Looking forward, backward and sideways

Masha Lopatova/Instagram

It's the All-Star Break and that's usually a time to re-evaluate, particularly since the break comes just days before the trade deadline.

Nets players not named Johnson or Plumlee are scattered about vacation spots in the U.S. and elsewhere, escaping from New York for some R&R. (Most of the plans are private, but Masha Lopatova, Andrei Kirilenko's wife, revealed via Instagram that AK-47 and Deron Williams chartered a jet to Las Vegas.)

With the players elsewhere, beat writers back home are taking a look at the first half of the season. Mike Mazzeo and Andy Vasquez among the first.

Mazzeo looks at three areas of improvement: rebounding, consistency in the backcourt and play in back-to-backs ... and three reasons for optimism: their recent uptick in play; the Eastern Conference and their experience in the playoffs.

Of D-Will and Johnson, Mazzeo writes...

Williams and Johnson make nearly $40 million combined but haven’t been consistent. Williams has been slowed by ankle injuries -- and confidence problems -- while Johnson has been dealing with right knee tendinitis. With Brook Lopez out for the season, the Nets will need both guards to be healthy and productive for the stretch run.

Vasquez looks at the best and worst of the first half, writing of the "team strength" Paul Pierce...

After struggling early, Paul Pierce is bringing a potent mix of productivity and swagger. He is averaging 14.7 points and shooting 46.2 percent in 2014, timing his scoring outbursts for when the Nets most needed them. And at age 36, the confidence remains. "There are a lot of guys who are probably faster, jump higher," Pierce said this week. "But I feel like I have one of the greatest minds in the game."

After struggling early, Paul Pierce is bringing a potent mix of productivity and swagger. He is averaging 14.7 points and shooting 46.2 percent in 2014, timing his scoring outbursts for when the Nets most needed them. And at age 36, the confidence remains. "There are a lot of guys who are probably faster, jump higher," Pierce said this week. "But I feel like I have one of the greatest minds in the game." - See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/sports/245651751_Nets__Prospects_looking_up_at_All-Star_break.html?page=all#sthash.exkRClDZ.dpuf

Meanwhile, ESPN's Scoop Jackson lumps the Nets in with the Knicks and says its time for New Yorkers to end their love affair with teams representing the NBA in Manhattan and Brooklyn. "Because at the very end of the day what the Nets and Knicks have given us is not what any one of us signed up for."

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