With Caris LeVert, their best player, sidelined for months, the Nets desperately need everybody on the roster to step up. But nobody needs to raise his game more than the struggling Allen Crabbe.
The Nets are hoping the signs Crabbe showed of stirring on Saturday weren’t just a blip but an actual breakout.
“Just being assertive, being aggressive. With Caris out, I feel like everybody has to step up in some way whenever the opportunities are there. [I’m] just trying to get back where I used to be,” said Crabbe, who will look to build on the performance when the Nets play Tuesday in Miami.
“That slump I’ve been in, it’s always good to see the ball go through the hoop. It’s all about just sticking with it. That’s the only way you’re going to get out of a slump. The coaching staff tells me to keep shooting. Nobody’s telling me to stop, so we’ve just got to keep at it ’til it clicks. Hopefully it’s the first game in the right direction.”
So far, Crabbe’s season has been going in the wrong direction since hurting his ankle during the preseason. It threw off his rhythm and set him back, just like last year’s ankle injury did. But with LeVert out indefinitely — and Crabbe making a team-high $18.5 million this year and next — they can’t afford to see the shooting guard take until the All-Star break again to come around.
Crabbe is averaging just 7.0 points on 27.3 percent shooting heading into Tuesday’s game against the Heat. But he did muster those 15 points on Saturday, shooting 3-of-6 from deep and grabbing four rebounds. It was just the fourth time he cracked double-figures this season, but it was an auspicious sign.
“It definitely is. We all know he’s been struggling. [It] shows he really has it in him and he’s going to bring it out,” Jarrett Allen said of Crabbe.
“He showed spark. I loved his energy. [He] not only shot the ball well, but he drove to the basket,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “His energy was great, so that’s really good news for us because we obviously need it. But good game by him.”
Atkinson has been trying everything to shake Crabbe out of his malaise. He’s handed him three straight starts since LeVert’s injury, had him take technical free throws at times and run plays for him coming out of timeouts.
“We’ve been doing that lately, just trying to get him shots, get him looks after the timeout. Guys are looking for him in transition; the guys were looking for him. I thought his energy was excellent on both ends of the court. So good news for him that he had a good game.”
It bodes well that Crabbe’s solid game came against a solid defensive backcourt that includes Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Mike Scott. But frankly, he’s struggled so badly, he’ll take progress wherever and whenever he can get it.
“It didn’t matter who we played against, really. Just seeing the ball go in was a confidence boost for me at this point,” said Crabbe. “So I’m going to just keep doing what I’ve been doing and trust the process and continue to put up extra shots and just hopefully keep it rolling.”
Those extra shots have come at optional shootarounds, after practice, whenever he gets a chance. He’s put up over 100 shots after his teammates have finished practices, working with assistant Chris Fleming.
“Shooting game-like shots, sets that we’re doing within the game, trying to execute that. I think it’s headed in the right direction,” said Crabbe. “Coach Fleming has been working with me a lot, trying to get the shot back, trying to get the confidence back.”