When the NBA announced the All-Star reserves on Thursday night, the biggest snub by far was Nets center Brook Lopez.
Lopez has been the most consistent member of the Nets all season and showed tremendous improvement on the defensive side of the floor for the NBA's only team with (at the time) a .600+ winning percentage and no All-Stars. The reserve choices in the Eastern Conference weren't a huge problem on their own, but it's clear that the fans' misguided choice of Kevin Garnett cost Lopez a spot.
With Rajon Rondo out for the season, there's a spot available on the roster but the pro-Lopez argument took a major hit in the last few days. The Nets abandoned any pretense of interior defense in their last two games, blowout losses to the Grizzlies and Rockets that featured a lot of Lopez standing around and watching as opposing players took unmolested trips to the hoop.
There were 122 points in the paint overall over the two games and the Nets missed a chance to gain ground on the Knicks and Heat because of their defensive breakdown. They also saw potential flaws beyond the interior defense get exposed.
In the Memphis game, the Nets were out-rebounded by eight while giving up 15 offensive rebounds. That led to 19 extra shots for the Grizzlies over the course of the night, which would be a path to victory even if they weren't shooting a very high percentage.
If the Nets are going to start Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace, that kind of rebounding disparity simply can't happen if they expect to win consistently. Neither of them contributes enough offensively to be on the court if the team isn't rebounding well, especially when faced with an aggressive defensive team like Memphis that can shut down the Nets' actual sources of points.
Against Houston, the Nets couldn't control the pace of the game and got run off the floor by the far more athletic Rockets. The rebounding margin was even wider -- +19 for the Rockets -- and the Nets couldn't compete in those circumstances.
Again, the Nets can't afford to punt on offense at two spots if those players are unwilling or unable to do what's needed on defense and the glass. It's extremely difficult to play at your tempo against good teams when everyone knows that there are only three players on the court capable of putting the ball in the basket unless one of those players has a Carmelo Anthony-type game.
The good news for the Nets is that these are higher-level questions than the ones they faced earlier this season. We know that the Nets are a good team.
Now we just need to figure out how good and it was clear in these two losses that there's still much for P.J. Carlesimo to do if he's going to build on the torrid start to his run in the big chair for Brooklyn.