Should Mason Plumlee start at power forward?

Brian Erni

Mason Plumlee was one of the Nets’ most pleasant surprises last season, but year two of the Dukie’s career could be just as challenging as his rookie campaign.

With Brook Lopez returning to the fold and Kevin Garnett back for, what should be, his final season in the NBA as a player, the Nets are pretty set at center. And the way Plumlee has emerged, both in his first season and in his run toward making the final cut on Team USA, there is simply no reason Plumlee should be shackled to the bench. That leaves power forward as the primary placement for Plumlee, where the Nets have a hole because of Paul Pierce’s departure. But can he make that transition to that role as a full time player? And should he? He, for one, thinks he can.

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“I’m definitely comfortable at power forward,” Plumlee told Stefan Bondy of the Daily News earlier this week. “I’m a very good passer; I can see the floor, and I can put the ball on the floor. I don’t know what they’re looking to do, if they’re trying to stay small, but what made that work last year was Paul, so I can’t imagine we do that again. I think we would play two bigs and how coach Hollins has played traditionally has been that way.”

Plumlee is right: Hollins did play a big lineup in Memphis, and he could do it again here in Brooklyn. The way the lineup is constructed, it’s probably their best chance to win. Having a versatile player is important. We saw that last season, when Jason Kidd essentially changed everyone’s roles out of both necessity and strategy, and the Nets responded by making their run to the playoffs. Why not give Plumlee a chance to prove his versatility, all while playing to their coach’s strength? Yes, Plumlee should be given a shot at the starting four.

Let’s face it: of all the concerns fans had about Plumlee coming out of college, his athletic ability to be an impact offensive player was certainly not one of them. When he checks off all he does on the offensive side of the floor, he’s being honest, but more importantly, accurate. I’d be surprised if Plumlee found the offensive demands of the position to be overwhelming, and his size should compensate for whatever defensive shortcomings may exist in the short term. We’ve also seen that Plumlee is a fast learner and is extremely teachable, so capitalize on that. Because, in my opinion, an offense with Plumlee and Lopez on the floor at the same time can be lethal. And Mason agrees.

“I think [I can play next to Lopez],” Plumlee told Bondy. “He demands so much attention, you kind let him be the focal point scoring wise and then you kind of complement him. So it can be a good two-man tandem.”

Plumlee has had a summer of success, potentially storming onto the American national roster out of nowhere. The next step in his development to see how he can apply the success he’s starting to generate. So, Coach Hollins, let Plumlee soar. He hasn’t disappointed us yet.

jason collins returns

Collins holding off on decision to return

Jason Collins will “evaluate things at the end of the summer” and then decide if he will return to the Nets (Washington Blade, Aug. 19).

Collins, who in February became  the first openly gay athlete to play in a  major American professional sports league, told the Blade he is going to “enjoy my summer right now. I still work out, I still train.”  In an interview last week, Collins, 35,  hinted he was leaning toward retirement (San Jose Mercury-News, Aug. 14).

Collins averaged 7.8 minutes, 1.1 points, and 0.9 rebounds in 22 regular season games for the Nets after joining them in February. He did not make a playoff appearance.

Collins told the Blade “life is exponentially better” since coming out in 2013. He has become a leader in the LGBT community and is a sought-after motivational speaker. President Barack Obama, who praised Collins in his State of the Union speech this year, appointed Collins to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in April.

Brian Erni

I wouldn’t be against bringing in Collins for another stretch with the Nets, especially in a situation comparable to last year. Even if Collins wanted to take the first few months of the season off, I think he’s valuable enough to bring in down the stretch for his defense and his leadership skills. In his 22 games last season, Collins actually make a contribution in the positive column on defensive win shares, which is a microcosm of just how good he still is at doing the little things, even at this advanced stage in his career. I know the Nets are trying to get more athletic, and there’s going to be a roster crunch at the bottom, but Collins still has some value, especially for a team that needs a tutor down the stretch.

Brooklynettes take ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in China

via Brooklyn Nets on Instagram

To see more Nets personnel — such as Billy King and Brett Yormark — take the challenge, click here.

In Brooklyn, all roads still go through Deron Williams

Brian Erni

He’s been shrouded in a haze of mediocrity seemingly since the day he arrived. The conquering hero import, born in Parkersburg, West Virginia and raised Texas, who came to the swamp via Illinois and Salt Lake City, Deron Williams was the Nets answer. He swept away some of the Carmelo Anthony-to-the-Knicks headlines, and became the first piece in building a legitimate contender for the move to the borough. And despite the failure to live up to his reputation, Williams is still the most integral player for the Brooklyn Nets franchise, make no mistake about it.

There may have been some confusion these last few years. After all, Williams hasn’t been the D-Will the Nets thought they were acquiring in the spring of 2011. He hasn’t shot better than 45 percent from the field in three and a half seasons with the Nets. He did that five times during his tenure in Utah. And despite a near-career-high 21 points per game in 2011-12, Williams hasn’t been the prolific scoring threat consistently enough to justify the haul the Nets surrendered for him, nor the five-year, $98.7 million contract the team inked him to that kept him in the fold.dwill blue

Still, the embattled point guard is the Godfather of Brooklyn. Why? One, performance. There is no doubt that when Williams is healthy, he can be the same player the Nets coveted all those years ago. As Deron goes, so go the Nets, and that was never more evident in this year’s playoffs. In the Nets’ five playoff wins, D-Will shit 42 percent from the field (29-for-69). In their losses? Thirty seven percent (31-for-83), which included an 0-for-9 in Game 2 against Miami. Williams is still a difference maker, and — when he’s on — he can still make a good team a very good one.

Even more so, though, Williams is the dominant personality in the room. Need proof? The first person Lionel Hollins reached out to upon being hired? Deron Williams. (NetsDaily, Aug 18). Could that be because of D-Will’s reputation as a coach killer? Maybe, but it still speaks volumes. To run the show here, you have to make sure Williams is on board with your strategy, bum ankles or not.

“As soon as the season was over, [Deron] took advantage of things,” Bill King said on Sirius XM radio on Monday. “He met with doctors, they made the recommendation. He took care of it and mentally and physically, he’s hit it, and I think he’s ready to go. He’s out to prove that he is still one of the elite point guards in the league. And I think that’s going to benefit us as well.”

I’d imagine King’s comments mimic a good number Nets fans’ thoughts on Williams, because this is still his team. If he can prove that his best days aren’t behind him, Brooklyn may make a bigger impact than anyone expects in 2014-15.

GEICO SportsNite: Team USA at West Point

GEICO SportsNite reports from the USA men’s basketball team’s stop at West Point to practice in preparation for two FIBA exhibition games.

mirza yell

Mirza: Bojan and I will make a great team

Mirza Teletovic thinks he can form a formidable combination with the Nets latest European important, Bojan Bogdanovic.

Teletovic recently spoke with Sportske Novosti, a Croatian sports site, and told the outlet that he thinks the two will form a strong bond both on and off the court (h/t to NetsDaily for the translation):

“We share same mentality. It is much better when there is somebody else with who you can make jokes, celebrate, share problems [...] We played so many games against each other and finally we will now play together. I am excited for that [...] The adjustment process will be hard for him. He must be patient and must be strong willed. But I am here. When I came in NBA, I had nobody and he will have me to help him.”

“Because [we] know each other, we can be exploit that in games, we can be good tandem in the NBA,” Bogdanovic concluded.

Brian Erni

Teletovic brings up a great point. Mirza really can be instrumental in Bogdanovic’s NBA development. By showing Bojan the ropes — and that includes anything from a scouting report on an opponent to merely acting as a sounding board through some frustrations — Teletovic can make that transition to the American game that much easier for Bojan. Obviously, these two are familiar with one another, and that familiarity is only going to help as the grind of the NBA season wears on. It’s exciting to think about what these two can do, if given the opportunity. We’ll see soon enough if Mirza is as good as prognostication as he is with draining threes.

LeBron could derail the Nets down the stretch

Brian Erni

The NBA released the 2014-15 schedule on Wednesday night, so I did what I always do when that happens: I try to scope out who the Nets will open against, investigate when the crazy road trip that threatens to derail the season is going to be placed, and identify some big games down the stretch that could loom large if the Nets are jockeying for playoff positioning.

News broke on Tuesday that the Nets were likely to open at Boston, and that much held up upon the schedule’s final announcement. They’ll then travel to Detroit to take on a Pistons team that gave them fits last year, before opening up their Barclays Center slate with a showdown against Kevin Durant and the Thunder. As I said earlier this week, a quick start would be nice for Lionel Hollins and company, and that’s not a cream puff stretch to begin their 2014-15 campaign. Their first homestand, which is a four game stretch, also includes their first meeting of the season with the Knicks (November 7).  There should be plenty of juice in the building to open up the year.

Then there’s the circus trip. February 7 kicks off a string of eight-straight road dates (All-Star weekend will be located in the middle, so the monotony will be broken up a bit, but not much) that takes Brooklyn to D.C., Milwaukee, Memphis, Los Angeles (Lakers), Denver, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas before they come home on March 2. That’s right. Unless there are some Nets participating in the Future Stars game or the Skills Competition on All-Star weekend, they won’t see Barclays Center for nearly a month. And the kicker? The kick off of that trip in Washington will be the latter half of a back-to-back. The front end? At home against the Knicks.

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I’m a Nets fan. I expect things to do wrong. It’s part of my nature. And with everyone circling their favorite team’s dates against the new-look Cavs that have LeBron James in tow and Kevin Love on the way, I frantically searched. December 8? Okay, that’s a nice, early test for Brooklyn. Then again on December 19? Great, two chances before Christmas to see where the Nets stack up against the new beasts of the East.

Then it hit me.

If the Nets can withstand their insane February road trip, and they roll into March positioned for the playoffs or — at the very least — on the outside looking in, but within striking distance, the King awaits. A look at March reveals that the Nets have the Cavs twice in nine days (March 18, 27). In between, they’ll take on Jason Kidd’s Bucks, the Pacers in Indiana, host the Celtics, and go to Charlotte for a match up with the Hornets. That stretch isn’t as bad as it could have been pre-Paul George injury, but still. Two games so close to the end of the season against LeBron, Love, and company are going to be daunting, especially when you consider what they’ll have to endure just to get there.

I have faith for this season, I really do. But there’s no doubt that if the Nets are going to prove their skeptics wrong, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Nets open 2014-15 season at Boston, Detroit

The Nets will begin their first season under coach Lionel Hollins Oct. 29 at Boston. Theywill travel to Detroit for Game 2 on Nov. 1 before returning to Brooklyn to host Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the home opener Nov. 3.

The Nets will have a much lower national profile this season, with only 10 nationally televised games compared with 26 last season. They’re not playing on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day or Martin Luther King Jr. Day for the first time in three years.

Other games of note: the Nets host former coach Jason Kidd and Milwaukee Nov. 19; they’ll play the Wizards and Paul Pierce in a home-and-home on consecutive days starting Jan. 16 in Washington; the four games against the Knicks are Nov. 7 and Feb. 6 in Brooklyn and Dec. 2 and April 1 at Madison Square Garden.

The full 2014-15 schedule, released Wednesday, can be found here.

The pundits are down on the Nets. Are they right or wrong?

Brian Erni

Ask around about the Nets’ chances next year, and you’re not likely to be encouraged. On Monday, the prevailing belief was evident that Brooklyn is not a serious contender for the the Atlantic division or the Eastern Conference crown. But is that opinion right? Are the Nets destined to flounder in year three in Brooklyn? Or is it just one big overreaction?

On it’s own, an ESPN forecast in the middle of August is hardly something to quibble over. After all, prior to last season, every single ESPN basketball analyst picked the Nets to win the Atlantic. They did not. So the projection of an eighth place Eastern Conference finish, and a distant second to the reigning Atlantic champion Toronto Raptors, should not be too disconcerting. But then, the news the Nets would likely not be participating in a Christmas Day game this season. ESPN being down on Brooklyn is one thing. The network is big on stars, and the Nets lost one in Paul Pierce. But now the league, who had seemingly chosen to omit one of their franchises in the world’s biggest market from their national showcase, had made their tempered expectations known, too. Reason enough to panic? Maybe.

brook high res

As NetsDaily mentioned on Twitter on Tuesday, there is an air of foreboding in these subtle signs: no one thinks Brook Lopez will ever be the same. That’s really what is at the heart of these underwhelming predictions, because if you look up and down the Nets roster, it’s not a sub-.500 team. At least, not on paper. But if Lopez cannot bounce back from his foot surgery, you’d probably the the four-to-five game drop off from last year’s roller coaster ride.

So are the pundits right? Will the Nets be as bad as ESPN and the league expects them to be? It’s hard to say, mostly because their key acquisitions — Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev, and Jarret Jack — are largely surrounded by question marks. Will Karasev continue to develop? How quickly will Bogdanovic acclimate? Can Jack bound back from a brutal year in Cleveland? Obviously, these are questions only time can answer.

But forecasts are funny like that. It’s very rare they go out on a limb and assume the ambiguity will turn out for the best. So between the three aforementioned debates, plus Lopez and Deron Williams’ health, maybe things all break right. As a Nets fan, I’m more encouraged this year, because there seems to be a plan for continued success, and not just one Hail Mary opportunity. It’s only a few weeks before we start getting our answers.

Report: Nets’ first two games at Boston, Washington

The Nets will reportedly open the 2014-15 NBA season vs. the Celtics in Boston on Oct. 29.  Then, after a second road game, reportedly at Washington, the Nets will return to Brooklyn to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov.3 (NetsDaily, Aug. 12).

The league schedule will be unveiled Wednesday at 6 p.m. on a NBA TV special, though some match ups have already been reported. The Daily News reported the Knicks will open vs. Chicago, and NetsDaily also reported Brooklyn will not be playing on either Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, as it has the past two years.

A home opener vs. Oklahoma City might create a little extra buzz in Brooklyn given the Thunder’s Kevin Durant is the biggest client of Jay Z’s RocNation.

Brian Erni

The game in Boston should be a favorable match up out of the gate, but that’s what we thought last year when the Nets opened up against the Cavs. The truth of the matter is that on Opening Night everyone is juiced up. So some games that look like a roll over can be quite the test. Then Brooklyn gets to see Paul Pierce and the much-improved Wizards in a building they struggled mightily in last season, and are treated to a brutal home opener against the Thunder.

A quick start would be nice for Lionel Hollins, especially because — as we saw — early season struggles can be tough to navigate for a coach in a new surrounding. I’ll  be interested to see how the rest of the schedule breaks down.