Andray Blatche excited about playing alongside Brook Lopez more
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- His facial expression reveals it all when the subject is broached, his happy-go-lucky attitude apparent within his cheesy, devilish grin.
Andray Blatche seems as if he's nearly ready to burst out of his skin, extremely enthused about the possibility he'll get the opportunity to do something he's pined for the better part of his year-plus tenure: play alongside Brook Lopez more, giving the Nets a Twin Towers kind of look and feel at times.
Let's just say Blatche is thrilled that Nets coach Jason Kidd plans on utilizing the combination of Lopez and himself more, something Kidd's two previous predecessors weren't big fans of doing.
"This is the ---- we were talking about last year," Blatche said after Thursday's practice at the University of Miami. "We've got a good coach; we've got a coach that's willing to to take the chance and try it out. And so far, it's successful. This is something that me and Brook have been wanting to do since last season, and I'm really thankful that Kidd gave it a look and it's been working out for us."
That combo likely will get another up-close look in the Nets' preseason finale against the Heat Friday night -- a game in which Kidd has visions of giving Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Lopez some minutes -- and again next week when the teams meet for real. Kidd also suggested that when he holds Garnett out of the second end of back-to-backs, there's a good chance he'll insert Blatche into the starting lineup so he can team with Lopez from the opening tip.
Offensively, Lopez and Blatche can really stretch things when they're on the floor together, opening room for each other -- along with whoever else is on the court -- to operate. But there's also a downside, and it's a geyser they know they have to plug in order to be a successful tandem. No longer can they be defensive liabilities.
"Dray and Brook, two 7-footers, two talented guys who can play on the perimeter and also post up, so we kind of like that combination," Kidd said. "But it's not just the offensive end. We've got to make sure that we have the defensive end and those two can play together on the defensive end."
Because neither is known as an exceptionally strong defender, that makes it extremely important for them to buy into the Nets' schematic concept and not allow uncontested buckets, alley-oops, offensive rebounds or easy putbacks and tip-ins. They know that can't happen.
"It's about taking that step and being reliable to our other guys," Lopez said. "We want them to be able to count on us. We obviously have the size. We just want to be in the right places when it comes to our team's defensive philosophy."
Blatche is up for that challenge, agreeing that his wish for more time together with Lopez won't be a long-term thing if the two don't get it done on the defensive end.
"Yeah, definitely," Blatche said. "Me and him are not as vocal as KG [Garnett] or Reggie [Evans]. I feel like with me and him in the game together, we've got to really focus on talking more on defense. If me and him can get that together, then that will be a dangerous duo."
Deron Williams, who practiced in full for only the second time this preseason Thursday, is all for more episodes of "The Brook and Dray Show." But he also knows it's all about that one caveat.
"They can be good as long as it's good defensively," Williams said. "That's the worry, but Brook has definitely stepped up, even Dray. If you watched him in preseason, this team, I think we know as a whole, and we stress it so much that everybody has to fall in line. So Dray has been picking up his defense and Brook as well. So if those guys are working defensively, I mean we know what they can do offensively together.''
The Nets' deep, massive front line is expected to be one of their strengths this season, one of the things they hope gives them an edge when they play Miami, the two-time defending champs. How so?
Let Blatche explain it.
"Extra offensive rebounds," he said, "definitely a lot of shot-blocking, protecting the paint and finishing over midgets."
Lopez sees the value in the Nets' sizable front line in comparison to that of the Heat, which signed former No. 1 pick Greg Oden in the offseason hoping he'll eventually help them out on the inside.
"Obviously, we feel we can pressure them a lot inside. We have a big starting lineup and a lot of big guys coming off the bench, and we feel like we have an advantage there. So it's just a matter of attacking the paint early, getting into the paint and taking advantage of that, and getting a lot of second-chance shots as well and using that to our advantage on the defensive end especially."
Notes & quotes: Williams said he felt good after practice but wasn't sure if he'll play Friday. Kidd said Williams' status is up in the air and it depends somewhat on how his body responds in the morning. Williams hasn't played this preseason as the Nets ease him back into it after he sprained his ankle in September. Asked if he'll play, Williams said: "I don't know about that. I've still got to wake up [Friday] and see how it feels. I think we'll determine that, but I don't know.''