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Nets look to avoid infamy in Philly

Slumping Brooklyn Takes on Winless Sixers Wednesday Night

November 25, 2014 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Though he hasn’t resorted to begging just yet, Lionel Hollins wants a lot more from his Nets as they visit Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Photos courtesy of the Associated Press
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The moment the final buzzer sounded on Portland 114, Philadelphia, 104 Monday night in the City of Brotherly Love, the Brooklyn Nets were officially “it” in the ongoing game of whose-going-to-lose-to-the-76ers-first-this-season.

After dropping to an unfathomable 0-14, the Sixers are only four defeats shy of matching the worst start in NBA history, a feat accomplished by none other than the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, who went 0-18 to kick off that campaign. 

The Nets, who have lost six of seven contests, including Saturday night’s 99-87 defeat at defending NBA champion San Antonio, would like to move Philadelphia closer to matching, and perhaps even eclipsing, the standard for early season futility while avoiding the distinction of handing the hapless Sixers win No. 1. 

On Saturday in New York, the Hudson River rival Knicks, who had lost seven in a row themselves, passed off the hot potato by holding off Philadelphia, 91-83. 

The Blazers dodged the bullet Monday, and now the Nets must fend off what figures to be a hungry team and a victory-starved fan base at the Wells Fargo Center.

Brooklyn first-year coach Lionel Hollins, who played alongside the likes of Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks during his stint as a point guard in Philadelphia from 1980-82, doesn’t believe his struggling unit has earned the right to overlook any opponent. 

Much less one that is as eager for a victory as any team in the sport.

“We’re 5-8,” Hollins told the New York Post following Brooklyn’s wire-to-wire loss to the Spurs. “We’re not the defending champions. We can’t take anybody lightly.”

While the Nets are still a safe distance from approaching last year’s brutal 10-21 start under then-neophyte head coach Jason Kidd, they do appear to be in the midst of a significant culture change under Hollins — one that could result in some serious lineup alterations if Brooklyn can’t get past Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Eve. 

The tough-as-nails, no-nonsense 61-year-old hasn’t pulled any punches when discussing the limitations of former All-Star center Brook Lopez, who is struggling to find his niche thus far under his new firebrand coach. 

Hollins is quick to point out that while Lopez may be adept at filling up the score sheet, he hasn’t held his own as a rebounder, interior defender or passer in 11 games since returning from a foot injury. 

“There’s people that come into this league and their whole life they’re only asked to do one thing,” Hollins noted. “And when you get to this level, it takes a little more to win. I’m trying to ask [Lopez] to do those things.” 

To his credit, Lopez is taking the not-so-veiled criticism in stride. 

“I’m not playing well right now, I know that,” the 7-foot Stanford alum admitted. “I know that even when I have been at my best, I know there’s tons of room for improvement. There’s always room for improvement. … Every player in the league can improve.” 

Also, reserve power forward Andrei Kirilenko appears all but gone from Brooklyn after missing the team’s two-game trip through Oklahoma City and San Antonio due to “personal reasons.” 

“It is tough, but there’s not much I can do,” Kirilenko, who hasn’t seen the floor since Nov. 13, said of his ongoing lack of playing time in Hollins’ system. “It is what it is. I like our system, and I like our coach. I spoke with the coach. Obviously, I know he sees things a little different — and he’s been honest about it. I really appreciate it, but it doesn’t make things better.” 

There are even rumblings that Kirilenko could be traded to Philadelphia by the time the Nets sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this week.

As for the Sixers, head coach Brett Brown insists that his team remains steadfast in its belief that victory will come – sooner rather than later. 

”Nobody is rolling over or pointing fingers,” Brown said after his team moved within one loss of the worst start in franchise history, established during the Sixers’ record-setting 9-73 campaign in 1972-73. ”This locker room is great.”   

With a win on Wednesday, the Nets can enjoy their turkey dinner, get some much-needed rest and gear up for Sunday’s showdown with the Chicago Bulls at the Barclays Center.

But a loss to the hapless Sixers will almost certainly give Brooklyn players, and especially their acerbic new coach, an instant case of indigestion before they even sit down to give thanks.


Nothing But Net: The Nets finished a franchise-worst 12-70 following their 0-18 start in 2009-10. New Jersey ended that season-opening slide with a 97-91 win over Charlotte on Dec. 4, 2009 as Lopez scored 31 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. … F Kevin Garnett, who sat out his first game of the season Saturday in San Antonio, will be back in the starting lineup Wednesday in Philadelphia. Garnett, a veteran of 20 NBA seasons, was simply getting some rest after helping the Nets beat Oklahoma City on Friday night.

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