ATLANTA — There is no way the Nets can match the Hawks in terms of talent, depth, speed and confidence. So be it. What the Nets failed at Saturday night, according to their interim coach, was none of that. Tony Brown, on the job less than a week, said his team did not come up big in the one department that could make them competitive with a top team.
“I want to see a little bit more fight,” he said after the Hawks broke open a game that was tied three minutes into the second half and ran away (literally ran, outscoring the Nets on fast breaks 20-2) with a 114-86 win.
“You get into adversity, things are not going your way, it’s easy to not try to do as much to try and change it,’’ said Brown, hired last Sunday after Lionel Hollins was fired and general manager Billy King was re-assigned. “We’ve got some guys who aren’t playing their best basketball, but they’ve got to fight their way out of these situations.”
What Brown intends to bring most of all is encouragement, after a Hollins approach that might have been harsh at times. But there was nothing encouraging in the interim coach’s address in the locker room Saturday night. “I can sit there and talk to them all day and run plays for them, but you have to reach deep down and see how bad you want it,’’ he said. “I thought tonight we kind of let go of the rope a little bit.”
With 21 points from Paul Millsap, 15 points and 10 assists from backup point guard Dennis Schroder and four of their teammates scoring in double figures, the Hawks provided an object lesson for the opposition. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, having removed his general manager and fired his coach a week ago, said Monday that the franchise needs “a new blueprint,” possibly a Hawks-type complementary squad.
the Nets did have their moments Saturday night, what with Donald Sloan collecting 10 of his 12 assists in the first half and Thaddeus Young totaling 18 points. But in the third quarter, the Nets — especially their second unit — looked powerless to stop the blitz.
“They’ve got a high-powered offensive team, so give them a lot of credit,’’ Joe Johnson said. “They pretty much had us at their will.” But how did it happen, so suddenly? “I’m not sure,” Johnson said. “I looked up and it was tied 55-55 and the next thing I knew, we were down by 30 points. I’m not sure what went wrong, but from every guy, we have to be ready to come in and play. No excuses.”
Said Young, “A lot has gone on in the past week. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to keep going. We have to want it more.”
Yes, the Nets are searching for a new blueprint. First, though, in Brown’s opinion, “There’s some soul-searching that has to go on.”
Notes & quotes: Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson of Northport placed first in a poll by NetsDaily that asked fans to name their preference for the Nets’ next coach. His 37 percent total topped John Calipari and Tom Thibodeau.
Atkinson is respected around the league for his work ethic. When he was a Knicks assistant, he was credited with the sudden development of Jeremy Lin.
As for winning that poll, he said, “That was my family voting.”