For the first two games under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, the Nets appeared to have righted the ship.
Brooklyn rolled to wins over the lowly Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers and seemingly had momentum on its side heading into a New Year’s Eve showdown against the perennial powerhouse that is the San Antonio Spurs.
The Nets got crushed.
Carlesimo called the match-up against San Antonio “a statement game” — and the statement was clear: this team can’t consistently hang with the NBA’s elite.
What is not clear, however, is why.
The Nets are a team built to win now — and at times, they show it, like during last night’s resounding road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. But wins against top tier teams have been few and far between.
The first casualty of the Nets’ mediocrity was recently canned coach Avery Johnson. After an impressive November, injuries in December halted winning and Johnson was never able to get his group to refocus.
Even with a change at the top, the results have largely followed the same narrative: there’s no problem with the NBA’s weakest teams, but the Nets struggle to keep up with the league’s best.
The 104–73 drubbing at the hands of the Spurs, which included a historically awful five-point quarter, further demonstrates that these problems go beyond the coach.
Maybe the expectations heading into the season were too high. Maybe this team just isn’t much better than a low playoff seed. Maybe this group of guys isn’t fit to play together.
But with the talent from the top to the bottom of the roster, it’s hard to believe any of those things. It remains to be seen if Carlesimo will be the man in charge of the Nets for the remainder of the season, but one thing is certain: if the Nets don’t start performing to their potential, regardless of the coach, the team won’t go far.
Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the team’s big men.