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Jefferson joins the critique with tough talk about Nets

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by Dave D'Alessandro
Star-Ledger
(Not Online)

The ups and downs were getting tedious by early yesterday, and nobody wanted to salp a label on it because there were too many contributing causes.

Undoubtedly, the Nets were still sorting out their rotation. They were still trying to get their best players healthy. They were still trying to grasp what the competition was doing, and determining their best fourth quarter mix, and trying to get their younger players or newer guys to reach some level of consistency.

Then Richard Jefferson spoke up at the morning shoot-around, when his .500 team was preparing for last night's encounter with the Trail Blazers. "I think we're lacking a little bit of toughness, to tell you the truth," the Nets forward said, matter-of-factly. "That's it, toughness."

That covers a lot of areas, he knows.

But the examples he cited the recent home losses to Seattle and Portland -- teams that were expected to be at the bottom rung of the Western Conference this season -- which immediately followed superb road victories at Washington and Indiana.

"I'm not talking about being physically tough," Jefferson said. "It's more mental. You win two big (road) games and come bask home and lose to probably the lesser of the two teams...and neither (home) game was close. Neither game was competitive. Both games, we got dominated in."

Of course, that's not the only game that disgusted them. The loss at Seattle Monday night, which opened this four-game trip, was just as bad.

"We were leading for three quarters and we got blown out in the fourth quarter," Jefferson agreed. "That’s just lacking in toughness. Am I worried? No. If you're a winner, I don't think you really get worried. You just understand that there are things that need to be addressed."

Jason Kidd said some of the same things Tuesday.

The only difference is, the head coach was little more willing to debate Jefferson's premise.

"Again, the season is short," Lawrence Frank said. "At times we haven't and at times we have (shown resilience)." And then he used the example of the game at Washington where he accurately pointed out that the Nets "could have easily folded the tent there."

"I think it's too easy to generalize," the coach continued. "There have been times where we haven't collectively done the best job that we need to do. It's going to be a work in progress, and it's something we addressed probably four weeks ago, but are we going to be mentally tougher as the season progresses? Yeah, because you have to build on it and you develop it by going through some adversity."

Indeed, the game here and the two to follow (Phoenix tomorrow and against the Lakers on Sunday) are going to be an interesting test, because the Nets know that something good has to come out of this trip. If only because the three of the opponents aren't exactly at their best right now.

"I think if you look at half the teams we're lost to, we're most likely better than (them)," Jefferson said.

Another issue: The Nets are still sorting out their chemistry while their roster is in flux. Jefferson himself just got back from a five game absence and was going to be placed back in the starting lineup last night. More change is to follow and soon.

"It doesn't help when four games into the season you lose a starter for who knows how long," he said. "They didn't know when I was coming back. So the feeling out process is tough when you have personnel moving in and out. And we might have more it in the next few weeks -- we'll be throwing Eddie House in there, we'll be throwing Josh Boone in there. Those are guys who can contribute. So a lot of times, it's not a smooth process, because some guys minutes are going to go up, some are going to go down. We're a lot better than what we're showing right now."