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(December 2, 2013)
EAST RUTHERFORD—It’s gotten to the point that the Nets are resorting to superstition. And who could blame them?
On Monday the Nets took another body blow when it was announced that Paul Pierce would miss 2-4 weeks with a non-displaced fracture of the third metacarpal of the right hand.
Pierce joins Deron Williams (ankle), Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (knee) as players that are unavailable for Tuesday night’s home game against the high-scoring Denver Nuggets.
If you’re a Nets ball boy you might want to be extra careful these days. It seems no one is safe.
“It’s crazy,” said center Brook Lopez, who just returned from a sprained left ankle that kept him out of seven games.
“I don’t want to say I’m too surprised because I don’t want to jinx anything, have anything more happen,” added Lopez.
At this point Lopez, sitting on a chair at the Nets practice facility, his left foot and ankle in an open-toe shoe, bent over and knocked the hardwood floor.
No Nets player in his right mind would walk under a ladder or step on a crack these days.
“Injuries are a part of the game,” said coach Jason Kidd. “You just hope that there are speedy recoveries. And for the guys in that locker room that can play, I believe in each one of those guys and that we can find a way to win until we do get whole.”
If Pierce’s injury needs the full four weeks, rather than two, the Nets will not have their full roster until 2014, assuming no one else goes down.
The injuries have retarded the growth of this team. Kidd has not had a full complement since Day One. There are combinations he’d like to see and a rotation he’d like to settle on.
“We are still learning,” Pierce said last week. “Hopefully we learn before it's too late, before we are completely out of the playoff mix.”
The only saving grace is that no team in the Eastern Conference has run away from the pack. At 5-12, the Nets began Monday just a game and one-half behind the Toronto Raptors (6-10) for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Until the injury list gets shorter, the Nets are going to have to keep it simple and hope that there is enough depth to withstand the storm of injuries.
“Obviously we weren’t predicting anything like this, but I think our guys are definitely capable of rolling with the punches and staying positive,” said Lopez. “I guess the silver lining of all these injuries is that Mas [Mason Plumlee] and some of these other guys have gotten more opportunity and have been able to be in there. I think that makes us that much of a deeper team.”
The Nets always believed in their depth. It will be tested in coming weeks. Here’s what we’ve learned about the Nets and can look forward to in the next week.
TELETOVIC TIME: With Pierce out, sharpshooter Mirza Teletovic has been working at small forward. At 6-9, Teletovic is two inches taller than Pierce. He’s hit 38-percent of his 3’s. Pierce, who has struggled early, was hitting just 26.8-percent of his 3’s.
Pierce, of course, is a much better all around player. But with Lopez back, teams will consider collapsing their defense. Teletovic could make them pay from behind the arc, but he has be strong on the defensive end.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Nets have yet to establish any semblance of a home court advantage. They’re just 2-4 in Barclays Center. But it’s better than their 3-8 mark on the road.
The Nets play nine of their next 14 games at home. This might help the Nets compensate for being woefully shorthanded because of the injuries.
CHARACTER WELCOME: Tyshawn Taylor wasn’t thrilled when he was assigned to the Nets D-League team. He also has started. This is not easy on any player.
The Nets understood the importance of getting team-first players when assembling this roster.
“You look at character first,” said Kidd. “A lot of times when you’ve got guys in different situations of not playing, playing [it’s hard]. You’re playing well and don’t play any in the first half and come back in the second half and help the team win. That just shows from Mirza to Ty or Toko (Tornike Shengelia), sitting down and coming back and understanding it’s about the team.”
SHAUN OF THE LIVING: With Williams out with the ankle sprain, Shaun Livingston has stepped up big time. Over the last five games the 6-7 point guard has averaged 4.2 assists and less than one turnover per game.