Well, here we are. Twelve games left - nine of which are at home, and the Nets stand 0.5 games out of the playoffs. You'd think that's a good sign, you know, playing on your home court for the majority of the final stretch, while in the midst of making every last desperate attempt to make the playoffs, one the Nets really need to make to avoid utter disaster this season.
It's not going to be easy, though, as eight of the final 12 teams are above .500. Did I mention that they are also the sixth worst team in the NBA at home, posting a 12-20 record in Brooklyn prior to their matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They rank ahead of all lottery-bound teams such as the Timberwolves, Knicks, Lakers, 76ers and Magic - all listed in order from worst to "best".
"It definitely stinks that we can't give our fans something to cheer about, a reason to get excited about the games and coming to games, and that kind of puts a damper on things," Deron Williams said after losing 110-91 to the Celtics at home.
The Nets had a chance to trim their deficit in the standings vs. Boston at home, but squandered the opportunity and fell back 1.5 games in the standings. They were lucky to escape Charlotte with a huge victory on the road, something they haven't had a hard time with this season. If they do make the playoffs, it's better off they have a lower seed for the sole reason that they have a better chance of winning on the road without home court advantage. They're 13th in the NBA with an 18-20 on the road.
Their next task is against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night at Barclays Center. The Nets will be without Thaddeus Young (knee strain), and will experiment with 10-day signee, Earl Clark, who is likely to receive a decent role these next few games with Thad out.
Luckily for Brooklyn, they've got a hot Brook Lopez who looks somewhat like Deron Williams did in the second half of the 2012-2013 season. With a new pep in his step, Lopez feels his injury is behind him and will continue to lead Brooklyn to success here in the late stages of the season.
"It (the injury history) may have slightly been in my mind earlier in the season, but the one thing I've really been thankful about in this season for me personally is just that as I've gone through the season it's been really up and down for me personally," Lopez told WFAN. "I felt complete confidence in my body, in my foot, and especially these last six to eight games, I've felt amazingly loose, as good as I've felt since coming into the league, just movement-wise, and being ready to play."
Since the All-Star break, Lopez has averaged 18.7 points and 8.9 rebounds (4.1 offensive). Prior to the All-Star break, Lopez averaged 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds (2.1 offensive). Over the last four, Brook has averaged 30.8 points, nine rebounds and 3.5 blocks on 65.8% shooting, including a 34-point & 10-rebound game in a crucial playoff-implicated game vs. Charlotte. The Nets are 3-1 over the span, by no mistake.
Brook can opt out of his contract and look for a bigger deal or wait a year and try for even more money in 2016 when the national TV deal drops a ton of cash on teams.
The post-All-Star break trend isn't something new for Brooklyn. Back in the 2012-2013 inaugural season in Brooklyn, the Nets were charging for a high seed in the East and Deron Williams' resurgence was a huge part of doing so. It was the same season he received cortisone shots in his ankle during the break, which clearly picked up his play.
He saw a huge jump from pre-break to post-break, going from 16.7 points per game to 23 points on 48% shooting and 42% from three, both increasing by more than seven percent. No wonder the Nets went 18-11 the final 29 games of the season.
This year, the Nets are 9-9 since the All-Star break and Brook's resurgence. They'll need to finish better than .500 in the second half of the season if they want any shot at making the playoffs. That's of course assuming the teams ranking from 8-11 in the East actually win games down the stretch. At least there's hope.
It appears Brook Lopez is the leader of the late charge this time around. Funny what happens when you (accidentally) remain loyal to the right people, ain't it?