Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — Before the Nets took on the Memphis Grizzlies at Barclays Center on Sunday, P.J. Carlesimo was asked whether or not he talks to his team about the importance of winning the NBA’s Atlantic Division. Entering play on Sunday, the Nets trailed the Knicks by just a single game for the division lead.
The Nets last won the division in 2006, while the Knicks are looking to win their first division title since 1994.
When asked if the Nets were concerned about beating out the Knicks for the division title, Carlesimo said they were. “We talked about it, yea,” he said. “Winning the division gets you a top four seed, which is significant.”
Carlesimo then correctly pointed out that winning the division doesn’t necessarily mean as much as it relates to playoff seeding and homecourt advantage. After the 2005-06 season, the NBA changed the playoff seeding rules.
The San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks are both in the NBA’s Southwest Division. That season, they had the two best records in the conference. The Spurs were 63-19 and the Mavericks were 60-22. Back then, the rule was that the three division winners in the conference would be awarded the top three seeds, so the end result was the Mavericks being made the fourth seed, while the 44-38 Denver Nuggets were awarded the conference’s third seed.
The Nuggets got the benefit of an easier bracket and the Spurs and Mavericks were forced to play in the second round of the playoffs, despite being the two best teams in the conference. The NBA has since changed the rule and Carlesimo is well aware since he happened to be an assistant on Gregg Popovich’s staff.
Carlesimo alluded to that and said that winning the division would be nice, but the Nets want to just be the best team they can be.
“A top four seed is significant,” he said. But he would be more happy to win the division because he would view beating out the Knicks as an accomplishment. “If we have a better record than the Knicks, then that’s good,” he said.
But while he’s thinking about it, Carlesimo doesn’t want his team to get to focused on those minute details. “It’s too early, there’s too many games left,” he said. “Moving foward, we can look at it but I think until we are a lot deeper into it, to talk about things like the division and standings, you know, we talked about where we were when the second part of the schedule started and pretty much, you look at two through eight and say we’re really playing well and there’s no reason why we can’t climb all the up to even two. But, if we slide, eighth is right there for us, also.”
The Nets still have an eight game road trip that begins on March 18. Playing well on that trip, as well as the other road games that the Nets have remaining, sound to be Carlesimo’s biggest concern.
“There’s too many games left against too many good teams… too many of them in the black uniforms,” he said, alluding to the Nets road jerseys. “We have to be concerned about just putting one foot in front of the other.”