Jason Kidd ushers in open era for Nets' offense
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The message of their coach apparently has been accepted as their new norm.
One of the things Jason Kidd promised he'd implement was more ball movement in the Nets' offense, and that has become a staple in their short time together.
An unselfish mentality led to a bevy of open looks during the preseason, and that again was the case in Friday's 108-97 win over the Heat that put a bow on their four-week tuneup for a highly anticipated season. The Nets are whipping the ball around and are getting a slew of open looks at the basket, leaving them downright giddy.
"When J took the job, that's something we talked about," Deron Williams said. "That's how they won in Dallas [in 2011]. They weren't a selfish team. They moved the ball, they shared the ball. Of course, Dirk [Nowitzki] is going to get his touches. He's got to go one-on-one a couple of times because he's a matchup problem, and at times we're going to go one on one. You saw Joe [Johnson] today, he was feeling it. Paul [Pierce] is going to be feeling it, I'm going to be feeling it.
"So there's times when we are going to be able to exploit people, but as a whole, we're going to move the ball, and I think that's how everybody wants to play on this team. They see it's fun to play that way. It's fun to get your teammate a better shot. We'll continue to do that."
Particularly when everyone stands to benefit, and Johnson might be at the top of that list. Those constant double-teams he faced last season will disappear and his scoring burden will be less, allowing him to flow freely in the offense and concentrate on other aspects of his game.
It's certainly a welcome feeling for Johnson, knowing he's no longer the guy consistently in the opponent's crosshairs.
"I really don't have to do much," he said. "I really try to focus in defensively and do whatever I can to help defensively. Offensively, it's going to come. We're going to make shots. We're going to make plays. We've got a lot of guys who can shoot and we've got a lot of guys with high IQs who can really make plays. So it makes everybody else's job easier. You are not going to key in just on me or Paul or KG [Kevin Garnett] or Brook [Lopez] or Deron.
"We just have to use our offensive abilities of getting into the paint, kicking it out to the wide-open guy and just keep making that extra pass until we get a great shot."
Under Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo a season ago, the Nets employed more of an isolation scheme, putting the ball in one player's hands -- whether that was Williams and Johnson on the perimeter or Lopez in the post -- and asking him to consistently make plays.
All too often, the ball stuck, leading to stagnation. The Nets never consistently flourished and that's one of the reasons Williams is pleased with Kidd's philosophy.
"It's different, man," Williams said. "That's what I was saying. Ya'll thought I was talking about Avery last year, and I never said anything bad about Avery. I was just saying the way we were playing, it's tough to win like that . . . especially against good teams, you can't win just holding the ball and going one on one. Against the Chicago Bulls, you can't win like that.
"You can't win playing on one side of the floor because you play into what they are trying to do. And so with this team, if we move the ball, if we share the ball and play like we did tonight and have a bunch of assists, it's fun to play that way and that's how I like to play.''
Perhaps the most encouraging sign is that the Nets did all that while still shuffling the lineup a bit, as Kidd mixed and matched on certain nights in an attempt to keep his veterans at optimum health. Plus, Andrei Kirilenko missed the last five games with back spasms, leaving the Nets without one of their main playmakers off the bench.
So although a complete assessment can't be made, Pierce believes the early returns are positive."We've had our spurts," Pierce said. "We've had our moments, definitely, and definitely kind of see the potential of this team. But we are still waiting to get healthy. I mean, we haven't had one game where we've had all the pieces together yet. So that's the beautiful thing about it.
"I thought we played well for the most part, but we still haven't put all the pieces together. KG was out [Friday] but we got Deron back. AK, he was out. So we're still waiting to see our full potential when we have a full, healthy squad. But I like what I've been seeing.''
As does Williams, who had that prime courtside view for the better part of the preseason. He watched it all come together before finally getting his feet wet against the Heat, easing concerns and showing that his sprained right ankle has healed sufficiently."We realize that if we play like this,'' Williams said, "then we are going to have good chances to win every night.''