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Nets see “second half” as opportunity for progress

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Sure. Wins. A lot wins would be great. But ultimately, the Brooklyn Nets have a number of things to tackle in this “second half” (really final third) of their 2017-18 NBA season, which is an improvement from last season, but well short of where they think they should be

And please, don’t tell them that as their record stands at 19-40. The Nets theoretically limped into All-Star Weekend, going through their season worst stretch of losing seven straight contests, 11-of-12 and 14-of-17 prior to the break.

What was once a realistic if always a farfetched fantasy of a 2018 playoff berth can now finally fade off into non-sensible oblivion as the Nets try to once again better themselves in the present, for the future. As Sean Marks has said, the goal for the rest of the season is “progress.”

“I don’t think anyone in this organization, top to bottom, is satisfied – it’s just how it is,” said Kenny Atkinson in a soliloquy Wednesday, looking forward. “I think defensively we’ve slipped. That’s where it’s starts, that’s where it’s got to start for us. I’d say our rebounding has to be addressed; we have to do a better job rebounding the ball.

“Offensively, the end of games we’re facing a lot of teams that are switching at the end of games and I don’t love the shots we’re taking honestly. We have to do a better job when we’re moving the ball when teams start switching. We just settle into too much individual play at the end of games.

“Getting back to moving the ball. We move it during the game – it’s moving, it’s moving – and at the game we do play a lot of pick-and-roll. They switch it and now what are we going to do? It can’t always be one guy backing it out and trying to beat their guy one-on-one. You have to do that sometimes, but not every time. We’re trying to find more solutions there.

“I think, you know, we added a few things that I think will help. And then, last thing, is that as we get healthier, we’ll improve. As we get our full squad back and our full rotation, that’ll really help us improve and we’re getting there with that. So that’s good news.”

For Spencer Dinwiddie, it’s a little simpler than that. He subscribes to the theory of, sometimes-you-need-to-step-away-from-something-in-order-to-come-back-better-than-ever.

Well, he did, but he kinda didn’t … but he did, you know?

“I think anytime you can kind of get that mental clearance, clear your mind and just remove yourself for a second, come back and be able to re-focus, you can come back with a heightened intensity and a renewed sense of purpose. It has been very good for us,” he said of the All-Star Break, where he won the Skills Challenge on Saturday.

D’Angelo Russell has had an uneasy 2017-18 season, which has been marred by a severe knee injury, a long rehab and limited minutes.

In the “second half” he’s looking forward to improving his play and carrying it onto next season, which will be his fourth, in hopes that he’s healthy.

“I think everyone is coming on around the same time. I think the time is great for us to make something happen,” said Russell on Wednesday. “Chemistry takes time, but I think if you look at it, it’ll be the first time that everyone is healthy in a long time -- having that many bodies to put on the floor, with a solid rotation. It’s something that’s going to take time for coach to figure out, but the five that he does throw out there, it’s something we got to come together as a collective unit to make things happen right away.

Last 20 games, it’s not an opportunity for us to sit back and relax or sit back and let it just go by. We got to take the right steps forward.”

As they used to say at GE, ‘progress is our most important product.’