Nets need for backup center apparent in home loss to Kings

If Nerlens Noel wasn’t the answer for Brooklyn’s backup center debacle, the Nets had better find another answer — and soon.

Days after the Nets declined to give Noel a second 10-day contract, the Nets were obliterated on the glass in a 101-96 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

As versatile as starting center Nic Claxton is on both ends of the floor, his biggest shortcoming — brute strength — continues to be a priority for the Nets to address.

Especially if second-year forward Day’Ron Sharpe — who was available but didn’t play against the Kings on Thursday — is out of the rotation.

That’s because the bruiser remains the archetype of player that stumps and stampedes the Nets at every turn.

What has been true of the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers was true in the Nets’ loss to the league’s No. 1 offense on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.

Just like the Nets have rotational limitations that make them susceptible to being trampled over the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, Brooklyn had no answer for Kings All-Star Domantas Sabonis.

Sabonis punished the Nets from opening tip to the final buzzer. Head coach Jacque Vaughn tried a variety of rotational tactics — from staying big with Claxton to going small with the 6-5 Royce O’Neale playing backup five — but they all faltered.

The son of NBA legend Arvydas Sabonis finished with 24 points, 21 rebounds and five assists on the night. He entered the night averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists per game against the Nets since they signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the summer of 2019. On the season, the Kings’ star is averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

And his play was an embodiment of one of Brooklyn’s longest-standing issues as the Nets approach their final 10 games of the regular season in pursuit of a playoff berth: An inability to stop the bruiser — of which there are many in the Eastern Conference.

The Nets held All-Star point guard De’Aaron Fox to just four points in the first half and 18 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field on the night. Ex-Net Kessler Edwards hit a pair of timely corner threes off the bench for the Kings and four other Sacramento players scored in double figures.

The Kings did their damage, however, on the glass, out-rebounding the Nets, 57-41. Claxton finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, but no other Nets player grabbed more than six.

And now the Nets get off to a suboptimal start to a four-game homestand against legitimate championship contenders. They host Nikola Jokic — another bruiser — and the Denver Nuggets in a matinee game on Sunday before welcoming Donovan Mitchell and the Cleveland Cavaliers for back-to-back games immediately after.

“It’s important in a number of ways. First of all, just because of where we are in the season and trying to take advantage of every single opportunity. Each game as you see, every …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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