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Glass ‘half’ empty for sinking Nets

Brooklyn Looking Lost at Midway Point of Disappointing Season

January 20, 2015 By John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Second-year center Mason Plumlee is emerging as one of the most valuable players on the struggling Nets as they hit the midway point of their season with Saturday night’s home loss to Washington. AP photo
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Losers of eight of nine games entering their second-half opener in Sacramento on Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets aren’t quite sure where the rest of this thus-far deeply disappointing season will take them.

”Well, in the first 41 we didn’t win enough games,” first-year Nets coach Lionel Hollins admitted during a quick assessment of his struggling 17-24 unit following Saturday’s 99-90 home loss to Washington.

”And in the second 41, I hope we win a lot more.”

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Hoping, and even praying, may not be enough for the Nets, who own the NBA’s biggest payroll but also possess one of the least productive dollar-for-dollar rosters in the league.

With billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov actively “listening” to offers for the franchise, Brooklyn’s two biggest pieces – center Brook Lopez and point guard Deron Williams – are looking more attractive as trade bait than foundation-type players.

Also, the Nets are failing miserably at rebounding the ball, scoring the ball and defending their own paint, three things that have Hollins flummoxed as the team begins a critical three-game West Coast swing with a half-game lead over Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“I thought we would be much better,” Hollins revealed Monday while adding that he wasn’t sure if the Nets could orchestrate the type of second-half comeback that helped them reach the conference semifinals a season ago under Jason Kidd. “That’s what we’re striving for.”

Brooklyn currently ranks 24th overall in scoring and 20th in rebounding, two statistics that will have to change if the Nets are to reach the postseason for the third straight year since arriving in our fair borough.

“We have to execute both offensively and defensively for 48 minutes to win,” Hollins noted. “We [have to] be consistent in what we do.”

The Nets have been consistently bad since completing the climb back to .500 with a 100-98 victory in Orlando on Jan. 2.

Their lone win since that night in Florida came Friday in Washington, a somewhat surprising 102-80 triumph over the Wizards, who paid them back in front of an announced sellout crowd 17,732 at Downtown’s Barclays Center just 24 hours later.
”Tonight, obviously they came in here a little bit more desperate knowing that we went into Washington last night and got a win,” said shooting guard Joe Johnson, who is averaging a team-leading 15.9 points per game after being Brooklyn’s lone All-Star representative a season ago.

“We knew we were going to get their best shot today but I thought we played great,” he added. ”I just think down the stretch we couldn’t get stops and we couldn’t make the shots to get us over the hump.”

Getting over the hump, or at least getting back to .500, will be a long, arduous journey for this Nets team, which will visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday and Utah on Saturday after taking on the Kings, who just happen to be the league’s best rebounding unit.

Second-year center Mason Plumlee, one of the few really bright spots in the first half of the campaign, is unlikely to be dealt prior to the Feb. 19 trade deadline, though he is also one of the most coveted players on the Brooklyn roster.

As for everyone else, a potential fire sale could be in the works as the Nets look to continue reducing what was a record-setting $210 million payroll (now down to just over $90 million) just one season ago.

Brooklyn would also presumably like to build Hollins a team that fits his coaching profile, one that rebounds, defends and fights to the finish for every loose ball available.

If general manager Billy King manages to deal either Lopez or Williams, who remains sidelined with a rib injury by the time the All-Star Weekend hits the Big Apple next month, Hollins figures to have an even more challenging second half as the Nets will undergo yet another identity crisis.
“I have a pretty good sense of how we are, and who we are,” Hollins said. “We just keep battling. I’m not gonna tell you exactly who we are, but I do know, and I understand perfectly.”

Oftentimes, when you don’t have something nice to say, it’s best not to say anything at all.

Nothing But Net: F Kevin Garnett, playing in rare back-to-back games against Washington, had a solid night with eight points and 10 rebounds Saturday night. Garnett also wasn’t willing to make any guarantees regarding the Nets’ ability to make a strong charge in the second half of the season. “I [want to] say, ‘Yeah we can turn it around,’ and I hope so,” he said following Monday’s practice. “But it’s about the work you put into this and that’s what we’re trying to do here: practice and get better.” … With the NBA All Star weekend coming to Brooklyn on Feb. 13, Citizen Schools is partnering with the NBA to promote fun, fitness-related basketball activities. Sessions will focus on the importance of staying active and eating right, and will provide local middle school kids the chance to learn the skills of the game. On Tuesday, former NBA player Marty Conlon was scheduled to work with sixth, seventh and eighth graders Brooklyn’s Urban Assembly Union School.


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