Even with the addition of free-agent point guard Jeremy Lin, 7-foot center Brook Lopez remains the face of the Nets’ franchise and a go-to guy at crunch time. In fact, most assumed Lin’s proficiency at running pick-and-roll offense with Lopez would make that the Nets’ default position under pressure.
But through four preseason games, the Lin-Lopez pick-and-roll combination not only has not been a staple of the Nets’ offense, it hasn’t even been an appetizer. Lopez scored 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting in a 100-97 loss to the Celtics Thursday night at Barclays Center, and only one of those shots was a layup that he created on his own after receiving the ball in the high post. The rest were face-up jump shots from at least nine feet away, including three three-point attempts, the last of which he made.
It’s a new concept for Lopez, and he has embraced it, beginning with a summer conditioning program designed to help him become more agile moving around the court in the motion offense of new coach Kenny Atkinson.
“I think the process will definitely continue over the regular season as well,” Lopez said. “We have so many new guys, new faces that we are getting to know each other and know the system. We are learning on the fly, but we have lots of intelligent, smart and selfless guys in here, so, we are picking it up quick.”
As tempting as it might be to rely on the tried-and-true with Lopez, Atkinson explained he is dedicated to establishing the principles of his motion offense to create more scoring options. “I think right now we’re trying to get the ball moving, trying to get the ball side-to-side, getting everybody touches,” Atkinson said.
“Brook and Jeremy both are going to have to learn how to work within that dynamic when it’s crunch time and we can think about drawing up special plays for getting it to them, you know, pick-and-roll with those two. But I think we’ve still got to progress with our offense. So, we’re not just going to rely on a one-five pick-and-roll all the time.”
Lin said he and guard Greivis Vasquez love making pick-and-roll plays, but they also recognize the need to involve other shooters. “We understand that we need variety,” Lin said. “So, if we stay in the pick-and-roll, that becomes a little predictable. If we’re able to hit (opponents) from different angles, that’s really what I’m going for . . . Why not try to find something where we can put it all together? That’s the goal.”