A Daily Babble Production: How the Other Side Thinks
Given last week's IZOD Center rant, and considering the fact that I'll be back there on Thursday and will likely have more to say afterward, we're throwing a curve today by forgoing one of my usually requisite introductory cracks about Nets fans. We're happy to have Evan Roberts aboard today. Evan is a Nets diehard, and he co-hosts the midday show alongside Joe Benigno on my all-time favorite radio station, WFAN 660 AM in my home state of New York. With the Celts opening their second Atlantic Division home-and-home of the week against the Nets tonight, Evan had plenty to tell us about the state of the team, Lawrence Frank and
Wince Vince Carter. Away we go..
SW: At 19-19 and sitting in the thick of the action at seventh in the East, the Nets have been one of the league's early-season surprises (I was dopey enough to pick them last in the conference this season). What are the biggest reasons behind the team's better-than-expected start, and how have the first couple of months changed your expectations for the team this season?
ER: The expectations have changed. When you're at .500 after the wise Sports Illustrated said the Nets would be the worst team in the East, everything changes. This team has been better than thought for a few reasons. First, Devin Harris has blossomed into a bigger than expected offensive force. He's amongst the league leaders in points per game and has hit a ton of big shots, including the buzzer-beater against the Pacers on the road. Big factor number two has been that Vince Carter has been healthy and has been the veteran leader that most thought he wouldn't be. He has a good relationship with the younger guys and seems comfortable in his role for the first time as a Net. And the other big reason has been the maturation of Brook Lopez. He is getting better by the game. The injury to Boone that allowed Lopez to start was a major key. And the vets on this team have been very productive - [Keyon] Dooling, Jarvis Hayes and [Bobby] Simmons.
SW: Having taken over in January 2004, Lawrence Frank is currently the longest tenured coach in the Eastern Conference, and he remains employed despite having not led the Nets to a winning record since 2005-06. Has Frank deserved to keep his job as long as he has? How would you assess the job he's done in his time in the Swamp?
ER: The Little General Lawrence Frank deserved to get fired a year ago. I thought that he was the wrong man for a veteran team whose window was closing quickly. With that said, the Nets have gone through a major makeover since that time, and this team suits him better. He is a great teacher to younger players and is the perfect coach for this team. Not only that, thus far he has been a Coach of the Year candidate.
SW: I wrote recently about my latest visit to the IZOD Center and how poor the arena experience is in Jersey. In the meantime, the Nets' IZOD experience hasn't been great either, as the team is a confusing 9-12 at home compared to a 10-7 road record. Why the unusual discrepancy? And as a Nets fan, how do you feel about the atmosphere at IZOD?
ER: Part of the discrepancy is coincidence. The numbers will even out when it's all said and done. But there is no question that the lack of energy in that building hurts this team. As a guy who goes to just about every game, obviously its quite disappointing, but I don't blame the fans. This team has been a lame duck in Jersey for a few years now, and until it either makes a commitment to NJ or gets the heck out and into Brooklyn it will remain the same.
SW: Vince Carter: Ultra-talented loafer or given a bad rap because of a bad ending in Toronto? Why? Do you enjoy rooting for him as a Nets fan?
ER: He gets a bad rap, because he has won nothing in his career. Also the expectations for him out of North Carolina and after the slam dunk contest was that he was the next Jordan. He hasn't lived up to that billing, and though VC is very talented he is not on the level of the premiere NBA player. I wanted Vince out after the Game 6 loss at home to Cleveland, but he has handled himself beautifully with this team and the way its made up. If you dump Vince now the Nets playoff hopes are gone. He isn't an all-time favorite, but I have no issues rooting for him.
SW: Brook Lopez is off to a fine start to his NBA career, averaging 10 points and 8 boards per game and already entrenched as the Nets' starting center in his rookie season. Where do you see his ceiling?
ER: He has the ceiling to be a very good player. I see a lot of Carlos Boozer in him. The best thing about Brook is that he gets better game to game. When I see Brooke play along with Devin, you can see a combo together for years to come.
SW: A season ago, a rookie Sean Williams looked raw but blocked shots left and right and showed the potential to become a solid interior defender in this league. Now he's playing D-League ball. What's the deal with him?
ER: Sean Williams has made very little improvement. He continues to commit a lot of dumb fouls and can't stay on the court. Clearly, Coach Frank isn't a huge fan. I'm guessing he has work ethic issues, and his trade value has hit rock bottom. Expect him off the roster very soon.
SW: Time for a Daily Babble staple: word association. Just the first word, phrase or thought that comes to mind, please.
Devin Harris: tough
Yi Jianlian: Keith Van Horn
Bennett Salvatore: technical foul
Joe Benigno: BRO
Nets fans: not many
Gary Sussman: "It's a VC three"
Brian Scalabrine: Veal
Rodney Rogers: big shot against Milwaukee
SW: Got a score prediction for tonight's game?
ER: The Nets will lose to the Celtics, 89-82.
Thanks to Evan for taking the time to come on today. Good luck to the Nets and their legion of fans this evening and on Saturday.