Was that reality that slapped the Nets in the face when they were blown out by the Sixers in their preseason finale Wednesday night, or can they still believe their 3-1 record is a strong indication they will be a much-improved team?
Despite losing a game in which they trailed by as much as 36 points, the Nets believe the positives from a summer working together, an intense training camp at the U.S. Naval Academy and their overall preseason far outweighs the negative ending.
Veteran Jeremy Lin said the 133-114 loss to the Sixers was a wakeup call that should remind them of the importance of playing tough defense, but he contrasted that result with a dominating win over the Knicks on Sunday.
“The beauty of this preseason is we saw what we could look like, and we saw what we shouldn’t look like,” Lin said of the final two games. “We have the cheat sheet for the test. The other day [against the Knicks], I felt like it started with stops, and [against the Sixers], it was failure to get stops. As you can see we can score the ball; I don’t think anyone’s doubting that. It’s the other end of the floor.”
Coach Kenny Atkinson faulted his team for defensive breakdowns against the Sixers, especially in transition defense, fighting over screens and putting their opponents at the foul line too much. The overpowering presence of Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid hinted at potential problems for the Nets when they go to their preferred smaller lineups, featuring forwards Trevor Booker and Quincy Acy playing at a faster pace in the frontcourt than 7-1 starting center Timofey Mozgov.
But the unhappy preseason ending didn’t diminish the progress the Nets have made for Atkinson, who integrated new veteran acquisitions Mozgov, D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll and first-round rookie Jarrett Allen.
“My overall sentiment, training camp, preseason — you have to throw this [Sixers] game in because it happened — but I think there’s a positive feeling in our locker room that we have positive momentum going into the regular season,” Atkinson said. “I’m a second-year coach. I’m a little more confident in what I do. Guys that have been here, it’s the second year. Continuity is huge. Then, the guys we brought in have a confidence about them, DeMarre and D’Angelo have been in the league . . . Hopefully, 10 games into it we’re meshing and we’re not thinking about who was here last year and who are the new guys. I think we’ve gotten there quicker than I anticipated. Take this game out.”
Notes & quotes: The Nets waived Jacob Wiley, Jeremy Senglin and Akil Mitchell but retain their G-League rights. They signed Tahjere McCall and Kamari Murphy who were on the Nets’ summer league team and likely will waive them and retain their G-League rights.