Kidd Gets First Career Coaching Win as Nets rout Jazz
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sure the Nets gave Jason Kidd the game ball following Tuesday night's 104-88 victory over the winless Utah Jazz before a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
What else would you expect after the future Hall of Fame point guard recorded his first-ever NBA coaching win?
But much more important than the memento the Nets handed their new leader following the relatively easy triumph was the fact that they took heed of the neophyte coach's strategy for dismantling the rebuilding Jazz.
Instructed to attack Utah in the paint early and often, Brooklyn did just that as All-Star center Brook Lopez played a near-perfect game with 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting, seven rebounds, a pair of assists and a blocked shot in only 25 minutes of court time.
Backup big man Andray Blatche was the only other Net to hoist up as many as 10 shots, making four of them, en route to 10 points as the Nets had six players finish in double figures in scoring.
The emphasis on working the ball into Lopez and freeing those around the perimeter for more comfortable looks resulted in the Nets' first 50 percent-plus shooting night (51.3) in four games this season.
"Brook was great tonight," Kidd gushed after receiving his first game ball in suit and tie rather than in uniform. "We played through him. It was all about getting the ball in the paint and going from there."
''I think in general we just did a good job attacking the basket and playing inside and then out," added Lopez, who also went 7-for-9 from the free-throw line as the Nets relentlessly attacked the basket following their humbling 107-86 loss at Orlando on Sunday, spoiling Kidd's coaching debut following his two-game suspension for last summer's DUI incident.
Kevin Garnett, who laced into his teammates following the dismal defeat to the Magic, was pleased to see the 7-foot Stanford center take charge Tuesday night.
"[Lopez is] a real chill person, but he has a fire. He has a quiet fire," Garnett noted.
The Nets are doubtlessly hoping Lopez's inner flame rages throughout the 82-game grind of an NBA season, something Kidd has emphasized since taking the reins of the franchise he guided to two NBA Finals as a player a decade ago.
"You can't forget about Lopez," Kidd insisted when asked about his plan to re-energize a Nets offense that stagnated at times throughout their inaugural campaign in our fair borough, most notably in the season-ending first-round playoff ouster at the hands of the shorthanded but more resourceful Chicago Bulls. "I want us to be able to explore (getting him the ball) early and often."
Joe Johnson scored 12 points, Deron Williams added 10 and eight assists and Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston each finished with 11 points as the rest of the Nets benefited greatly from Lopez's early dominance (11 first-quarter points).
"Once Brook has 20 points in a half, they have to change up something," said Williams, who logged only 24 minutes as he continues to build up strength in his previously injured ankle.
"And when they do, we have a lot of shooters outside ready to shoot. I think Brook's gotten a lot better at shooting out of the double team and will continue to get better. [Tuesday night's] a testament to that."
It was also a strong indicator that the Nets are ready to execute their new coach's game-plan and take Garnett's tough love to heart, albeit against a team that many expect to finish at or near the bottom of the Western Conference.
Though he humbly insisted that his first game ball belonged to his players for their fine play Tuesday night, Kidd had to be relieved that his team avoided remaining winless under his guidance heading into Friday night's game in Washington.
"To get it here in Brooklyn it was probably even better,'' Johnson said of Kidd's first coaching win.
Better still that he got it with his team carrying out his gameplan to perfection.
''I think as a team that's what we talked about [Monday]," Kidd revealed. "We were kind of a jump-shooting team [during the loss to the Magic]. [Monday's] practice was, the only way you could score was by getting the ball in the paint and the drills and the things that we did. The focus carried over to [Tuesday night].''
Nothing But Net: Garnett wasn't forthcoming with exactly what he told the team following the loss in Orlando, but he did share his thoughts on how he expects the Nets to respond going forward. “It was nothing that I’d like to share or repeat,” he said. “We’re trying to perform something here. It’s just consistency. You can’t just come out and play a passionate game against Miami and come out the way we did against Orlando. Consistency the difference between great teams and OK teams or teams that are good.” ... With the game safely put away, the Nets finally got some reserves their first playing time of the regular season Tuesday night. F Mirza Teletovic, who had been frustrated with his lack of action through the Nets' first three games, logged 12 minutes off the bench, managing just one point on 0-of-5 shooting. Rookie C Mason Plumlee also got off the pine against the Jazz, collecting five points and four rebounds in just over 17 minutes. ... Neither Williams nor F Andrei Kirilenko had recorded a win against their former Jazz teammates prior to Tuesday's victory, going a combined 0-8 during their respective stints with New Jersey/Brooklyn and Minnesota after leaving Utah. "It was good to finally beat them," admitted Williams. Kirilenko finished with six points and five rebounds in just under 17 minutes. ... Brooklyn, which is 2-0 at home so far, will be bidding for its first road win of the season in Washington, D.C., on Friday night. ... Former Net Richard Jefferson, a long-time teammate of Kidd's during his playing days in New Jersey, managed only two points on 1-of-7 shooting against Brooklyn on Tuesday.