NEW YORK -- They might be making a combined $432,604 per game, but Deron Williams and Brook Lopez are nothing more than sixth and seventh men right now, two max reserves coming back from injury and struggling to adapt to their new roles for the Brooklyn Nets.
On Saturday night at Barclays Center, Williams and Lopez looked like shells of their former All-Star selves. Williams shot 2-for-7 from the field and had three turnovers in 20 minutes off the bench, while Lopez missed all five of his field-goal attempts in 15 minutes and was held scoreless for the first time since Nov. 10, 2008 -- the sixth game of his career.
“There are no excuses,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said after his team was pounded by the Indiana Pacers 110-85. “[Deron and Brook] didn’t play very well, and they have to play better for us to be better or for them to get more playing time and more consistent playing time.”
You want a strong statement from a head coach of a 13-15 team that is only alive and well because it plays its games in the Eastern Conference? Try that one.
“He’s right. He’s definitely right,” Williams said. “We do have to play better. We’re two of the highest paid players on the team [Williams is making $19.8 million this season, Lopez $15.7 million], so that’s our responsibility -- to play better. And then hopefully we can accept that challenge -- I know I do. I think Brook does -- and just move forward.”
It’s going to be tough. For whatever reason, Williams and Lopez simply don’t look comfortable on the floor. The Nets hope it’s because Williams (calf) and Lopez (back) are trying to regain form. Both are currently on the trading block, but it’s going to be tough for the Nets to find takers if their supposed No. 1 point guard and center don’t figure it out.
Williams -- who has been on the wrong end of far too many four-to-five point swings in critical junctures -- had two of the team’s nine turnovers in the third quarter, both leading to layups at the other end.
“I’m still trying to find it,” he said. “It’s a little tough, but it is what it is.”
Lopez’s low point came at the end of the third, when he was called for a traveling violation and put his hands on top of his head. Faint boos could be heard from the disheartened crowd. It just seems like he’s not attacking as much as he used to and often settling for longer jumpers that don’t fall. He continues to have trouble rebounding and defending. For the season, he is shooting 39.4 percent outside of the restricted area.
“I felt fine, wind- and everything-wise,” Lopez said. “I just played extremely poorly, and I’m not happy with the way that one went. I’ve just gotta stick with it and be ready for the next game.”
As a team, the Nets shot just 36.4 percent from the field. They hit their first four shots, then missed 25 of their next 31. Their bench went 5-for-32 collectively. They were outscored 48-28 in the paint and went 14-for-30 from the field on paint attempts. Nothing went right.
Their season-high, three-game win streak is history now. They are 1-13 against .500-or-better teams, yet find themselves just a game out of the No. 6 seed in the East. All seems well as a result, even if it isn’t. Things could improve if Williams and Lopez become productive again. But will they?
“We’re right there. It’s not like we’re far off from where we want to be,” Williams said. “We just won three in a row and definitely let this one slip away, but we still feel like we can be a great team.”