Brian ErniThe Nets were a little too substitution happy in their first three games, and now, they’ll lean more heavily on their starters in the game’s early going.
Coming into their win against the Jazz, the Nets had eight players that were averaging 20 minutes a game: by far the most in the league. They even had a ninth that was just short of the 20 minute mark: Alan Anderson. But in their win against the Jazz, the Nets did not give any minutes to Anderson in the first half. In fact, he played just 12, compared to 23, 25, and 19 minutes in the team’s first three contests.
So is Anderson’s decrease in minutes a microcosm of a larger trend at work? I believe it is.
By this point, you’re probably tired of hearing about the Nets’ depth, but it’s an important dynamic in the make up of this team. Depth can be both a blessing and curse, especially on a squad that has so many viable options. Earlier this week, Reed Wallach at NetsDaily asked if the Nets were too deep for their own good, and it’s a fair question. Are there just too many combinations to tempt Jason Kidd?
In fairness, Kidd has a tough job. He’s tasked with finding a right balance of playing hard to best position this team for the postseason, but still making sure his veteran group has enough to juice to last through late May and early June. Against some of the weaker teams they play, and I think we saw this against Cleveland and Orlando, it’s going to be tempting to run out the second unit to try and steal a victory without having to lean on his starters.
But in order to ensure this club finds an early rhythm, Kidd is going to shave minutes off some players like Anderson to distribute to the top group in the name of chemistry. Do Blatche, Kirilenko, and Livingston still give the Nets a solid chance to win against most teams in the league? Yes, but there is no replacement for game minutes for a team trying to find its legs together. The Nets seemed to have realized this against Utah, and, of the starters, only Kevin Garnett (14) played less than 23 minutes. The results? Anywhere from a +21 to a +26 for Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Brook Lopez.
With the Nets headed into their first back-to-back situation of the season this week, Kidd will have to adjust on the fly and try to make all the pieces fit together. It will be interesting to see what materializes.