With Nets Set as No. 4 Seed, Now What?
Josh Newman , Field Reporter
As the regular season moves into its final three days, the Nets are officially locked in as the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to a 93-87 loss at the Toronto Raptors on Sunday afternoon.
With a first-round series against either the Atlanta Hawks or Chicago Bulls set to begin either Saturday or Sunday in Brooklyn, the question now becomes how does interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo handle a roster that is beginning to pick up steam, but could also use a little rest.
The Nets will host the Washington Wizards on Monday evening before closing out the regular season on Wednesday evening against the Detroit Pistons. With the Nets set at No. 4, both games have been rendered meaningless.
“We’re gonna have more serious conversations,” Carlesimo told reporters in Toronto. “We don’t need to get anybody hurt. We’re not playing for anything. Going forward now we’ve certainly gotta rest some people.”
The primary objective may be to get Deron Williams some rest. Carlesimo rode his point guard for 39 minutes on Sunday, which is not something he wanted to do, especially with the second end of a back-to-back coming on Monday and nothing to play for.
Williams has taken a bit of a beating the last two games, banging knees late in a loss at the Indiana Pacers Friday evening and taking a hard hit trying to get around a screen midway through the fourth quarter on Sunday. With nothing at stake, it stands to reason Carlesimo may sit Williams entirely Monday.
Despite 12 points on 4-for-16 shooting on Sunday, Joe Johnson has begun to turn it on since returning from right quad and left heel issues on April 4. Carlesimo has stated on more than one occasion that one of his primary objectives is to have the shooting guard healthy and engaged going into the postseason.
Maybe a larger concern at the moment is the health of Gerald Wallace, who has missed the last two games with a lower left contusion suffered Wednesday evening at the Boston Celtics. The starting small forward was able to get a pregame work out in in Toronto on Sunday.
“We just gotta figure out who” Carlesimo said. “There are some people we do not want to play in a back-to-back. There are some people that we probably don’t want playing both games. And we certainly don’t want to play them big minutes.”
Assuming Williams and Johnson take at least some time off during these next two games, that likely means extended backcourt time for the youthful duo of rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor and second-year shooting guard MarShon Brooks.
The only regular season matter that still concerns the Nets at this point is who will wind up with the No. 5 seed between the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls. The Hawks currently lead the race for No. 5 by one game with matchups against the Raptors on Tuesday and at the Knicks on Wednesday left to play.
The Bulls, who hold the tiebreaker over the Hawks, will be at the Orlando Magic on Monday and home for the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.
“At least there’s some finality for the four spot — we don’t know if we’re gonna play Chicago or Atlanta — but at least there’s some finality there,” Carlesimo said.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA