Any veteran Nets Daily poster can tell you the mood around here, comes and goes with the cycle of the moon. We win 5 in a row, and it's planning the parade path through Brooklyn. We lose one game by 10 points, and it's Fire Avery, Fire PJ, trade Lopez, Fire D-Will, Blow it all up, and start over.
We're a little turbulent as a fan base, but with more than half the season behind us, I think it's safe to take a look at what this team is capable of, and where in the pecking order we belong.
This team, like the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, has been up and down for much of this season. We started off the season with a pair of 5 game win streaks, sandwhiched in between some embarrassing losing streaks en route to a franchise best 11-4 November mark. In December the wheels fell off and the Nets reacted by firing Avery Johnson. We were blown out by the Spurs on New Years, only to blow out the Thunder on the road in the next game, only to be taken to double OT, by the NBA worst (at the time) Washington Wizards. Up and down, down and up.
Well half way through the season we're 28-19 and fourth in the Eastern Conference. We're 1 game behind Chicago, and 2 games behind the NY Knicks. In the last 25 years, I believe only the 1996 Houston Rockets managed to win a championship from a playoff seed lower than 3rd in their conference. So our goal, should be to catch the Knicks and finish 3rd or higher in the Eastern conference. Assuming we have the fortitude to accomplish this task, as our schedule is slightly friendlier than theirs down the stretch, let's take a look at what we can hope for in the playoffs.
The Eastern Conference, are the Heat's to lose. Other contenders include the Knicks, Bulls, and Pacers. Everyone else, doesn't seem to have the horses to take out the Heat, or win consistently against the other top 5 teams in the East.
The Knicks, Pacers, and Bulls have all proven that they can beat the Heat, with their play this season. So if we can avoid Miami's side of the bracket, it is clear that this would be our most favorable position. Meanwhile we have shown the ability to defeat the Bulls, Pacers, and Knicks. So, should our playoff fortunes put us against the Hawks (current 6th seed) in round 1, Bulls in round two, and Pacers or Knicks in the ECF, I would argue that it is actually possible for this team to actually make it to the NBA Finals.
Will it require good fortune, and strong play on our part? Yes, of course it would, as does any champions path. But, the point is, under the best of circumstances, we COULD find ourselves punching a ticket to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
In the Finals, once again, depending on who we face, we could have a very real chance at emerging victorious. We have already beaten the Clippers at home convincingly. We have already blown out the Thunder on the road. We have shown that we can beat some of the best teams in the NBA.
So, why don't we start walking and talking with that championship swagger? I'm not saying we should be favorites, or that a championship is the probable outcome.
It's certainly possible that we fall to the Bucks in round 1, or can't outlast the Pacers in round 2. It's probable that we finish as a 4 or 5th seed instead of 2 or 3 seed, and we get run out by the Heat in round 2. There are a number of unfavorable outcomes, to our ultimate success.
But, the point is, there is a significant (say 15%) chance that this team is capable of winning the NBA Championship, this season in Brooklyn. As such, we should have the mentality that comes with it. Us against the world, win every loose ball, contest ever shot, kind of hunger that wins basketball games.
I want to see this team come out of the All-Star break with fire in the belly. A hunger to prove that there is no team out there that can beat us, and no matter what the score is, we're going to shut you down this play. Our fans, and our front office should exude this swagger. I don't need to hear about rumors of trading key rotational players for draft picks, and Brett Yormark "downplaying" championship expectations.
Let's go beat the Lakers. And go out and win the next game after that. Lets get to 50 wins, and establish ourselves with the best seed possible. Then let's get in the playoffs and leave our hearts on the floor. If it means Gerald Wallace needs to lose a body part, to help us win, I'm sure that's a sacrifice he is willing to make.
I'm tired of hearing we're a 2nd round exit. We are what we say we are. To be a champion, you need to believe it. For this team to believe it, we need to believe in them. Even it's irrational. The best team doesn't always win the championship. It's the team that plays the best. For Brooklyn to win, they need to show some passion, and we need to be that passion.
So Nets fans. Talk Championship. Sound like an idiot, and let's will this team to what it can win. Even if it's only 1 in a million. Those are odds we need to fight for.