Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The Nets two wins without Deron Williams represent a number of things: a team pulling together when their (historically) best player is out; coaching adjustments when facing adversity; verterans emerging as leaders; and an rookie proving his point.
But it also justifies the way Billy King built the team over the summer: spending big on the "core four" then filling the bench with players who have a reputation for winning.
It's an underappreciated aspect of the team-building over the summer. C.J. Watson and Keith Bogans were both part of the Bulls' last two seasons when Chicago won 76 percent of their regular season games and with a healthy Derrick Rose got to the conference finals in 2011.
Reggie Evans was a key part of the Clippers' playoff run last season. Jerry Stackhouse has played in five of the last six playoffs, getting to the finals with the Mavericks.
Even the three rookies have a reputation for winning. Tyshawn Taylor has won state and national high school championships, the FIBA U19 world championship and got to the NCAA Finals last season. Mirza Teletovic and Toko Shengelia won big games in Europe.
Only Andray Blatche can't be considered a winner having been part of the seemingly cursed Wizards franchise.
The point of course is they know pressure and how to win when things get rough. They've proved that the last two games with Watson and Taylor plugging the hole at the point and Gerald Wallace providing leadership. Luckily for the Nets, the injuries they've faced have been either small and nagging or short-term. It's not like season where they lost a league-leading 255 games to injury, illness and personal matters, an average of almost four players down per game.
The Nets have been frustrating all season, with Deron Williams' injuries sapping his game; with blowouts of the Thunder and Nuggets interspersed with losses to the Wizards and needlessly close games with a lot of bad teams. Then, there was Christmas Day. Not to mention their inability to mount a serious challenge to the league's two best teams, the Heat and Spurs.
But at the midway point, the Nets are nine games above .500 with their best record at the All-Star Break in a decade and two solid wins to take them into the stretch run, whether with this roster or something modified.
They have a ways to go. As Joe Johnson told George Willis of the Post. "I want us to be a tough team," Johnson said. "At times we’ve been a little fragile. When teams make runs at us, we have a tendency to not come back strong. We have to develop that mental toughness during the second half of the season."
Haivng a bench that can deal with pressure is a big part of the Nets' success (and it IS success). As one Nets insider said in November, "this team was built for April, not for November," and the bench is part of that. It has to be.
Nets’ best still to come - George Willis - New York Post