Tonight's Washington Wizards game should be a good one. With Bradley Beal back and better than ever and Nene expected to return soon, the team is finally more or less healthy and has the wind at their backs following a close win over the Knicks at the Garden. In order to preview tonight's game, I switched it up a bit and spoke with Nets Daily contributor and Baller Mind Frame founder and Editor in Chief Dennis Velasco. Our exchange is below, and check out my answers re: the Wizards over at Nets Daily.
1. After a shockingly bad start, Brooklyn has won four of their last five. What gives? Is this all D Will and Joe Johnson?
It's the Brooklyn Nets having some modicum of health of late, even though Brook Lopez has missed the past two games for the Brooklyn squad. Before (most) everyone started getting healthy just recently, the team's much ballyhooed starting five only played 78 minutes together TOTAL during the season. However, it's no coincidence that they have been winning with Deron Williams finally getting back on the court and Joe Johnson finding his groove.
From the beginning, at the core, it's been about D-Will and how he plays relative to how far the Nets can get. Yes, the additions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were important, but if the team succeeded it'd be because Williams stepped up. Big Ticket and Truth already proved themselves to be championship ready, but D-Will had/has to this season. Is he there yet? Nope. But the longer he proves himself to be healthy, Williams will get there.
Last season, Johnson didn't want to step on any toes, as he wanted to just blend in and do his thing on the court. While being one of the best clutch shooters last season, there was an undeniable decline in JJ's production, part of which probably had to do mentally.With the coaching turnover during the season, the constant microscope on the team's first season in Brooklyn, I believe that Johnson was just trying to figure out his role and get comfortable in his new environment, a much faster one than he's ever been a part of. This season, he knows what's going down and what he is to this team, which was made easier since Pierce and Garnett have underperformed thus far. Even with D-Will back, Johnson is an important piece and, best of all, he sincerely knows it now.
2. The defense is still one of the worst in the NBA in a per-possession basis despite having a bunch of solid to good defensive players. Who's to blame?
If you ask Jason Kidd, he'd say Lawrence Frank, who was basically in charge of the defense until they had that little tussle that led to Frank's demotion/re-assignment/eventual buy-out. However, on a serious note, after the day of demotion game versus the Denver Nuggets (111 points) and the still initial shock game two days later versus the New York Knicks (113 points), the Nets defense has only given up an average of 95.2 points in their five games since, which included younger and/or running teams in the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers. So... there's that.
3. Jason Kidd has been criticized left and right this year. Is his job secure and is there anyone who you realistically could see coming in to replace him?
Jason Kidd will NOT be fired this season. BOOK IT! The reason why is that the Russians love Kidd and have a lot of faith in him. Also, everyone in the organization understands that Kidd hasn't been working with a full deck of players because of injury. From reports, it's been alleged that Frank was being too forthright in thinking that he was in fact the head coach and that Kidd was just a student. The foot had to be put down and Kidd's voice is not the only one that the players and staff hears. It's visibly made a difference and Kidd will have at least a season to try to do as a coach what he did as a player - make a difference.
4. Alan Anderson seems to play a ton of minutes, is he doing anything particular that's led to this? Or are his minutes more a result of injuries to Terry and Pierce?
Anderson is the Nets' 3D guy and he was that before the season. As you mentioned, the Jason Terry and Pierce injuries definitely led to Anderson getting more burn that many thought he would, but in that time, he's shown and prove that he deserves a rotation spot. He's been arguably an overall better player that both Jet and Pierce, especially when you look at the latter's shooting woes. When Terry comes back and Pierce continues to come off the bench, Anderson will likely continue to start and keep solid minutes. Maybe not 26 per, but something like 20+per is realistic, particularly in the regular season to rest the old-timers.
5. Please tell us everything you know about the mascot beatdowns.
When I first read this, I saw it as ASCOT beatdowns, which to me seem justified. If you wear an ascot, you're just asking for it. However, I eventually saw the "m" and I personally think that Hooper is a troublemaker. That horse is straight-up wanting to get beat. After the Nets jumped Hooper on Friday for being... umm, Hooper... Robin Lopez beat him down two nights later because Hooper was mocking Lopez by wearing an afro wig. So, there's not much to explain other than a bipedal horse that likes to wear jerseys being a jerk.