Sunday, December 8, 2013

Back to Basics: Jason Kidd explores isolation offense

Just a few days ago, The Brooklyn Game's Devin Kharpertian reported that Joe Johnson confessed that the Brooklyn Nets "don't have an identity."

Well, you have one now, Iso Joe.

Jason Kidd said after Saturday's win over the Milwaukee Bucks that isolation basketball is "Brooklyn's identity," according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

"This is who we are," Kidd remarked.

Last night's victory over the lowly Bucks wasn't the most exciting of wins. There weren't many flashy highlight plays, no 15-2 runs, no fast-paced basketball. Much of their offense came through slow, methodical halfcourt sets and isolation offense. And that might be exactly what Brooklyn needs.

Nobody expected this Nets team to be a high pace squad. A bunch of guys over 30 aren't going to run up and down the floor all night. This is a team of wily, savvy veterans who know how to beat defenders. They've been around the game long enough to know what works, what doesn't and how to take advantage when being defended one-on-one. It just makes sense. This is the type of basketball that the Nets should play.

Let's look at why Brooklyn won last night: it was all Brook Lopez. On 11-13 shooting, Lopez posted a monstrous 32 points en route to the victory. Five of those 11 shots came in pure isolation, as you can see through's handy new video tool (just click on "11" under "FGM" for the Dec. 7 game, then click "Watch Video"). Lopez also had 10 of his points at the charity stripe, which means he was getting feeds down low, posting up, dribbling, and drawing contact on movement.

We know that Johnson thrives in the isolation – his nickname is Iso Joe, for crying out loud. Nets fans have watched Johnson give up plenty of wide open jumpers to instead post up and score a ton of points on iso plays. Johnson is not a spot-up shooter, he's not a facilitator, he's not a cutter and dunker, he's not a run-and-gun basketball player. Iso Joe is the best Joe.

Paul Pierce's shooting has been atrocious this season. Usually, he looks like he does not know what he's doing. I'm not buying that this is purely an age thing – you don't just all of a sudden lose your ability to shoot a basketball, no matter how old you are. It's because he hasn't been given enough chances to make his own plays, which is how he operated through his entire 15-year NBA career before joining the Nets. This new isolation game, if Kidd stays consistent with it, could be a tremendous boon to Pierce. As Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose pointed out, Pierce is not used to having wide open shots created for him (how many wide open jumpers have we seen him brick this year?) – he's used to creating his own shot.

That gives a healthy Nets team three out of five starters that can score reliably on isolation offense, which is definitely better than anything they've put out there so far this season. Kevin Garnett is more of a pick-and-roll and spot shooter, and Deron Williams is a known iso hater, but three out of five will get the Nets to the playoffs without a doubt. Keeping Williams obedient will be Kidd's greatest challenge in implementing this offensive scheme.

Importantly, this whole iso business marks the first major adjustment Kidd has made since "reassigning" Lawrence Frank. Is this the "philosophical difference" that Kidd cited in his decision to can Frank? If so, I applaud it. Isolation basketball will work for this team. It will give Brooklyn the ability to slow down games against younger, faster teams. Lopez, Johnson, and Pierce can beat most in one-on-one situations, and when they can't, they'll just be able to kick it out to the open man when the double team comes.

Isolation offense may be the only way to save this season. The much-maligned Kidd deserves a lot of credit for finally embracing this style; it's probably the best call he's made in his coaching career.

When Brooklyn matches up against the likes of the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers in the postseason (assuming the Nets make it there), things will be different. You can't play isolation basketball against elite individual defenders like LeBron James, Roy Hibbert, and Paul George.

But for now, this is a good start, and it means that Jason Kidd is ready to actually begin coaching. This new isolation offense may be enough to lift the Nets out of their funk.

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