Derrick Favors struggled today, which makes three times in four games against NBA players the Nets' rookie power forward had difficulty finding his way.
This is expected, especially for a 19-year-old first-year big man still learning and getting used to how fast the game is, how physical it is and where he needs to be on the floor.
All of that said, it’s too early to start Favors, who missed all five of his shots and finished with no points and five rebounds in the Nets’ 91-81 preseason loss to the Rockets in China.
From the beginning, the Nets’ plan was to start Troy Murphy and bring Favors along slowly. The plan has changed somewhat because of circumstances.
Except for two practices and maybe two shootarounds, Murphy hasn’t done much with the Nets. He missed the first three games with a strained groin and now is out indefinitely due to a back problem. The Nets are not expecting Murphy for the Oct. 27 opener.
With Murphy down, the Nets are trying to get Favors as many minutes and as much experience as possible. Other than Brook Lopez, no power forward/center has played more than Favors’ 106 minutes through five games.
But, at this point and for the time being, the Nets should start bruising veteran Kris Humphries and bring Favors off the bench against second-team players. He will get better quicker against the other team’s best but he needs more time.
It won’t hurt his confidence. Favors is a humble, hard-working kid who will get better. But he has to feel something from everything that’s happened to him already.
The Nets talked him up big time, said how special he was going to be and then it was broadcast they were shopping him for Carmelo Anthony. When that deal fell through, the Nets went back to talking up Favors, coach Avery Johnson said he could start when the regular season opens and gave him the last two preseason starts.
The expectations are high for the No. 3 pick. But Favors just needs to relax, run the floor, get some easy baskets and then he’ll feel more comfortable.
“He’s an athletic guy,” Devin Harris said. “He’s not making a lot of shots, but they’re good shots. He’s just trying to figure out this whole thing of playing and starting and coming off the bench. We just want him to be aggressive. I think his confidence is fine. He just needs to see the ball go in the whole a little bit more.”
Humphries didn’t play in the first half today, but started the second half and his work inside helped the Nets cut what was a 15-point deficit to two. Humphries took a couple of ill-advised shots – he does that – but he provides muscle and rebounding the Nets need.
So until something changes, Humphries should be the starter and Favors should come off to play minutes at both the power forward and center positions.
Johnson has said that’s option, but he liked Johan Petro as Lopez’s backup. That was more than a week ago. In the last four games Petro has scored four points, grabbed 15 rebounds and hasn’t been good defensively. The last two games, he’s scoreless with three boards in 13 minutes.
Petro will play better, but if Favors isn’t traded for Anthony, he needs to get whatever minutes he can at whatever position.
It’s not a demotion. Favors is a rookie, who needs to figure out the game. He played just one year at Georgia Tech and his best performances came later in the season. The Nets thinking that could happen again this year.
They’ve tried to speed up his progress, of course. Favors will play and should play, but needs to get more comfortable and everyone needs to manage their expectations on him.
In today’s game, Lopez led the Nets with 22 points. Terrence Williams had 20 and Harris had 19 and seven assists.
The Nets will go to the Great Wall as a team tomorrow before flying to Guangzhou for Saturday’s game against the Rockets.
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)