The Nets had to win, eventually. It's only embarrassing to the Bobcats if they act like New Jersey doesn't belong in the league, which they most certainly do. Losing 97-91 on the road to them is the same as losing to any other team this time of year. All they can do is keep their focus and keep working.
By and large, the guys on the floor did an admirable job. Brook Lopez had a huge game, with 31 points and 14 rebounds. That's a little damning of Tyson Chandler, but Lopez is a rising star, and he's going to have those kinds of nights. The same goes for Courtney Lee and his 27 points. There's a reason they thought highly enough of him that they demanded he come over from the Magic for Vince Carter.
However, the infuriating theme emerging again this year -- one that everyone warned us would happen with Larry Brown -- is the inexcusable mishandling of rookies and other young players. D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown, and Alexis Ajinca have all had their careers adversely affected by their usage this year. Augustin's encouraging rookie season could have been a springboard to a starting job, but instead he was undermined by the retention of Raymond Felton and subsequent signing of Flip Murray. Gerald Henderson just hasn't played, buried on the bench even though when he has played he's been reasonably solid and could absolutely be the backup to Stephen Jackson. Derrick Brown has proven in his limited playing time that he deserves a shot to win a rotation spot, and with no backup power forward in sight, that would seem to be a perfect situation for him, but instead, Vladimir Radmanovic(!) got those minutes, and now Coach Brown is going through all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify reasons to not play him, like putting Tyson Chandler at the four. Ajinca is a separate case. He shouldn't have been expected to contribute last year, and yet he languished on the bench. He should have been in the D-League most of last year and this year, playing 30 minutes every night and taking his lumps, but instead, he's been jerked around. What progress he's made has no expression.
And tonight, none of those players played. The bench and free throw shooting lost this game, and none of those players played. The Nets, one of the five worst teams in the league, beat the Bobcats, and Larry Brown saw fit to play STEPHEN GRAHAM more than 13 minutes and refused to play any of his younger players, even after it was clear his preferred formula wasn't going to put the Cats over the top. I've tried to express reasonable disagreement over the course of the season, but this performance from Larry Brown doesn't deserve reasonable treatment anymore. It was disgusting. The players shouldn't be embarrassed, but Brown should be.
Highlights and lowlights after the jump:BAD
-- What does Graham have to do to prove he doesn't belong in an NBA rotation? I'm sure he's a perfectly good guy; the broadcasters seem to like him, and you can't be a jerk and stick around as a scrub for long, and he's stuck around for four years. But you know what? He played more than 13 minutes, was 0-2 from the field, had 1 rebound, 0 assists, 1 turnover, and 2 fouls. And he's done this his whole career. It's not his fault he's being put out there, but he's emblematic of Larry Brown's myopia.
-- Nazr Mohammed has been excellent all year, and this game is probably just a bump in the road, but it's still disappointing to see him crash so abruptly. 0 points in 11 minutes.
-- 18-30 from the charity stripe is bad. Maybe the Jeff Capel School of Free Throw Shooting should be discredited.
-- Gerald Wallace is still a beast. 13 points on 5-8 shooting, and 20 rebounds. I keep coming back to the mid-late career Dennis Rodman comparison, only if Rodman ran the floor and finished like Drexler.
-- Tyson Chandler seems healthy. The defense doesn't seem to be at the elite level, but I suspect a lot of that has to do with being comfortable with teammates, and the Cats' roster hasn't exactly been together forever. Still, 13 points and 12 rebounds is the kind of performance we need from our center.
-- Good Raymond Felton is still with us. He was a facilitator for most of the game and scored efficiently -- at one point I think he was 6-7 from the field. He's still not the creator I'd like him to be at point, and he probably never will be, but for this game, he got results, scoring 28 points on 11-14 shooting and only turning it over 2 times.
-- Congratulations to the Nets for getting that monkey off their backs. They don't deserve it, and neither do their fans. Now they can move on and concentrate on the important things, like developing their young players and gelling as a team.