(November 9, 2013)
BROOKLYN—Six games into the season is not the time to panic.
It is enough time to be concerned.
And the Nets are concerned after their 96-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers Saturday night in soldout Barclays Center.
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Surely there’s no shame in losing a hard-fought game to last season’s Eastern Conference finalists.
This Indiana team, unlike the Nets, have been together a while. Its head coach, Frank Vogel, has quickly earned a reputation as being one of the best young coaches in the NBA.
The Pacers (7-0) are young enough to be athletic. They are experienced enough to be tough. And they have achieved enough success to rightly believe in their system.
So one loss in the sixth game of the season is not reason for the Nets to panic.
It’s the way the Nets (2-4) are losing that’s cause for concern.
It’s been the same mistakes:
“It’s got to come together soon,’’ said Nets point guard Deron Williams. “I don’t want to seem like we’re content with losing, because we’re not. We got to figure it out.’’
The answer could be as simple as this:
The Nets knew they were going to be a work in progress, just as the Miami Heat needed time to adjust three years ago after the arrival of LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
The Heat went 9-8 before finding their way.
Injuries and suspensions have hampered the Nets development.
Williams (ankle) didn’t play until the final preseason game. Andrei Kirilenko, who missed the opener with a bad back, missed the Indiana loss when his back flared up Saturday morning.
Rookie Coach Jason Kidd was not on the bench for the first two regular season games, serving a league suspension for a 2012 driving under the influence charge.
And yet, if Joe Johnson’s three-point shot attempt with 11 seconds left, a shot that looked good when it left his hand, had gone down, the Nets and Pacers might have gone to OT and consider this scenario:
The Nets could be 3-3 instead of 2-4. They could be undefeated at home, instead of 2-1. They could have split their first back-to-back games of the season instead of getting swept.
“We’re not panicking,’’ said Williams, who had 17 points and 10 assists. “We know it’s going to come together. We’re confident we can overcome these little struggles and we’re going to stick together regardless of what’s going on on the outside.’’
It’s what taking place inside the Nets locker room that matters.
With leaders such as Kevin Garnett, who vowed to become more aggressive offensively after scoring just six points and taking a mere seven shots, and Paul Pierce, the Nets aren’t going to start sniping, aren’t going to start pressing, aren’t going to panic.
They are, however, concerned.
“Just because you have patience doesn’t mean you don’t get frustrated,’’ said Garnett.
It’s frustrating to be winless on the road.
It’s frustrating to lead a second-tier team such as Washington by 11 in the fourth quarter and not close out.
It’s frustrating to play good defense and see that the Pacers outscored the Nets 20-11 on second chance points.
It’s frustrating to rally from an eight-point first-quarter deficit, take a two-point halftime lead, and get outscored 29-21 in the third quarter.
“It’s time, I won’t say necessarily concern, but we have to come out with a sense of urgency,’’ said Johnson. “To me [we have to be] more in tune, especially out there on the court. Going out in the third quarter, that’s on us starters, and closing out quarters and finishing games.’’
Yes, the Nets know exactly what has hurt them.
A clueless team has reason to panic. A team that knows what’s wrong and has yet to be able to correct it, well, that’s cause for concern.
“This game stings,’’ said Williams.
Panicking would sting worse.