Deep breath, everyone.
Yes, the Nets, who just weeks ago appeared to have it all figured out, have been god-awful lately. But it’s not over -- not by any means.
Quit your crying. Get some fresh air.
Currently riding a four-game losing streak, Brooklyn isn’t looking like a playoff-bound team. We will concede that. The Nets got embarrassed by the Charlotte Hornets last Wednesday, choked away a lead to the Phoenix Suns on Friday, got inexplicably manhandled by the Utah Jazz on Sunday and then took a mighty whooping at the hands of the surging New Orleans Pelicans last night.
Tonight, the Nets play the Miami Heat, whom they trail by two-and-a-half games in the Eastern Conference standings. Brooklyn is three-and-a-half games behind the Indiana Pacers for seventh place and three back of the Hornets for eighth. Along with the 10th-place Boston Celtics, it's a five-team royal rumble for those final two playoff spots.
This past week has been a train wreck. But the Nets have plenty of time to get back on track before the end of the year.
Prior to the conclusion of the regular season, they will be given a chance to make up ground on each team ahead of them: they’re at Miami tonight and will get the Pacers (twice), Celtics and Hornets before April 1.
C’mon, everyone. Things don’t look great here, but let’s not act like the Nets don’t even have a chance to do anything.
This has been a streaky team all year long. Of their 36 losses, just six of them have been in isolation (with a win before and after it). Of their 25 wins, just four haven’t been flanked by a loss.
Let’s say that the Nets beat the Heat, who will be without one of their best players in wannabe WWE wrestler Hassan Whiteside. The next two games are against the Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Hashtag winning streak.
Then come the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will, without much doubt, commit assault on the Nets. But after that will be four winnable contests against the Milwaukee Bucks, Pacers, Celtics and Hornets.
See? It’s not over, folks!
April will considerably harder than March, but if this team gets a head of steam, a run is possible.
Injuries could also put a hole in the sails here, as Sergey Karasev, Alan Anderson and Markel Brown all got dinged up against the Pels, Karasev likely more than just dinged. Plus, we can’t forget about the absence of Mirza Teletovic.
Still, though, there are 20 games left, a nice round figure for a comeback narrative. It’s time to give up this whole sky-is-falling act.
Against New Orleans, coach Lionel Hollins finally started Thad Young and the 4, where Joe Johnson had been getting bullied, and played JJ at the 3 alongside Deron Williams and Brown in the backcourt with Brook Lopez manning the middle.
Assuming Brown's ankle is OK, that should be the lineup going forward, with Jarrett Jack and Mason Plumlee carrying the second unit.
Earning a postseason seems to be extremely important to the front office, too. Here's what CEO Brett Yorkmark told Tim Bontemps of the New York Post recently:
Listen, we’re in the storytelling business, and you want to be able to tell a story. That, to me, is critical … if we can continue to play well and get in the playoffs, now you can look to the season as being a positive one, and I do look at it that way.
Billy [King] and I do discuss it quite a bit. Not that making the playoffs is overly essential, but as we want to continue to grow this thing and grow our fan base, you want to show some consistency. And consistency for me is being in the playoffs every year, being part of that conversation and being relevant.
Maybe the Nets will keep on losing and embarrassing themselves against beatable teams. It’s definitely a possibility.
But, even if it will only help you sleep at night, hold yourself to the same standard you hold the players to -- and don’t give up hope until the final horn sounds.