Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — The Brooklyn Nets began their inaugural season with their sights set of battling not only the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics for the Atlantic Division title, but even the Miami Heat for the Eastern Conference crown.
Joe Johnson famously said that the Nets aren’t afraid of the Heat and that they think they can play with anyone.
Although many consider the All-Star break to signify the halfway point of the NBA season, the truth is, by this point, every NBA team has played at least 50 games and the Los Angeles Clippers have played 56.
The Nets enter the second “half” of the season at 31-22. They’ve played about 65 percent of their schedule and have just 29 games remaining. The NBA season is a marathon, but from this point forward, the Nets are involved in a sprint that the team hopes culminates in a division title and, at least, hosting a first round playoff series in Brooklyn.
For the Nets, 31-22 gives the team a win percentage of about 58 percent and puts the team on pace to win about 48 games. That would give the team a very respectable record and would probably result in Brooklyn hosting a first round playoff series, but what it wouldn’t do, is give the team a 50 win season and when asked whether or not that was a goal for his team, P.J. Carlesimo refused to say that it was.
Instead, he spoke in broader terms, saying that the Nets needed to get ready for the playoffs and just take it one game at a time.
“I think when you start looking at, even later on when it starts winding down, whether you’re gonna be third, you’re gonna be sixth, who you’re gonna match up with, the thing I talked about was in terms of getting ready for the playoffs, the most important thing, I think for the playoffs is where you learn to play possession by possession and game by game,” he said.
At this point, with the league’s second highest payroll at $87 million, the Nets will make the playoffs, but Carlesimo didn’t take the opportunity to raise any expectations over how the team will fare their final 29 games of the season.
“I just think we gotta deal with tonight,” Carlesimo said.
“You deal with getting on the plane and coming back and playing again tomorrow night and I really think that’s a mindset.”
On Wednesday, the Nets will host the Houston Rockets. The last time the Nets defeated the Rockets, it was thanks to a Jason Kidd triple-double. The date was March 13, 2006 and the Nets have lost 12 consecutive decisions to the Rockets since then. Carlesimo doesn’t want his team to get into that kind of mindset, though.
“I think if we start looking at who the playoff teams we are playing, who are the non-playoff teams, who are the home games, who are the away games… I just think we gotta deal with tonight,” he said.
“We have our hands full right now trying to figure out how to beat two teams.”
A very fair question for this team would be whether or not 50 wins is still the goal. It’d require a 19-10 finish over the final 29 games and that’s no easy task, especially considering the Nets will soon embark on an eight game road trip that will span from March 18 to April 3. How the team fares on that trip could make all the difference for the Nets.
Fortunately, though, Carlesimo isn’t putting any additional pressure on himself or his players. For the Nets, it’s time to put their heads down, put the foot on the gas and finish the season up strong.