Walking around Brooklyn or past the Barclays Center, it’s pretty obvious who the Brooklyn Nets’ franchise players are in name.
They would be Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. They are supposed to be the cornerstone of the Nets as highly compensated former All-Stars who are the second- and third-highest-paid players, respectively.
Both remain prominent figures on the montage above the main entrance outside the arena along with Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson.
The difference these days is Lopez and Williams now come off the bench for the Nets.
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Both learned one sports cliché is not true – you can lose your starting job to injury. Jarrett Jack starts in Williams’ place and Mason Plumlee starts at center. Both have played well, relegating their more notable teammates to reserve roles.
“Yes, they were starters; they’ve been out,” said Nets coach Lionel Hollins. “And if you note, while they were out, we started playing better and winning – so why would I go back and change the lineup for now?”
The Nets have won three in a row after Friday’s win over Orlando and six of their last 10 to reach .500 at 16-16.
In five games as a reserve, Lopez is averaging 8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 13.2 minutes. In 17 starts, Lopez averaged 16.8 points and 6.1 rebounds in 30.2 minutes.
Lopez said his approach to the game remains consistent.
“It’s not that different,” he said. “I just try to come in and be the same player that I always am.”
Lopez did start Tuesday against Chicago when Garnett sat out the second of back-to-back games. Lopez had 29 points in 33 minutes in a win over the Bulls but was back on the bench Friday.
Williams is averaging 8.6 points and 4.6 assists in 21.4 minutes in five games as a reserve. He’s coming off his best game off the bench with 16 points and seven assists Friday at Orlando. Williams was at 15.6 points and 6.8 assists in 34.5 minutes as a starter.
Hollins has no incentive to change what’s working.
The Nets still have the NBA’s highest payroll at over $91 million but had been playing like a team that would be in the NBA draft lottery.
So there’s no time to worry about hurt feelings. As long as Jack and Plumlee are rolling, there’s nothing to disrupt.
“Both of those guys are accepting their roles and helping us win and that’s what this business is all about,” Hollins said.
So it was Josh Smith holding the Detroit Pistons back?
That’s how some might look at it. Since cutting Smith, the Pistons have won four in a row, including a 23-point blowout at Cleveland.
Detroit is 9-23, so there’s still no reason to act as if the winning streak has shifted the power in the Eastern Conference to the Pistons. But Detroit has too much talent to be so close to Philadelphia in the standings.
This past week is a start in the right direction for a franchise that has been trying to get on track for some time.
How bad are things for the New York Knicks? There are too many things that have gone wrong to count. Just know that the 10-game losing streak they entered the weekend with is their second double-digit losing streak of the season.
Carmelo Anthony is dogged by a sore knee that could cause him to eventually sit out the rest of the season, joining a long list of Knicks who have been sidelined.
It’s all about next season for the Knicks.
“I haven’t played defense in a couple years. I’ve been able to hide a lot with Avery Bradley on the ball. He’s helped out, the young guy. But (in Dallas) they expect me to play defense and, in the West, if you don’t play defense, you’ll get embarrassed every night at the point guard position.” – Dallas guard Rajon Rondo, admitting he hadn’t lived up to his reputation as an elite defender lately before Boston traded him to the Mavericks. Rondo scored a season-high 29 points, including a career-high five three-pointers, in his return to Boston on Friday to lead the Mavericks to a victory.