Throughout training camp, several Brooklyn Nets players spoke of erasing the team’s previous reputation as being “soft.” But the Nets’ performance in their season opening on Wednesday night could best be described as “soft.”
In front of an audience of 18,000 at home, the New Orleans Pelicans dominated the Nets 130–108. Brooklyn was outrebounded 61-39 and outscored 36-4 on points from second chances. After the game, Kevin Durant blamed his team’s lack of effort on the boards for the lopsided defeat.
It was just one of those games where you completely botched the little details, Durant said. “36-4 points on second chances. Never going to win that way.
He continued, “On defence, we have to box out, put a body on them, and not let them get in our paint.” We must keep the ball out of the paint because if you allow a team to enter your paint and leave your players on the perimeter, they will rush for the glass. We simply need to prevent teams from entering the paint because if they’re shooting over us, their team will have to switch to defensive mode rather than crashing.
It’s important to note that the Nets have one of the worst matchups in the league against the Pelicans. Brooklyn was outmatched physically by New Orleans’ powerful frontcourt of Zion Williamson (6’6″, 284 pounds) and Jonas Valanciunas (6’11”, 265 pounds). Williamson played in his first regular-season game since May 2021, but he showed no signs of rust, finishing with 25 points and 9 rebounds. A game-high 13 boards were secured by Valanciunas, six of which were offensive.
Tonight, they defeated us in every way, Nets head coach Steve Nash stated following the game. My advice to the guys was to just up the ante on the competition. With 21 offensive rebounds allowed, we also committed turnovers. We frequently allowed them access to our paint. Things that we had been working on and planning for just didn’t get done.
Going into the season, Brooklyn’s lack of size and depth at centre was a worry. The starter, Nic Claxton, played well in spurts on Wednesday, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The fourth-year giant, who weighs only 227 pounds, may struggle against stronger opponents. The Nets’ backup big men are second-year big Day’Ron Sharpe and small-ball option Markieff Morrisa after they lost Andre Drummond to free agency.
In 23 minutes on Wednesday, Sharpe was outmatched. At this early stage of his career, it is impossible to see the 20-year-old as a championship rotation player. Morris only had three minutes of action in the first game. The 34-year-old provides a floor-spacing option but, at 6’8″, will find it difficult to rebound against conventional centres. Even worse, in his eagerly anticipated Nets debut, Ben Simmons came across as tentative and had little to no impact on either end.
General manager Sean Marks will probably have to use the trade market this season due to the lack of depth at centre. Nash claimed that the Nets are conscious of their frontcourt’s lack of size, which necessitates gang rebounding and outhustling opponents.
There is still an awareness that this is one of our weaknesses even though we will never be the biggest team or have the most rebounds in the league, he said. We have discussed it daily. We must return and double-team the glass while flooding it. That’s a part of simply being competitive, knowing where our flaws are and attempting to address them right away.
Brooklyn doesn’t want a lack of hustle and physicality to be their M.O., Kyrie Irving remarked following a sluggish preseason loss to Miami two weeks ago. these days.