Jim MancariKevin Garnett isn’t sure how the Nets can fix their current woes, but one way the team can begin their road back is for Garnett to find his rhythm at both ends of the floor.
So far as a Net, the 37-year-old Garnett has looked his age and then some. But let’s be honest: He wasn’t brought in here to be the offensive force that he was in Minnesota or even Boston. Garnett was acquired to be this team’s vocal and defensive leader. He hasn’t shied away from holding up his end on the vocal side, but his defense is leaving much to be desired. And a regression on that side of the floor could spell doom for a team with the loftiest aspirations.
Garnett said this team is done with all the talking, but that starts with him. He’s been so inconsistent that it seems like every game, opposing teams are exploiting the Nets in the paint. It got so bad against the Bobcats that YES Network broadcaster Ian Eagle referred to the team as having a “Swiss cheese defense.” That’s not a comparison that any defense would like to have, but that’s just the way it’s going for Brooklyn.
At the heart of that is Garnett, who is has a Player Efficiency Rating of 0.1 in the second half of games this year (compared to 18.4 in first halves). Brook Lopez’s injury has left the team short-staffed defensively, but that’s where Garnett has needed to step his defensive game up. There have been instances this season where he has shown flashes of being a defensive force, but he just hasn’t able to put forth this type of effort each night. And because his defense has struggled, it’s placed more of an emphasis on his declining offense game.
Conventional wisdom said that at least one of the Nets’ big five would have a statistical decline, simply based on touches. No one would have minded if Garnett’s offensive stats declined if he was playing top-notch defense. Just look at the Nets’ home loss to the Trail Blazers. Garnett burst out of the gate hitting his first six shots, but he then wound up making just two of his next 13 attempts. That’s an obvious case of fatigue. Maybe Jason Kidd needs to think about resting Garnett even more than he has.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. We’ve seen some great things so far from rookie Mason Plumlee. Reggie Evans has no offensive game to speak of, but at least he can provide a spark of energy. Maybe once Lopez comes back healthy, Kidd will go to more Lopez-Andray Blatche frontcourt sets. But Garnett needs to see the floor to work through his problems. Hall-of-Fame players simply don’t forget the attributes that made them dominant players in the first place.
Maybe he’s still adjusting to his new surroundings, but whatever is going on with KG, he’ll need to figure it out soon, or else “The Big Ticket” certainly won’t be filling the seats.