The All-Star game cannot come soon enough for the Nets, who, following the injured Deron Williams’ cue, are really limping into the break.
Brooklyn eked out a gutsy overtime win against the Pacers and squeezed past the Pistons last week, but also racked up the team’s first two losses to sub-.500 clubs: a home drubbing at the hands of the Dwight Howard-less Lakers and an embarrassing defeat to the lowly Wizards. Then they got shellacked on national TV by the Spurs.
What happened to the team that couldn’t lose in January?
There’s no doubt that guards Joe Johnson and Deron Williams — who is nursing ankle injuries — are playing better ball now than they did early in the season, center Brook Lopez is continuing his All-Star campaign with extreme effectiveness night-in and night-out, and forward Reggie Evans is attacking the glass better than perhaps anyone in the NBA, with his 22 boards in Monday night’s win.
But in Brooklyn’s recent defeats, the Nets seem to have gotten away from what they do best: hustle.
The losses to Washington and San Antonio showed a team that lacked focus and effort. To open the second quarter against the Wizards, the borough’s new home team shot 0–12 from the field, settling for lazy jumpers and not following up the misses by attacking the glass. In a defeat to San Antonio, the Nets gave up a halftime lead to Tony Parker and the Spurs — and responded by taking ill-advised shots, getting careless with the ball, and, collectively, hanging their heads.
But don’t lose hope yet.
It took a humiliating defeat by the Spurs earlier in the year to fire Brooklyn up before its big win against the Thunder. And the team has already rebounded from its most recent loss to San Antonio with a crucial victory over Indiana.
What better than a few days off to help Brooklyn bounce back from its mid-season ennui?
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.