In Year One, the Nets Bring Playoff Basketball to Brooklyn
April 17, 2013 · 10:31 p.m.
BROOKLYN—They're back – for the first time.
The Brooklyn Nets have made the playoffs during their inaugural season at Barclays Center, ending a five-year drought for the franchise, which last earned extra games with Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson leading the way in 2006-07.
"It's good for us, the first season in Brooklyn to be in the playoffs," says Nets point guard Deron Williams. "That was the goal, and we accomplished that goal. But we've still got a ways to go."
The three-time All-Star re-signed with the Nets this summer because he believed in the vision, and the team General Manager Billy King constructed around the point guard has begun to coalesce. Since undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy and receiving cortisone shots in both ankles during the All-Star break, Williams has elevated his game, averaging 23.4 points, 8.1 assists while shooting .422 from three-point range and .482 overall (27 games).
Complemented offensively by Joe Johnson on the wing and Brook Lopez inside, Williams is at the helm of a team with copious playoff experience. Jerry Stackhouse has made eight previous trips; Johnson, seven; Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace, five; Williams, four; Keith Bogans, three; Andray Blatche, Kris Humphries and C.J. Watson, two.
Lopez will be making his first appearance, having toughed out four losing seasons since being drafted by the Nets in 2008. But he has thrived in this year's winning environment, averaging a team-leading 19.4 PPG (.522 FG%) and a career-best 2.1 blocks. Shaking off last season's broken foot, which limited the 7-footer to just five games, Lopez has inspired the confidence of more experienced teammates.
"I think he has a lot of veteran help around him," says Johnson, who's headed into his sixth straight postseason. "There's nothing like experiencing it, but Brook's been playing great all season and now we're about to start another season, which is the playoffs, and everyone picks their game up. So I expect his numbers to be even better during the playoffs."
The same could be said of the Nets as a unit: the team has played much of the season at one of the league's slowest paces (91.06 possessions per 48 minutes; league-leading Houston totals 98.75), a style more suited to playoff basketball, when every play proves crucial and no back-to-back games means full-out, two-way efforts from every player on the floor for all 48 minutes.
Matchups become key, as do game-to-game adjustments. It takes a veteran group like Brooklyn's to be able to forget the bad and focus on the good from moment to moment as the series progresses. And it helps that the Nets have established their road bonafides, finishing the season with the first winning road record in the franchise's 36-year NBA history.
"I think we know how good we can be," says interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. "We've had the roster intact at different times. We just need everybody healthy. The playoffs are a different animal – everything starts all over."
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