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Do the Brooklyn Nets think they can contend this year?


Leave it to Andray Blatche to say what his teammates are thinking. In a conversation about contract talks with the front office, Blatche said, only partly tongue-in-cheek, "Talk to me after the playoffs ... I mean, after we win the championship." He later explained, "I mean, we are right there. "We didn't have all our guys (vs.OKC). We are right there. We are turning the corner."

He's not alone in his optimism or his resolve. In comments after losses to last year's finalists, a number of Nets talked about being close to contention this year. After all, they're only two games back of the conference leading Knicks (who they beat) and a game and a half behind the defending champion Heat. If the Knicks think they can win it all, why shouldn't the Nets?

"We picked up on each other's games very quickly in the off-season and we got to the regular season and we were just quickening," Brook Lopez said. "We've been improving each and every game and I think the sky is the limit for us."

For his part, Deron Williams conceded the Nets are still behind the Heat and Thunder, but only by "a little bit." "These two kind of humble you and show us that we still have a little bit of a way to go before we can be considered one of the upper-echelon teams." Still, he said, "I feel good," about the team's chances.

A lot of what's happening is about confidence and attitude, Kris Humphries stressed. "A loss is a loss to us," he said Tuesday night. "We are not the Nets of the past few years. No moral victories. We are trying to win games. We can't go on losing streaks. That's not what this team is about."

What about the front office? Like D-Will, they concede they're not yet at the level of the Heat and Thunder, but quietly say they are prepared to make the necessary moves to close the gap...this year.