The Brooklyn Nets are losing basketball games in seemingly the most respectful manner. Everyone’s contributing, and most recently, even guard Allen Crabbe has climbed out of a season-long slump.
Somehow, they mistakenly picked up someone else from the airport and proceeded to plug him into starting lineups halfway into the year.
This is the story of Jekyll and Crabbe, the Brooklyn Nets’ dual-personality marksman.
Last year, Crabbe finished as the NBA’s second-best three-point specialist, knocking them down at a .444 clip. Brooklyn was more than willing to take on his $19 million deal and make him the highest-paid player on the roster over the summer.
They needed a defensive swingman who could put down the three ball in the clutch. Instead, they received an overzealous shooter, one whose inefficiency played a big part in their mid-season downfall.
Brooklyn started out the year comfortably, going 5-8 in their first 13. A huge improvement from their total win record of 20 the previous season.
Then, point guard D’Angelo Russell went down with a knee injury, and eyes turned to Crabbe to step up in a big way.
He didn’t respond.
Instead, the shooting guard hit a career-low slump, shooting 31 percent from deep for the month of December. The Nets won five of 15 games in the final month of 2017, and only due to the breakout of backup guard Spencer Dinwiddie.
On came the new year, and with that, a new Crabbe. Over the span of 22 games in 2018, he’s shooting a slightly improved 37 percent from deep. Not close to his prior prestige, but better.
That includes a career-high 34-point performance in a losing effort against the Detroit Pistons.
Confidence has long been cited as the issue to his shooting struggles. His performance against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday displayed true growth in that area.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 11, 2018
Crabbe took the game-tying three to send the game into overtime, though Brooklyn would lose the match down the stretch. He finished the night with 28 points on a career-high eight made three-pointers.
A performance the Nets wouldn’t mind seeing again and have only seen out of four other players in franchise history (Joe Johnson, Anthony Morrow, Deron Williams, and Vince Carter).
It seems only yesterday I dubbed the Nets’ shooter Jekyll and Crabbe, referencing the ever-waning inconsistency in his shot.
Does he have an alter ego though?
Dinwiddie sure thinks so, as he told Brian Lewis of the New York Post the team has dubbed their knockdown shooter “AC,” and the poor performing shooter “Allen.”
“We finally saw AC [Wednesday in Detroit], and then we saw AC again [Saturday]. And we’re hoping that we continue to see AC and we don’t see Allen again.”
For Crabbe, it’s simply motivation, as it should be.
“He always jokes with me. When I don’t have the good games, he says I play like Allen, and when I’m aggressive and doing what I need to be doing he says I’m playing like AC. That’s just our little trash-talk to each other.”
It’s certainly a challenge for head coach Kenny Atkinson, who’s known league-wide for his success in developing young players into their right roles.
“That’s my job, it’s the coaching staff. I think we have to encourage it, show him film. It’s a different role for him. He’s a fit-in guy, he’s a team guy, he wants to make the right, perfect play all the time. We just need him to go out, be more of a risk-taker out there.”
It’s all fun and games for now, while Brooklyn’s season has no hopes of gaining ground on a push for the postseason.
As the season wanes on, however, the guard will need to tap in to being “AC,” more often than not.
On the year, Crabbe is averaging 12.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, while maintaining a 36 percent average from beyond the arc.
He looks to continue his coming out party as the Brooklyn Nets will host the Indiana Pacers Wednesday evening at Barclays Center. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET.