With 76ers in a free fall, is this another chance for Nets to improve?

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Remember the good old days in October when everyone though the Atlantic Division would be the killer division in the NBA with the Celtics, Knicks, Nets and 76ers all fighting for the honor of finishing first?

Well, other than the Knicks, there is little killer instinct in the Atlantic. The Nets, while riding a three-game winning streak, have fired their coach. The Celtics are looking for help in all the wrong places (Sacramento) and the 76ers, who the Nets play Tuesday, are falling apart. Their savior, Andrew Bynum, hurt himself bowling (BOWLING?!) in New Jersey. After a decent start, they're 3-7 over the last seven and have lost three straight. They're in eighth place in the East, only two games ahead of the Magic, and the last team the Avery Johnson-coached Nets beat. The Raptors? They're still buried in the East, but have won seven out of 10 lately.

What's the problem in Philly, where the Nets will overnight before Tuesday's game? The Sixers have some young talent, like Jrue Holiday, all of 22 years old, plus Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner, both 24. They have some nice veterans like Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright and a big man in Spencer Hawes. who when not complaining can do some damage. Nick Young can shoot ... sometimes. What they're missing is leadership since Andre Iguodala went to Denver. Say what you want about Iggy. He knows how to play the game.

Also, despite what looks on paper like real firepower, they don't have much of an offense. They're 26th in points per game and points in the paint, 28th in offensive efficiency. They're 20th in fast break points despite their youth and athleticism. They're not bad on defense, but their average of 96.6 points allowed, eighth in the league, has been hurt by their last three games, all losses, when they allowed 104.3. Bottom line: they seem to be going nowhere.

The Nets, it appears will be back at full strength. P.J. Carlesimo was asked if Kris Humphries will be returning in Philly. "Yes, barring something happening," Carlesimo said. "I didn't ask (trainer) Tim Walsh, but he looked good. He went through the whole entire practice."

As for their mental condition, the latest iteration of the Dwightmare doesn't seem to affect the Nets. As Brook Lopez said, "It is what it is."

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