Simplicity on defense rules the day for Nets’ improvement

Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson and the Nets are turning up the defense lately.
Credit: Getty Images

As the Nets try to explain how they’ve gone from being embarrassed by 30 points at home by the Knicks to winning four of their last five games, the buzzword has been “simplify.”

According to head coach Jason Kidd, the process of simplifying matters began before a 90-82 win in Milwaukee that saw the Nets emphasize Brook Lopez on offense while allowing a season-low in points.

“That’s as good as it gets when you simplify things and guys have bought in and guys are doing it at a high level right now,” Kidd said.

The question of what simplification means is tougher to answer.

Kevin Garnett has made it a point of emphasis during recent postgame interviews, saying how simpler the defensive schemes are.

Deron Williams, however, gave the most clear-cut revelation on why that transition has taken place in the seven games since assistant coach Lawrence Frank was reassigned by head coach Kidd on Dec. 3.

“Lawrence was always kind of the defensive guy, so he was talking on defense and he was definitely long-winded when it came to teaching,” Williams said after Tuesday’s practice in Brooklyn. “We’re a veteran group, we get things pretty easily. So at times when you’re just talking and we’re not practicing, it gets a little lengthy. But I think J-Kidd does a good job of getting his points across quick and easy and then we move on.”

Joe Johnson, like several teammates, emphasized the improved communication players such as Alan Anderson emphasized after last Thursday’s 102-93 win over the Clippers.

“Nah, not really man,” Johnson said when asked if the team had simplified its defense. “It’s more communication more than anything. Letting guys know where you’re going to be in certain spots defensively, when you communicate and talk those things out, then there’s no indecision. Then guys are in their right spots.”

Still, Kidd believes there is room for constantly pounding points across to his players.

“They want to be coached and so this is a group that you can ask them but they want to be coached,” Kidd said. “They want to be told what we’re trying to do and when you tell them to go through it and not just once but continue to go through it so they can get better at it.”

Whatever the cause is, the effect has started to generate the positive results the Nets were expecting.

Lopez feels better, expects to play

Brook Lopez was able to enjoy missing Monday’s game with a sprained left ankle because of Johnson’s 29-point third quarter but he is optimistic about not missing a third straight game and 10th game overall.

“He was all right,” Lopez deadpanned. “I think he missed yesterday, so it wasn’t that great, but if I had to pick one game this season to sit out and watch, that was the one. It was fun to watch.”

It seemed Lopez was set to return after proclaiming himself ready following Monday’s shootaround but eventually the training staff overruled him after seeing some movements they didn’t like.

Lopez did everything in practice and he doesn’t envision being overruled again.

“I don’t expect to get overruled tomorrow, but we’ll see when the time comes,” he said. “In my mind I feel confident I’ll be playing tomorrow, but then again, how’d that work out last time? You guys can believe me, though, I promise.”

Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.


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