptable."
Blatche scored a team-high 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds against the Bobcats.
As for the rest of the Nets, they fell back into a familiar trend by suffering a third-quarter collapse, playing porous defense, having one of their starters go down to injury and coming up short down the stretch en route to their sixth loss in seven games.
''It's our song all season," a frustrated Blatche noted when asked why the Nets have stumbled, rather than charged out of the gate following an offseason spending spree that saw their payroll rise to an NBA record $180 million-plus (including luxury taxes).
"We keep saying it's early, but until we buckle down on defense, it's going to be the same results. We've got to take pride because it's embarrassing. It's real embarrassing.''
It's also all too embarrassingly real that the Nets look like complete strangers at times on the court.
Offseason acquisitions Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce combined for 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting in Charlotte, adding to the early season perception that they've provided Brooklyn with more age and attrition than gumption and leadership.
Deron Williams, who went down in a heap after re-injuring his sprained left ankle in the second quarter, hasn't exactly been swishing and dishing when he has been active instead of in the trainer's room.
All-Star center Brook Lopez, Brooklyn's leading scorer and top interior defender, sat out a third straight game Wednesday with a bum ankle of his own.
The combination of poor execution and loss of manpower has left neophyte head coach Jason Kidd looking clueless during his first month on the bench after 19 years of genius on the hardwood.
Though his players continue to insist that Kidd's coaching has little or nothing to do with their 3-8 record and last-place standing in the division, it's getting harder and harder not to point in the first-year coach's direction.
Is it possible that this was an overwhelming initial assignment for the future Hall of Famer?
The Nets were only down three points at intermission, but once again failed to make the necessary halftime adjustments or come out with the defensive energy to win on the road.
The Bobcats opened the half with a 15-1 run and outscored Brooklyn, 30-20, in the third period to pull away for good.
"The defense is something that we've got to get better at," Kidd noted on the same day that an anonymous NBA scout cited him for doing virtually nothing on the bench during this disastrous start to the campaign. "Our defense wasn't there at all tonight. ... The positive thing is the guys kept fighting. But as coaches and players we've got to get better."
General manager Billy King, to his credit, has voiced continued support and belief in the man he hired to navigate this 82-game grind toward what the Nets assumed would be their second straight playoff appearance.
The more that playoff spot continues to fade into the rear-view mirror, the more pressure will be turned up on King to seriously consider replacing Kidd at some point.
And that pressure will doubtlessly come from the very top of the organization as demanding owner Mikhail Prokhorov is hell-bent on delivering our borough's first major pro sports title since 1955 as soon as possible.
As in this year!
The Nets, who will be in Minnesota Friday night, presumably without Williams, and possibly without Lopez, are fortunate on two fronts.
They remain only two games behind first-place Philadelphia in the mediocre-at-best Atlantic despite their disastrous start, and have the 3-8 Knicks sitting with them in the division cellar, gobbling up most of the negative attention across the pages of the city tabloids.
With four games to go before Thanksgiving, the Nets had better find a way to climb out of the quicksand.
Remember, it was right around Christmas time that Avery Johnson found himself jobless after a 14-14 start to Brooklyn's inaugural season on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
P.J. Carlesimo was made the walk the plank following a first-round playoff exit to Chicago despite leading the Nets to a 35-19 mark and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference after replacing Johnson.
If the Nets want Kidd to enjoy his turkey dinner next Thursday, they'd better play a more digestible version of Mr. Naismith's game.
Happy Holidays Brooklyn!
Nothing But Net: The Nets listed as PG Williams as day-to-day, but judging from the guard's reaction following the re-injury, it's unlikely he'll be back on the court for Brooklyn's game in Minnesota or Sunday's matinee against Detroit at the Barclays Center. ... The Nets dropped to 1-6 on the road this season after winning a franchise-record 23 games away from home a season ago. ... F Alan Anderson scored a season-high 16 points in Wednesday's loss. G Joe Johnson added 19 points. ... F Andrei Kirilenko remained inactive with back spasms Wednesday. He has not played since a Nov. 8 loss at Washington.