Lionel Hollins has shaken up the Nets' rotations in December, and it seems to be working pretty well. Can you talk about why you think the team is playing better now? Or do you think it's still too early to say whether this is an actual improvement or just a streak of good luck? The East seems more open than most thought at the beginning of the season, so where do you see this team ending up in the Eastern Conference standings?
Things really changed once Lionel Hollins inserted Mason Plumlee into the starting lineup. With Lopez injured, the Nets had a different identity to them. Oftentimes with Lopez, the paint would get clogged and most of Brooklyn's shots were contested. With Plumlee, the middle of the paint has opened, which has enabled the perimeter guys to spread the floor and find open shots.
The numbers have spoken. Since turning the corner on December 21, they've averaged 25.2 assists per game, compared to their 20.8 average on the season (18th in NBA). With all of this said, I do believe there's an improvement with this team. They have a lot of work to do, but the East is wide open and I think we've yet to see the best out of this Nets team. Sixth seed sounds fair for this group, if they continue to buy into Coach Hollins' game-plan. Stars on the bench or not.
A lot of recent commentary has focused on Deron Williams and his new role coming off the bench, but you guys have gotten help from some lesser known players, too. Can you tell us a little bit about Sergey Keresev? He's been playing really well but is probably unfamiliar to a lot of our readers.
Sergey Karasev is a rare breed, a Manu Ginobili-esque shooting guard. Like Plumlee, the lefty was inserted into the starting lineup and it appears he'll be there for a while. At 21 years old, Karasev is a dependable shooter from beyond the arc and thus far, an impressive passer as well. On a negative note, his defense and ball handling need work.
Speaking of Williams, though, what do you make of assertions that Hollins (and Jarrett Jack) should be concerned about Williams' feelings about coming off the bench? Do you get the sense that he's frustrated or has he embraced his role leading the second unit, especially since he's still seeing decent minutes?
I'll say the same thing Lionel Hollins would say: It's about the team, not an individual. Of course there's the sense that Deron Williams is fed up with coming off the bench, but it's unjustified for him to be [mad] at Hollins since the team is 6-2 when Jack starts. Perhaps, Hollins is trying to get the most out of his [former] point guard. That's what everybody's waiting for, but for now, Williams is accepting his role and taking advantage of the weaker second units he's matched up against.
It's always fun to see guys like Kevin Garnett and Dirk still on the floor together (still starting, even), and Garnett will also get a chance to play his old teammate Rajon Rondo tonight. Are there any match-ups in particular you're looking forward to seeing tonight?
How about the matchup between billionaire owners, Mark Cuban and Mikhail Prokhorov? Eh, we'll hold that off. I'm always interested to see how Deron Williams plays against Dallas, the team he wanted to sign with before Brooklyn signed Joe Johnson. Now with Rondo as his adversary, it makes the matchup a lot more interesting.