Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 3 inclusive:
The last time the Brooklyn Nets were playing .500 ball was four months ago. They were 2-2 at the time. Then half the team got injured, the veterans all got really old at the same time, and the head coach turned out to be crazy. The Nets became the laughing stock of the NBA, falling to 10-21 going into the New Year. Chuckles galore.
Who’s laughing now? Brooklyn is healthier, the veterans have gotten their sea legs, and nobody talks about the coach anymore. The Nets made have made it all the way back to .500, beating the Chicago Bulls (+3.5 away) 96-80 on Monday to improve to 29-29 SU and 30-28 ATS, good enough for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Next up: the Memphis Grizzlies (34-25 SU, 27-30-2 ATS), who come to the Rusty Turtle as 1.5-point puppies on Wednesday’s NBA lines with a total of 188.
Once upon a time, the Nets were supposed to contend for the title. Bodog had Brooklyn at 10-1 on the NBA futures market back in October, tied with the Indiana Pacers for fifth on the list of favorites. The Nets were coming off a playoff appearance in their successful debut season in Brooklyn, and they had just added Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics in exchange for some magic beans. Jason Kidd was also on board as a first-year coach – his first year coaching at any level, having just retired as a player. Surely nothing could have gone wrong.
We all know what happened next. But let’s get up to speed on the present. It is true that Pierce (16.2 PER) and especially Garnett (13.3 PER) aren’t contributing as they once did. But they are contributing, and much more so since the start of 2014. Pierce had a 118 Offensive Rating in February while hitting 40.4 percent of his 3-pointers. Garnett’s ORtg is also above 100 in the New Year after dipping to 83 in November, and he’s still playing solid defense. These are useful players on a team that only needed them to be useful.
A View to a Spill
As for Kidd, he’s no longer being called the worst coach in the league. He’s done a very good job shuffling his roster to account for all the injuries – including Brook Lopez (25.5 PER), the last remaining Net in the infirmary. Kidd’s current starting five with Garnett at center and Pierce at power forward has been particularly effective. Don’t call it smallball, though. Pierce may be small for his position at 6-foot-6, but he’s playing as a stretch-4 anyway, and Brooklyn’s perimeter includes 6-foot-7 Shaun Livingston (14.2 PER) and 6-foot-8 Joe Johnson (14.0 PER).
One problem: Garnett has missed the past two games with back spasms and is considered a game-time decision for Wednesday’s matchup (7:30 p.m. ET, YES). But that’s okay, because Mason Plumlee (18.4 PER) has been very good this year in relief. That’s the other thing about the Nets: ridiculous depth. All that money owner Mikhail Prokhorov was willing to spend on this roster, luxury tax be damned, was supposed to take the Nets to the next level. They’re getting there.
The Grizzlies won’t be easy to defeat. They’ve won back-to-back games SU and ATS after lighting some money on fire at 7-5 SU and 3-8-1 ATS since the start of February. And Memphis is highly motivated to perform, sitting in ninth place in the Western standings. But the Nets won their November meeting 97-88 as 7-point road dogs, and even though the lineups are different now, I’m sticking with Brooklyn in the rematch.NBA Pick: Take the Nets –1.5 (–105) at Pinnacle