The Nets had a method to their madness in the timing of Avery Johnson’s dismissal. Start interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo’s tenure against two of the league’s worst teams.
Friday night at the Barclays Center, the Nets enjoyed a homecoming game. They beat up on the mediocre Charlotte Bobcats, cruising to a 97-81 victory. The Nets starters had the luxury of watching the closing minutes as the Bobcats endured their 17th straight loss. They bounce back with another home game Saturday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will play without noted Nets pest Anderson Varejao.
Carlesimo became the third consecutive Nets coach to win his debut. Here’s the recipe for success:
Kiki Vandeweghe: won his first game as coach, 97-91, against the same Bobcats on Dec. 4, 2009, at the Izod Center. He took over for Lawrence Frank and snapped the Nets’ 0-18 start. Brook Lopez scored a game-high 31 points.
Avery Johnson: won the season opener against the Detroit Pistons, 101-98, on Oct. 27, 2010, at the Prudential Center. Once again, Lopez posted a game-high 25 points.
The Nets followed the mold in every possible way. They pounded the ball to Brook Lopez, who led the Nets with 26 points, 11 rebounds,three blocked shots, and two assists.
Note to Carlesimo’s successor: Go to the big man.
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen Brook pass in two years,” Carlesimo said. “I don’t know how many assists he had, but he moved the ball from the middle and changed sides. His whole game was excellent.”
Unfortunately for Johnson, it took a firing for the Nets to return to what made them successful during their 11-4 November. They made the extra pass, the ball moved, they drove to the rim, and they suffocated on defense. The opponent certainly helped, but the style was unmistakable.
“I thought we just played with more energy honestly. We really trusted each other defensively, we had each other’s back. Offensively, the ball was really popping, it was moving,” Lopez said. “It is just realization on my part. I have been very passive a few games in the past, shooting a few too many hooks and floaters, it really just get into the guys and attack the rim.”
The Nets were rock solid across the board. Deron Williams scored 17 points in the first half, more than in any of his previous four games. Lopez notched his sixth double-double of the season and has scored 20-plus points 10 times.
Gerald Wallace, who bashed the Nets following their loss in Milwaukee, can best illustrate the selflessness of the Nets’ offense. In 24 minutes, Wallace scored zero points but led the team with six assists and grabbed five rebounds. No complaints from a player signed to a 4-year, $40 million deal in the offseason, despite being held scoreless. The wins really do matter.
“I think guys understood what we’ve got to do and understood what happened,” Wallace said “I think Coach Avery getting fired kind of hit guys in the face as to the situation we’re in right now. Our backs are against the wall … we played great team defense, we moved the ball really well, and we did it for 48 minutes…We’ve just got to carry it over. This happens all the time, where we have one good game. We’ve got to continue to put games together now.”
That is the true test for Brooklyn, stringing together wins.
Starting with the Bobcats and Cavaliers, a combined record of 14-46, makes for a good start.