Nets Notebook: Kevin Ollie’s defensive vision is beginning to blossom in Brooklyn

1 month ago 26

Kevin Ollie’s tenure as Nets interim head coach got off to a rough start defensively, as the team suffered three blowout losses to Toronto, Minnesota and Orlando in his first four games at the helm. The team surrendered 86 total fastbreak points in those defeats while allowing their opponents to shoot a combined 47.9% from the field.

It is hard to win in the NBA with little defensive resistance.

“Yeah, we watched film and it was pretty, pretty nasty [and] ugly and i think we learned from it,” Dennis Schröder said.

However, Brooklyn has been a much better defensive team since returning from that disastrous four-game road trip where its only win came against a severely undermanned Memphis Grizzlies team — the same group it hosted at Barclays Center on Monday. The Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks by 27 points last Thursday and bested them by 12 points on Saturday.

The Nets did not allow Atlanta to score a single fastbreak point on Saturday after giving up 14 on Thursday. The Hawks were limited to just 43.5% shooting (74-of-170) across both meetings. Some of the tendencies Ollie has been trying to plant since taking over for Jacque Vaughn after the All-Star break are beginning to blossom.

“First of all, we’re sprinting back, we’re taking pride in that,” Ollie said. “I keep telling you, we’re planting seeds, and sometimes when you plant seeds you don’t know when they’re going to blossom. It’s your job to keep planting them and not get distracted by naysayers saying you’re doing the wrong thing but knowing that you’re doing the right things and you just got to continue to plug away at that. You can’t get distracted.

“There can be some things that you get distracted by, but we know we was planting the right things, and we were demanding the right things and we just got to go out there and execute them. And I think our guys did that well in Atlanta, not saying we’re going to do that every game and give up zero transition [points], but you see the fruit of their labor coming to fruition.”

Greater levels of energy and focus are also factors that have played into the Nets’ recent defensive surge. Ollie called maintaining those things on a game-to-game basis an “inside job”.

“We’ve got to take care of what’s inside this locker room, and keep playing the right way, keep playing with our winning habits that we’re starting to establish and build a foundation,” Ollie said. “So, we’re not looking past anybody. We’re taking care of our business and standing on that with our standards, and that’s what we’re going to continue to have no matter who we’re playing.”

But as good as Brooklyn has been at that end of the court during their current homestand, Ollie knows that there is another level they can reach. It starts with better connectivity and continuing to push forward through adversity.

“I think you can never be 100% connected; during lulls, during things that happen in a game that’s not seen all the time – and you can’t prepare for it,” Ollie said. “It just happens — how do you respond?… Things happen in the game, and how we respond and how we stay in the center of a hurricane is what I really try to preach. And that’s like the calmest place with all the distractions going on. Can we calm each other down? Can we challenge each other, and no one takes it personal. I think that’s another [area of] growth for us.”

SIMMONS’ TIMELINE UNCLEAR

Ben Simmons missed his fourth straight game on Monday because of a lower back nerve impingement.

The first three games he missed during his most recent inactive streak was because of leg soreness. However, the Nets clarified on Sunday that the current leg issues stemmed from the same lower back nerve impingement injury that forced him to miss 38 straight games earlier in the season.

The 27-year-old has appeared in just 15 games for the Nets this season and 57 of 178 total games since being acquired by Brooklyn at the 2022 trade deadline. Ollie did not have any updates on Simmons’ status ahead of Monday’s game.

“We were just trying to get to the source of it and that’s why the change of the wording was,” Ollie said. “But he’s still day-to-day, he’s still on the court, and hopefully we can get him back soon and get him ready for this playoff push that we have in March and April.”

And how do the Nets, as a team, keep an unselfish mentality without their best distributor on the court?

“I mean, just pushing the pace,” Schröder said. “When we get stops, I think everybody just running, kick the ball ahead and make the right basketball decision. Sometimes Clax will get 20 or 25 points, and next night it’s Mikal. I think it’s really hard to scout that, you know, when you don’t know who is really aggressive that night. And just you know, playing the game of basketball the right way always gives you a chance to win in this league.”

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