Friday, March 07, 2003

Nets All Tangled 03.07.03

*yes this is sports related*

There are few things I love more than being right. Well, let’s see. There is chocolate pudding, pretending to be the tough guy, stories so long they’re indulgent, scoring in softball, high-wire writing, dragon stout beer, and spunky women. Nah, that’s a lie. I love being right more than all of that put together and wrapped in red bows.

I think about this as I watch the Sixers play the Trailblazers, this just after the Nets are eviscerated again, tonight by the San Antonio Spurs. The Nets simply cannot score. Their defense could be a little tighter; but the real problem is that they cannot score unless they are running the fast break. It was the same ineffective half court plodding last year, even as they made the finals.

But the scoring has taken a flaming nosedive. And I said it would! I did! I thought it was bull-cookies that the team and the media were piling on Keith Van Horn, the man who routinely scored the team’s first 15 points until he was adjusted for. He could have scored the team’s last 15 points… but at least he could score in a variety of ways, which is impressive for a man who spent four collegiate years (a young man’s, ah, peak) in Utah.

There is no way you could take Van Horn out of the offense and replace him. Not in points per game. Not in the numbers. But in the things Keith could do. In the quality of shots the team creates in the half court and in the running game.

Last year, Keith Van Horn would take shots in the high post, left open, waving a skinny long hand. He was a threat in the post. A threat out on the wing for a big man to guard, taking that defender away from rebounding duties. Opening up the lanes. And Todd MacCullough would clean up the garbage. The shooting guards had time and room to shoot, and less pressure to do so.

Now, those shooting guards (Kittles + Harris) are both elbow-deep in shooting slumps. The Van Horn replacement was to be Rodney Rogers (and his fat barrel belly. That comes free with the contract.) but he doesn’t have the ability to score in bunches like the supposedly inept/ deficient/ downy pillow soft Van Horn could. The center is Jason Collins, not the injured Dikembe Mutumbo.

And while Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin are now free to tear the orange off the rims and lay waste to people on the defensive end, sometimes in basketball people have to SCORE. Lanes can be clogged, drives can be halted. Jump shots are sometimes taken. I’ve seen it on television. It would help if those aforementioned players actually laid people to waste on the defensive end too. They look cooler than Van Horn, with the bald heads and the dunking, but still. I want to see blood, wincing, pain!

From the Nets, we get reaching, bricks, Jason Kidd shooting a whole lot, Richard Jefferson looking tired like he parties with Mr. November, Derek Jeter. For God’s sake, I want to see Dikembe again and not just for his quotables and his voice-- a cross between a smiling African phone sex operator and tires over gravel. He actually, while not understanding the offense and looking five steps slower, was more effective than Jason Collins and Aaron Williams. Besides, you never know when you’ll get the finger wagging.

I just want someone who can play. No, I just want someone who can nail his shots to complement the drives of Jefferson/ Martin/ Kidd. And being me more joy than pudding and dragon stout.

P.S. I lied. I like spunky women as much as being right.

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