NEW YORK, February 1, 2016 - Interim head coach Tony Brown may not be doing much to improve his stock, but the same cannot be said of Shane Larkin. Larkin dished out an impressive 14 assists in just 28 minutes of action on Monday night, helping the Nets stay in a game against a superior Detroit Pistons team.
"Every single night you can't expect the starters to carry you so the bench gotta come out and sometimes pick up for where the starters left off," Larkin said after the Nets dropped the contest, 105-100.
Although Larkin's career night came in a loss, for the 23-year-old point guard, this season, he has taken advantage of the opportunity he has been afforded to prove that he can contribute to an NBA team. Entering this season, he played inconsistently over the course of his career with the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks.
This season, he has appeared in 45 contests and is playing about 20 minutes per game. He has emerged as one of the more important reserve players in Brooklyn and it is a role he relishes.
"It's very important," Larkin said of the contributions of a team's bench. "Every single bench in the NBA is important. Everybody in the starting lineup gets all the praise, but the teams that are really good have a good bench."
In the end, it was the Pistons starters sorely outplaying the Nets starters that made the difference. Led by All-Star Andre Drummond and his 21-point, 18-rebound effort, the Pistons starters each scored in double figures and combined for 84 points, as opposed to just 54 combined points for the Nets starting unit.
Since being selected with the 18th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, Larkin has been searching for a permanent home in the NBA and whether or not he ends up finding one in Brooklyn, he certainly has helped to improve his odds of finding one after this season.
According to Larkin, he recognized a lack of aggression in his game and vowed to approach things a bit differently. On Monday night, it certainly showed.
"I went through a stretch probably a week ago of maybe five or 10 games in a row where I wasn't being aggressive and not playing with intensity," Larkin said. "It kinda showed in the stats and on the film and I could kinda see myself not playing with the intensity that I was earlier in the year, so I kinda sat down with one of the coaches, watched my games, watched my minutes and that stretch when I was playing bad and it just was a whole different person than who I was," he said.
Both Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson acknowledged a new edict for each player to approach the game a bit more aggressively, though making the correct play is still the priority.
For Larkin specifically, the guard believes that he can help the team turn things around if he remains dedicated to being a difference maker, and based on what we saw against the Pistons, it's difficult to argue with the theory.
"I gotta use my speed and quickness to my advantage. Not a lot of guys have my speed and quickness, I'm not the tallest guy so I'm not gonna shoot over people or back people down or whatever so I gotta get by em, get into the lane and create," he said.
And if he does so consistently, when it's all said and done, we may look back at the 2015-16 NBA season as the one where Larkin proved to have the capability of being a long-term and productive NBA player.