The Nets have offered a higher quality of play, especially defensively, in the four straight games Kevin Garnett has missed with back spasms.
Head coach Jason Kidd decided to make it five straight last night against Sacramento, though the team is not letting on any worry yet.
“I think he’s working extremely hard right now,” Kidd said. “It’s about April and May for us, but also being able to have guys step up.”
Kidd is of course referring to the playoffs as he walks a fine line between age and reality.
The Nets have a rebounding disparity of minus-47 without Garnett, but they’re allowing an average of just 90.75 points — well below their season average of 99.1 — thanks to forcing 95 turnovers. Kidd credited getting in passing lanes for the success without Garnett in the lineup.
“I think just a process of keep working at it, knowing each other and understanding for us we’ve got to get deflections,” Kidd said.
Rookie Mason Plumlee made his fifth straight start. The Nets have forced 34 turnovers with Plumlee is on the floor with the other four starters, according to NBA.com.
Evans returns to Brooklyn
A year ago, Reggie Evans was an integral part of interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo’s rotation with several double-digit rebounding games under his belt. He played 24.6 minutes per game, the second-highest average of his career.
After starting six games under Jason Kidd, Evans found himself often out of the rotation and limited to 13.3 minutes in 30 games this season in Brooklyn.
“He was a professional,” Kidd said. “Being able to help the younger guys, that’s him a professional, helping them become a little bit tougher, stepping in when we had a lot of injuries, but he came to work every day.”
Evans was traded to Sacramento at the trade deadline on Feb. 20.
“I’m not one of those players that holds grudges or takes it personal when you get traded,” Evans said. “It’s a business. At the end of the day, I’m still living out my dream, and that’s to play in the NBA. So that’s the best way to look at it.”
The toughest part for Evans was being separated from his family, especially since he had not changed teams in the middle of a season since 2006, but despite going from a playoff team to a young team in the Western Conference, he was upbeat and said he was pulling for the Nets.
In the first two weeks with his seventh team, Evans has played 21 minutes per game and had two double-figure rebounding games.
Perhaps of more importance to head coach Mike Malone is how Evans seems to be influencing DeMarcus Cousins in much the same way he influenced Brook Lopez.
“The work ethic, the preparation and all those things are what Reggie brings to the table and I think they’re only going to help DeMarcus,” Malone said. “Reggie’s never going to help DeMarcus with his low-post offense necessarily, but I think more importantly just the approach the game — work ethic, toughness and pride that you need to play with every night. So that’s why I think Reggie’s been a great addition to our team, not just his play on the floor but also his leadership in the locker room.”
The trade landed the Nets Marcus Thornton, who is seven years younger than Evans. Thornton’s playing time dwindled as the Kings attempted to integrate rookie Ben McLemore into the rotation.
“It was just we had a young player, Ben McLemore, who we were trying to get time for and sometimes during the season when things aren’t going the way you had hoped, you’re always constantly looking to make changes and we wish Marcus the best,” Malone said. “I coached him in two different stops — New Orleans and Sacramento — but we look at it [as] Brooklyn gets a helluva player. He can help their playoff push and we get a player in Reggie Evans that’s been a key addition for us.”
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.