The New Jersey Nets Mid-Season Report: Incomplete

  • Andy Flint

 

Midway through the NBA season, the New Jersey Nets mid-season report card reminds  me of mine in the 9th grade. You see, I had just moved to a new town and I was having a hard time adjusting… AKA I didn’t want to go to school. In fact, I missed nearly 75% of scheduled classes. Needless to say, when I received my report card for that semester, it simply read: DQ (disqualified) because my teachers hadn’t even seen me enough to give me a proper assessment.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011-2012 New Jersey Nets! Of all seasons, this is undoubtedly the worst one to be plagued by the injury bug, and the Nets are the prime example. The healthiest they have been all season was last night, and it showed with an impressive performance in a win over the defending champion Mavericks. It was a career night for Billy King Brook Lopez, who fell one point shy of his career-high in points with 38 in merely is 3rd game back from injury. The Nets we saw last night are the Nets we were hoping to see well… 36 games ago.

The slippery slope of injuries started with the aforementioned Brook Lopez, who broke his foot in a preseason contest. However, those that are worried about his long-term affects from the injury should not fear, because his identical twin Robin suffered the same injury and recovered just fine.

All that said, we have learned some things about this teams future from what we have seen on the court, so let’s delve into this season and see what has gone wrong (a lot) and what has gone right (….not a lot), and see what improvements the team can make before their move to Brooklyn.

Things We Have Learned

  • This one seems obvious, but the most important thing we have learned is that Deron Williams hates losing. The (hopefully) point guard of the future has been visibly frustrated both on and off the court with the consistent losing streaks the Nets have suffered this season. Whether it is yelling at teammates, or questioning the Nets arena’s energy.I may be in the minority on this one, but I love Williams’ frustration. As a fan of a mediocre team, there is nothing worse than watching guys that are content with losing. There have been many examples of that over the years on this team, whether it is players laughing on the bench down 20, or continuously isolating instead of running the set. Those are the type of stunts that infuriates fans. That brings me to the second thing we’ve learned.

 

  • This team isn’t losing from a lack of effort like many of the previous Nets bad seasons; they are losing because they are bad, and trust me, there’s a difference. Between the combination of injuries and a general lack of team chemistry, the Nets are simply less talented than the majority of the league, but they have fought their tails off night in and night out. They have continuously fought back from double-digit deficits and fell short of a victory. As fans, we are always looking for someone to blame, and someone’s head to have, but sometimes, you just aren’t good enough. That is the Nets’ main problem.

 

  • Potential, potential, potential. If you tune in to every miserable game like I do, you see the bright spots on this team. Rookie guard Marshon Brooks has incredible potential, and is going to be great for the Orlando Magic in five years. Anthony Morrow is a prolific three point shooter, though his defense is…questionable at times. Brook Lopez is back, and as I said earlier, he is showing flashes of being a great center trade piece in this league.

 

  • We have reached a weird point with Avery Johnson. When he was first brought on board, we saw him as the savior, and it just hasn’t happened yet. To be fair, he hasn’t had a complete squad to play with this year, but he has also shown no indication that he is worth all the praise we gave him upon the hire either. If nothing else, I think he has shortened his grace period once the Nets form the squad they are envisioning for the future.

 

  • It is Dwight Howard or bust. Period. Everything I just said, that’s nice. It’s cute and optimistic, and I believe every word of it. Realistically, it all leads us to Dwight. It’s seeming more and more realistic that the Magic are idiots going to try and keep Dwight. For the Nets, this leaves them in essentially a coin-flip for their future. The safest scenario is to trade for Dwight, and they could compensate the Magic enough that Orlando could save face. Brook Lopez, Marshon Brooks, draft picks, and cash is the kind of trade that you can go to your fan base and say “hey, it wasn’t what we wanted, but we got what we could.”

Improvements To Be Made

There are other moves that can be made aside from Dwight, and by aside, I clearly mean in addition to. Here are some players that the Nets should be targeting  not named Dwight Howard.

  • OJ Mayo: Billy King was way ahead of me on this one. Mayo would bring an element to the Nets they currently do not have, someone who can handle the ball consistently and make a play for himself not named Deron Williams. Deron is the only player on the roster that we trust to handle the rock consistently. That has to change because he can’t play 48 minutes a night. Mayo would be able to play the point enough to give Deron a rest and solidify the 2 position for the team.

  • Michael Beasley: This dude can put the ball in the hoop, and he’s a small forward. Need I say more? Those are the Nets two biggest needs right now. Word is that Beasley is available for a 1st round pick, which the Lakers recently turned down. Beasley, like Mayo, would be a calculated risk, being that both are on the last year of their deals. However, with the new CBA, you still have the advantage of offering a player more than any other team, which may make the difference for Beasley and Mayo.

  • Stephen Jackson: Jackson brings pretty much everything that Beasley does, plus the word is that he is the key to Dwight’s heart. The risky part is that if for some reason you don’t end up with Dwight, you now have an overpaid, unhappy Stephen Jackson who will likely either tune out completely and demand a trade next season, or both. So there’s that. However, in the right situation with Dwight and Deron, he could be an ideal third option.

Verdict

There is certainly much work to be done, and the team you will see on the floor the next few games is not the team going forward. The Nets threw this team together with a bunch of one-year deals so they could make their real roster this off-season (or this trade deadline.) Unfortunately, if I had to guess right now, I would say that the Magic are going to keep Dwight, and that he and Deron will strongly consider Dallas over Brooklyn, if the Mavs can clear enough cap space.  Though I’d say having a 50/50 chance to become an immediate contender is a lot better than what we have now. We will see.

 

Written By– FRANK SANTOS

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