By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
"Share and Share Alike" isn't exactly the sexiest of slogans for today's "All Eyes on Me" NBA, but it's doing the Brooklyn Nets just fine during their perfect start to 2013.
Spearheaded by Deron Williams' inspired play under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, the surging Nets improved to 7-0 since a New Year's Eve loss in San Antonio, and 9-1 since firing coach Avery Johnson, with Tuesday night's 113-106 victory over the Toronto Raptors in front of 16,236 fans at the Barclays Center.
"This team was built from the beginning to win games and be on the top. It feels great," noted Nets forward Mirza Teletovic, who poured in 10 points off the bench while helping Brooklyn move within 1 1/2 games of first-place East River rival New York in the ever-tightening Atlantic Division standings.
While the Knicks, who are in London to take on the Detroit Pistons Thursday night, have soared to the top of the standings behind the MVP-caliber play of Carmelo Anthony, the Nets are using a much more balanced approach to winning these days, as evidenced by Tuesday night's performance.
Williams scored 21 points and handed out seven assists, backcourt mate Joe Johnson added 21 points, five rebounds and five assists and Brook Lopez posted team highs of 22 points and nine boards for Brooklyn, which also got 39 points from its "Bench Mob" en route to the hard-fought win.
''It's a lot of fun to watch and I'm sure guys are having a great time in this locker room," noted Johnson, who is doubtlessly looking forward to facing his former teammates in Atlanta on Wednesday night in the opener of a home-and-home series with the Hawks.
''Our confidence is high right now, definitely as a group,'' Williams added, ''When you're winning, when you're having fun, I think everybody picks their game up a little bit."
To his credit, Williams hasn't shied away from the pressure of producing after greasing the rails for coach Johnson's departure with his well-chronicled complaints regarding an inability to function properly in the Nets' offense. He is averaging 19.7 points and 8.1 assists per game in January after putting up 16.9 and 6.4 during the team's December to forget under Johnson.
More importantly, the $100 milliion point guard is spreading the wealth. ranking third on the team in scoring average (16.9 ppg) behind Lopez (18.5) and Johnson (17.3). Backup center Andray Blatche paces Nets reserves with 11.3 points per contest as Brooklyn boasts eight scorers putting up at least six points a night.
In a star-driven league of high-paid divas, the Nets' rebuilt $330 million unit is flourishing with a team-first, win-first mentality.
Carlesimo admitted before and after Tuesday's win that his biggest problem these days is finding playing time for a roster full of contributors clicking together on all cyclinders.
"No one wants to be left out," revealed Williams of the Nets' newfound cohesion under Carlesimo, who somewhat playfully referred to his dilemna regarding doling out playing time as a "major concern."
From 14-14 to 23-15, the Nets now own the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference and sit a mere two games back of defending NBA champion Miami for the East's top mark.
After completing their two-game set with the Hawks in Downtown Brooklyn on Friday night, the Nets will head to Madison Square Garden for Monday afternoon's Martin Luther King Day showdown with the Knicks -- a potential battle for first place as well as city bragging rights.
"We're just finding a way to win," admitted Carlesimo, who is moving closer to getting the "interim" tag removed from his coaching title with each victory.
Hoop du Jour: The Nets are a perfect 15-0 this season against teams with sub-.500 winning percentages. ... Brooklyn's seven-game winning streak is its longest since reeling off 14 in a row during the 2005-06 campaign. ... G Johnson spent the previous seven seasons with Atlanta, earning an All-Star Game appearance in each of his final six campaigns with the Hawks. ... The Nets averaged 94.5 points per game in 28 games under Avery Johnson. They are putting up 102.9 per night in 10 games with Carlesimo at the helm. ... The Hawks suspended leading scorer Josh Smith for Wednesday's game due to "conduct detrimental to the team." ... Atlanta has dropped six of its last seven contests, but is 10-2 in its last 12 against the Nets. ... F Gerald Wallace, who has missed consecutive games since suffering injured ribs in a nasty fall during last Friday's home win over Phoenix, remains listed as day-to-day. ... By sweeping their three-game homestand, the Nets have won six straight at Barclays Center and are 15-7 in their new state-of-the-art arena this season.