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A month that tested players' --and fans'-- wills

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Brian Fleurantin begins his monthly reviews with a look at November and how it's been a testing time for the Nets and their fans as the schedule and a talent deficit battered them. But they've come through it.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the season, the Brooklyn Nets weren't expected to compete for a playoff spot in an improved Eastern Conference. The Nets didn't make any major pickups in the summer and got rid of Deron Williams while their peers in the East either made big moves or had injured players returning to optimal health.

The numbers

Cover your eyes

2015-2016

October/November 2015

Record

4-13

Pace

98.74

Offensive Efficiency

96.6

Defensive Effieicncy

103.1

Turnover rate

15.3

Assist rate

15.7

Offensive Rebounding rate

24.6

Rebound rate

50.7

Free throw rate

22.7

Effective field goal percentage

46.7

Opponent's effective field goal percentage

51.5

Yeah, this isn't pretty.

The starting five has actually worked pretty well together. The combination of Jarrett Jack, Joe Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, and Brook Lopez played 195 minutes together in October/November, fourth highest of any five man lineup in the league. When they were together, they outscored opponents by almost 13 points per 100 possessions, one of the better marks in the Association. The bench of Wayne Ellington, Andrea Bargnani, Shane Larkin, etc.

With the changing nature of the NBA, teams (excluding the new old-look San Antonio Spurs) have placed a big emphasis on three point shooting, shots at the basket, and trips to the free throw line. For the Nets, they rank near the bottom in all three of those categories. They're last in three point attempts and efficiency, second to last in free throw rate, and seventh worst in shots inside of five feet while shooting 52.9 percent on those attempts, fourth lowest in the NBA. A good amount of  that is a result of the personnel, but it's also a function of coaching. Lionel Hollins has stated that he isn't really a big fan of analytics and will ignore it in favor of something he believes to be working. That in and of itself isn't necessarily a problem, but the Nets (from the outside looking in) appear to be a bit slow in following the trend of incorporating their findings from the analytics department into the on court product.

If you're looking for a positive, things did start to pick up near the end of the month. They went 3-4 over their last seven games and were close to winning a few others. Moral victories are for suckers, but maybe the Nets are turning a corner and will add to the win column in December.

All things considered, it was an incredibly ugly month that was the result of well intentioned moves that ultimately failed. Historian Curtis Harris took a trip through Nets history and laid it all out, saying:

And as bad as that situation was this current situation is worse. The Archibald trade is defensible, but turned out horrible. The Garnett-Pierce trade was unbelievably bad when it happened and has only continued to get worse with time. Because of it the Nets have no reasonable expectation for even the commencement of serious rebuilding until 2018 or 2019 while the Celtics will be fueled – like KC of yesteryear – by Nets losing.

Prior to the game against Cleveland on the 28th, Lionel Hollins went through his usual pregame press conference with the media. He created a bit of a firestorm with his comments, as transcribed by CBS' Matt Moore:

There's a lot going on here, and I think it highlights two of the biggest problems the Nets are currently facing. The first speaks to the roster put together. Going into the season, everyone knew that there were various holes on the club and that cobbling together another playoff appearance would be very difficult. The point guard position was a weakness, the bench was questionable at best, and a lot of hope was placed on a player that has logged over 30,000 minutes in his career. Things are going as expected and with no help on the immediate horizon, the players that are here will have to play better than their career norms to get the Nets into the playoff picture.

The second thing to focus on from that quote is Hollins himself. It's one thing to acknowledge a talent deficiency, especially when you spend your week playing against three of the ten best players in the NBA. It's another to (seemingly) shrug your shoulders and chalk things up to the way of the world. Throughout the month, there were close games that could've gone Brooklyn's way with better substitution patterns and play calls. That falls on the coach and is something he needs to improve upon. A lack of talent isn't much of an excuse when a team like Dallas is playing well even though their team had a ton of question marks coming into the season. It ain't just the players that are a problem around here.

Best performance: November 11 in Houston

The Nets had not won a game up until that point and they were facing one of the teams expected to compete for a championship this season. Even with Houston off to a slow start, they were the favorites heading into that contest and Lopez had just come off of a foot scare in Milwaukee the previous game. The Nets took over in the fourth quarter and earned their first win of the season. The game also featured the most hysterical sequence of the season thus far:

Maybe Kevin McHale should be thankful that he isn't coaching that bunch anymore.

Worst performance: November 20 in Boston

It's one thing to get blown out, that's bound to happen to any team in sports. It's another to get blown out and have the opponent's fans celebrate your team's four year sentence in draft pick jail. This game was out of reach by the second quarter and the Nets lost by 25 points, their largest defeat of the year. Making matters worse, Boston fans serenaded the Nets players with a "Thank you, Brooklyn!" chant. The loss represented the low point for the franchise since the move to Brooklyn and the mocking they'll be getting from Boston fans/league observers is something they're going to have to deal with for a long time.

Best player: Thaddeus Young

Billy King deserves a lot of criticism for some of the moves he's made, but he deserves all the praise in the world for getting Thad from Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Garnett. He came over at the deadline and helped the Nets push past Miami, Indiana, and Charlotte for the eighth seed in the East. As my colleague Anthony Puccio noted at the end of last year:

He came into Brooklyn and did what he was expected to do. He's not a superstar, but he's certainly an underrated piece that any team would utilize one way or another. Give him a full season in Brooklyn and he'll show what he's capable of.

Young has been Brooklyn's most consistent player one month in. He's averaging an impressive 15.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in almost 32 minutes a game on close to 53.7 percent shooting from the field and 60.6 percent from the free throw line. This is the best Young has shot from the floor since 2012-2013 in Philadelphia when he shot 53.1 percent from the floor. More importantly, Young has cut down on his turnovers while improving on the glass. He's collected seven doubles in his 17 games, which is tied for the team lead with Lopez and tied for sixth overall in the league.

Young has only made one three pointer in ten tries and is getting to the foul line at a career low rate. Young isn't a marksman from deep at the line or from deep, but he has shown himself to be a capable shooter from those areas. The Nets offense hasn't been geared to getting those looks and he isn't someone that consistently gets plays called for him, so Young probably won't have much opportunities to improve on those numbers.

Devin Khapertain of The Brooklyn Game related Thad's steady production to Joe Johnson at his best, which brings us to...

Worst player: Joe Johnson

Going into the year, I and a lot of other people had questions as to whether Johnson would play well this season. He's played over 34,000 regular season minutes (plus a few thousand in the playoffs as well) in his career, the majority of which have come with him as his team's number one scoring option. There were a few rumors of Johnson being traded over the summer, but nothing came of them.

So far, he's had the worst start of his career. He's shooting a career low from the field and three point range, and is turning the ball over at the second highest rate of his career. The Nets need Johnson to be a dependable scoring and playmaking option, and so far at least, he hasn't been able to fill that need. There's still plenty of time left in the year and Johnson isn't going anywhere, so it would be great for the Nets if his game improved.

Highlight of the month

We here at Netsdaily are big proponents of dunking on people. With that in mind, watch Thad dunk on Ersan Ilyasova.

Key games

Nets-Knicks games are always fun around here, and with our friends in Madison Square Garden playing well, it'll be a good litmus test for Brooklyn. The Knicks are only 8-10, but compared to the dumpster fire that was their 2014-2015 season, this is excellent. Focusing on the game itself, we'll get a fun matchup between the Lopez twins and another opportunity to watch Kristaps Porzingis. The kid has surprised everybody with his play this year and has Knick fans feeling hopeful for the future. But with all of the good things about him, this happened...

Hate it had to be him.

  • December 10 vs Philadelphia

Well, this is really interesting only if you're Danny Ainge or Bill Simmons. As we know, the Celtics own Brooklyn's (unprotected) draft pick this season and the Nets will more than likely have one of the worst records in the league. The Sixers are in Year Four of The Process and while they have acquired some solid building blocks in Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, the on court results have continued to be ghastly. LSU's Ben Simmons will more than likely be in the Top Five if he enters the 2016 Draft, and there's a good chance he winds up in Philadelphia or Boston (by way of Brooklyn). Any loss the Nets take from Philly will have C's fans chanting "Thank you, Brooklyn!" Again.

Oh, and the Sixers aren't winless anymore!

  • December 23 vs Dallas

The Mavs were expected to be one of the worst teams in the league this season, but thanks to the continued excellence of Dirk Nowitzki, Rick Carlisle's coaching, and surprise contributions from the rest of the roster, Dallas might be competing for a playoff spot in April.

But the most important aspect of this game is the return of Deron Williams. D-Will had an ugly end to a decent, but disappointing, run in Brooklyn. He's played pretty well in Dallas, and there are a good amount of Net fans that wish he was still with the club. It'll be interesting to see how he is received by the team, announcers, media covering the game, and Barclays Center crowd.

  • December 30 at Orlando

If the Nets hope to sneak into the playoffs, they're going to have to contend with the Magic. Orlando's been on a winning streak and hope to make the postseason for the first time since the Dwight Howard trade. They have a nice young nucleus of Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton, and Nikola Vucevic with a new coach in Scott Skiles. This game will be the second time they play each other in December (the first is in Brooklyn on the 14th) and the last night of Orlando's four game homestand to close out 2015.

Player to watch: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

For all of the doom and gloom surrounding Brooklyn, RHJ has been a consistent bright spot. It took some prodding from management to get him more minutes, but now Hollis-Jefferson is a full time starter and is the team's best perimeter defender. He doesn't have a jump shot yet, but he's contributing everywhere else on the court. This month, he'll try his hand against elite perimeter players like Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade (twice), James Harden, Anthony Wiggins, and Paul George. The rookie's acquitted himself well so far, and he's going to be key to the Nets future.