By Chris Broussard
ESPN the Magazine
U-Turns are illegal on the New Jersey Turnpike, but the Nets have gotten away with one. After a 10–14 start, they won eight of 12 and finally appear headed in the right direction. Jason Kidd & Co. have climbed from a threeway tie for ninth to seventh in the East and are within striking distance of the fourth-best record in the weak-sister conference, which would mean home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Jersey’s turnaround began Dec. 18, when coach Lawrence Frank elevated second-year center Josh Boone (above, left) and rookie power forward Sean Williams , both 6'10" and very athletic, to the starting lineup. Suddenly, the Nets have become a full-court team with speed to burn and muscle on the boards. "Those two guys can fly," said Boston coach Doc Rivers following a Jan. 11 Celtics victory over the Nets in which Boone pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds. "And they’re just going to keep getting better."
Since entering the starting lineup, Boone has averaged 10.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, compared to the 1.1 ppg and 2.6 rpg Jason Collins contributed as the previous starter. After replacing Malik Allen, Williams has averaged 2.3 blocks, along with 7.3 points and 6.4 rebounds. The result? The new-look Nets are scoring nearly 100 points a contest, up from the 90 they averaged the first six weeks of the season. "We’re thriving in this situation," says Boone.
In the Meadowlands, sometimes there’s no other choice than to turn around, or you’ll wind up
in a swamp.