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(November 11, 2013)
BROOKLYN—This could take longer than expected.
The Nets are less than two weeks into their 2013-14 schedule - a season with lofty expectations - and the process of getting this team to gel might not happen any time soon.
The Nets are 2-4 going into their first West Coast road trip. They have yet to win a road game, which gives this three-game swing added import.
We look back at what has gone wrong and right for the Nets, and what to look for in the coming week.
SPEED KILLS: The Nets have been vulnerable against younger, quicker teams, especially in the backcourt.
Eric Bledsoe (Suns) and Chris Paul (Clippers) will provide serious challenges. Nets point guard Deron Williams gets better with every game but after having not played until the final preseason game because of an off-season ankle injury, he’s not all the way back.
BIG TICKET, SMALL EGO: Kevin Garnett wore the No.5 in Boston as an homage to his belief that successful basketball is played by five players working together.
But KG acknowledged after the 96-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers Saturday night that he needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end.
KG has averaged 8.8 shots per game. Against the Pacers, he had a monstrous, one-handed offensive rebound putback slam. That might be the spark he needs going forward.
M.A.S.H.: In the loss to the Pacers, Paul George, at 6-9, was mismatch problem for the Nets. That might not have been the case if the 6-9 Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) had been available.
AK 47 has been haunted by back spasms. The Nets need his versatility. They also need Shaun Livingston (neck and ankle) to stay healthy.
NOT A PLUM, A PEACH: Not much was expected of rookie Mason Plumlee, the player the Nets took with the 22nd pick in the draft. Initially it was thought he would shuttle between the Nets and their D League team in Springfield.
Plumlee needs a lot of work on his perimeter game, but his hustle and grit have opened eyes. Plumlee is coming off his best game - a six-point, three-rebound performance in 15-plus minutes.
You get the sense the veterans on this team like the Duke product. We’re not going to go hyperbolic and proclaim Plumlee the steal of the draft, but when the 22nd player picked is getting minutes on a veteran team, that’s gravy.
GO WEST YOUNG MEN: This West Coast trip comes at a great time. The acquisitions of KG, Kirilenko, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry guaranteed that this team would be scrutinized all season.
When a New York team with those expectations loses four of its first six games, that scrutiny can become toxic. The Nets get to leave most of the Big Apple media circus behind on this trip.
But if they come back 2-7, there will be no place to hide. And any talk of the gelling of the team being a process, will fall on deaf ears.
The Nets, starting with Coach Jason Kidd, have been professional and poised in weathering the tough start. They have the leadership to withstand some more growing pains but there is no substitute for winning.
“A lot of young teams, they go through the frustrations when losing piles up and then the arguing [begins] and whispering behind the back; negative press,” said Pierce. “But that’s not this team right here.”
“I think we’re a veteran team that’s going to show a lot of patience. We understand we’re going to stay positive until this thing turns around.”