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Rebounding, defense ... plus shooting woes and the funk

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Los Angeles Clippers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Everyone who listens to Kenny Atkinson’s post-game press conferences knows the Nets defense is a problem, particularly without Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert. Same goes for rebounding.

But as Greg Logan points out, the Nets shooting, particularly from deep, is also woeful. Over the course of their 4-17 stretch, he notes...

The Nets must make big gains on defense. Their defensive rating (110.0) in their recent 4-17 stretch is tied for 24th in the NBA. Their offensive rating (101.4) is 29th, reflecting that they ranked 29th in three-point percentage (33.4) in that stretch while ranking second in three-point attempts (36.1).

The Nets are, right now, a bad team, one game out of the Eastern Conference basement.

The reality, as Logan and Brian Lewis point out in their going-into-the-break summaries, the Nets are in a funk, or as Atkinson puts it, “I do think these guys are fried a little bit mentally.” It’s not quite as bad as last year’s 1-27 stretch, but it’s close. Part of it is due to injuries, but every team has injuries.

“We have to come back with a bit of a chip on our shoulder — we’re struggling right now – and see if we can make some money after the All-Star break, see if we can come back focused,” Atkinson said. “That’s frustrating for all of us. We have to turn it around. … We’re kind of stagnating right now.”

Nowhere is that more evident than in the Nets defensive struggles. Lewis notes how the defense has crumbled during the current losing streak...

On Jan. 22, the Nets sat at 18-29 and were ranked 17th in the NBA in defensive rating at 106.1. They’ve gone just 1-11 since with the second-worst defensive rating in the league at 115.0, as trades and injuries have stripped the roster of its best defenders.

In fact, it’s hard to find a positive, other than Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll are playing the best basketball of their careers. Sean Marks has said he wanted the Nets to show progress this season, but seven times they have gone into games hoping to match last season’s 20-win total and seven times they just added to their loss column, making only Koby Altman, the Cavaliers GM, happy.

There are other issues beyond play, as Logan and Lewis point out. One of them is determining which of their free agents should they keep. As of now, they will have six players either with expiring deals or team options. Isaiah Whitehead has a $1.54 million team option. Then there are the others, starting with Jahlil Okafor, as Logan points out...

He will be a free agent this summer, so the Nets must give him an extended opportunity to show he can score and improve his defense or part company with him. In addition to Okafor, (Quincy) Acy and (Dante) Cunningham are pending frontcourt free agents. Joe Harris is a pending free agent in the backcourt, and the Nets must decide whether to make a qualifying offer to Nik Stauskas, who came with Okafor in the trade with Philadelphia.

Bottom line is what constitutes progress. Before the season and even up to a few weeks ago, 30 wins would have seemed a nice milestone. But unless the Nets have a post-break breakout, that now seems like a difficult proposition, made even harder by the fact they have only nine home games left out of 23 to play.

“It’s time to get away, get away from basketball. You need that sometimes to come back and reflect and realize what you come to do and what your job is,” D’Angelo Russell told Lewis. “For a team like us, we’re losing and we have to figure out a few things. It’ll be a great time for us to debrief and figure it out.”

Good luck.