If you want to really understand where the Nets stand, read this tweet from Andy Vasquez...
At 8-22 the Nets could go on a 15-game winning streak and they still wouldn't be a playoff team in the East.— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) December 27, 2015
Or if you prefer analysis of more than 140 characters, there was this from Fred Kerber...
The slop they let loose at Barclays Center late in their 111-96 loss to the Wizards had to make you think Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who recently acquired full control of the team, was practicing the English version of how to say, "Give me back my money, Ratner."
The die is cast. The Nets season, once described kindly as a "bridge year," is now officially a "bridge out year." This week featured one win against the Bulls, in Chicago no less, and two losses, one a nail-biter vs the Mavericks and the other another blowout loss to a team under .500 -- the injury-riddled Wizards, both at home. Remember when fans thought the return home would help things?
The best that can be expected? Pride and some good fortune will get them more wins and their lottery pick won't be in the top three? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris McCullough will look like steals of the draft when they return from injury in February or so?
Where we stand
At 8-22, the Nets have the third worst record in the NBA, behind the 2-30 Philadelphia 76ers and the 5-25 Lakers. They are next to last in the division and conference. Thank you, Hinkie. They are three and a half behind the Bucks, their closest rival in the East and five and a half behind the Knicks. They have lost seven of their last eight.
It's always a bad sign in sports when your team can get up for a good teams, like the Bulls and Mavericks, but slack off against those who aren't that good. Remember, we are only a week from last Sunday's blowout loss to the Timberwolves at home.
The Nets increasingly look like a team that will not make any major moves. Unless they can get a good young player or a draft pick, what's the point? They're not moving into playoff contention. And the trade asset seen as most valuable at the beginning of the season --Joe Johnson-- is dropping like the price of oil in a mild winter.
The Nets, believing that a successful free agency is their only way out of a long-term disaster, want to maintain the core, as Brett Yormark, indicated to Mike Mazzeo this week. Of course, that assumes the core wants to stay for the rebuild.
Game of the week
Easy choice: the week's only win, the victory over the Bulls who seem to be going through some sort of Thibodeau withdrawal (Stockholm Syndrome?). We shouldn't denigrate the Nets efforts, though. The day before, they had a positive team meeting and video session. Team insiders, in fact, were not surprised that they came out ready to battle a team that's dominated them of late.
The third quarter, in particular, was a revelation. The Bulls missed 14 straight shots and the Nets went on an 11-0 run, extending a three-point halftime lead up to 12. They scored just as many points (85) through three quarters as they did the game before vs. the.
The team's two best players, Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, more than stepped up. Brook Lopez finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots while Thaddeus Young finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
It was heartening, but in the end, it means nothing. Too bad. It was good television, if you're into that sort of thing.
Weak of the week
The Mavericks loss seemed to have taken a lot out of the Nets. If they had won it, instead of losing in overtime, it would have meant a two-game winning streak and a bit of an exorcism.
Of course, there was controversy. Bojan Bogdanovic, who's on a bit of a streak, didn't play much in the fourth, despite his 5-of-5 shooting from deep. It led to questions by the media. It went something like this...
Hollins said he didn't play Bojan in the 4th because "coach's decision." Then he walked off and ended media availability. He wasn't happy.— Tom Lorenzo (@TomLorenzo) December 24
Let's relive the exchange...
"Well, I could just say coach’s decision, which it was. And I’ll just leave it at that."
He was asked again and said "I don't want to talk about it" and then walked off.
Here's the video...
Hollins later intimated that he was protecting someone, presumably Bogdanovic, who truth be told isn't a great defender. But at the end of the day, it was the second time in three games where the coach's decisions --or "miscommunication"-- had been the big story, post-game. Not a good thing.
Thaddiator. For the month of December, Young is averaging 16 and 10, shooting 50 percent overall and in one great moment vs. Dallas reminding us that he led the Nets last year in three point shooting at 38 percent. Yes, he did, despite his shooting woes at the foul line. Over the last five, he's averaging 17.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.7 steals and shooting 52.7 percent. He is now fourth in the NBA with 16 double-doubles.
What more to say? The Nets signed him to a four-year, $50 million deal, which now looks like a bargain. Compare that to what the Knicks are paying Robin Lopez, their big free agent signing at four years and $54 million.
The aforementioned Bogdanovic is also on a bit of a role. In his last five games, he's shooting 52 percent from deep, 51 percent overall and averaging 12.3 points per game. More importantly, he's been consistent for the past three weeks, scoring in double figures in eight of his last 11 games.
Nothing has changed. It's Joe Johnson, who doesn't look done as much as he looks disinterested. There is no greater criticism of a veteran player. For the week, he shot 14-of-41, 34 percent, including 4-of-16 from deep. 'Nuff said, sadly.
Highlight of the Week
Why this? It was about the effort and the future. Willie Reed gives it his all every minute he is on the court and he is someone we'd like to see back next year. He's fulfilled his dream and isn't stopping there.
There were two big themes this week that we barely mentioned: the return (sorta) by Deron Williams and the announcement that Mikhail Prokhorov has bought out Bruce Ratner. Prokhorov is now the sole owner of both the Nets and Barclays Center (as well as the majority owner in Nassau Coliseum, the future home of the Long Island Nets).
Williams didn't bring a suit jacket so he couldn't sit courtside with his teammates. If you needed one more piece of evidence that D-Will couldn't handle the pressure, there you have it. But you can't blame everything on Williams. He's the avatar for it all: the failed search for the superstar. But a lot of others played major roles in getting the Nets to where they are (or aren't). We like everyone else did our D-Will remembrance. But now it's time to forget him. The road ahead is long and without some sort of strong guide, it's likely to be bumpy, filled with twists and turns and with no guarantee we'll get there. Really.
Which leads us to Prokhorov. It's his baby now. He can do whatever he wants. He still has the fans support and he is in a buy mode, not a sell mode. So he's staying. It's time for him to do SOMETHING to get the fans excited again. No more waves to beat writers in the corridors of Barclays.
We liked this guy...and these kind of waves...
We'd like to see more of HIM.