Thursday, February 21, 2008

Game 54 - Or is it Studio 54...?

Have you even been in a rough situation for a long time, then been given the opportunity to get away from it and observe it from afar, feel the relief and indulge in the feeling that it's a whole new ballgame for you?

Altho the result of the trade was... well, I have no idea if it was positive, negative or lateral, really. So I guess I should say, altho the trade was not a debacle on its face, Thorn's timing of Round One of the trade really sucked. And thus so did the Nets, losing to the middling Raptors in a blowout again. A dispiriting blowout.

Now 1/3 of the roster before the All Star Break is gone (Kidd, Malik Allen, Antoine "Wrong" and Twin) and there are 4 new guys - Harris, Diop, Hassell, Ager. And Van Horn. Of course. How could I forget Keith Van Horn?

Kidd's departure leaves some really big questions:
- If Kidd was the leader of this team (and the Charlotte and Dallas games proved that), now that he's gone, who is gonna step up, if anyone, to be the new leader(s)?
- If Kidd was the mentor of Sean Williams, Boone, Marcus Williams, Bokie, Curly and RJ, now that he's gone, who's gonna mentor these young phenoms?
- What the hell kinda team do we have now?
- Can Lawrence Frank actually coach?

My well documented theory is that Frank cost the Nets about 10 wins. With Jason Kidd gone we will now have the opportunity to see how he handles that. We will have the opportunity to see if he can tutor his young club. If he can identify and inspire new leadership to step up. If he can be a bit less formulaic with his substitution patterns and timeouts.

Tonite, to quote the great Frank's lexicon of trite aphorisms, was "just one game". The team was well rested. They were at home (altho that hasn't seemed to matter this year...). They had something to prove. They were playing the lowly Bulls.

Nonetheless, the Nets won, albeit in OT, but what was most amazing was that all those questions were answered favorably.

Marcus Williams played quite well, even with young player mistakes. RJ and Vince BOTH stepped up as leaders. The energy level was quite high.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Frank's substitution patterns made sense, and seemed to be game-at-hand centered, not formulaic at all. And, if you can believe it, the Nets played in the final minute in a very close game without a single timeout. They had all been used, and at times when I myself (and any half decent coach) would have called them!

Frank never let his team suffer those ridiculous runs or offensive dry spells because he used his timeouts wisely to stop them. And lo and behold, he didn't have to use any in the final minute in yet another futile foul and fling debacle. It worked out okay, and it looked like he actually BELIEVED it was a good thing.

Yeah, the game had to go into OT and yeah the Bulls were in position to win on the last possession of regulation. But his team didn't need to be spoon fed in a timeout - they're professionals, they know they have to play good D on that last possession and come up with a stop. And so they did.

Because RJ and VC exuded leadership and confidence, that's why.

Marcus Williams showed what he had only flashes of last year and didn't exhibit at all this year - heart, stamina, intelligence and a pretty good shot. He looked like a guy who could lead an NBA team at the point. I can't imagine Harris playing better. Makes ya wonder why that trade went down the way it did...

Boy - good coaching, great leadership, young talent, clutch play in the crunch. When have we seen THAT all year? Makes you hopeful about the rest of the season. Makes you hopeful for the future...

But, in reality, we'll just have to see. Was this just a "I'll show you I can do just fine without you" game? Will they return back to listless, sloppy, uninspired play? Will it be 2:00 left in the first and here's Frank yanking Harris/Williams irrespective of the game situation, just because that's what the computer says?

I never thought I'd ever agree with something Lawrence Frank said in a postgame, but... It was just one game. Flashes of brilliance, rays of hope, talent resplendant.

We'll see.

After all, it was just one game...

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