The Nets are back in Brooklyn on Monday afternoon carrying a 24-23 record, above .500 for the first time this season, in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, and buffeted by rising All-Star Weekend chatter for several players.
They'll host the Sacramento Kings on Monday afternoon, followed by the Orlando Magic on Wednesday and the New York Knicks on Friday.
They're coming off a road trip to remember, two thrilling comeback wins that made them 7-3 in 2019 and 16-5 over their last 21 games, tied for the second-best record in the NBA since Dec. 7. Only the 17-5 Milwaukee Bucks have been better over that span.
"We're finally playing Brooklyn Nets basketball, the type of basketball, unselfish basketball, helping one another and not caring who gets the glory type of basketball and I think that's what Sean Marks built this team on and I think that's what we're doing and a lot of guys don't care who gets the glory," said DeMarre Carroll. "Everybody just wants to win and that's the ultimate goal."
Both games could have gone the either way. The Nets were down 14 in the fourth quarter against Houston and seven in overtime before closing the game on a 10-0 run. They trailed Orlando by 21 before coming all the way back.
"I felt like in both games, despite the difficult circumstances, the kind of rhetoric on the bench was, 'we're good. They just made a run.' There was no heads down or look of frustration really," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "It was all positive. Especially the Orlando game when we went down 20. Ed Davis, especially those vets, 'we can come back. They're hot right now. We're gonna get back into it. Stay with it.' All those positive things. I don't think that has happened in the past or even earlier into the season. Just much more confidence. When you're in a dire situation, down 20, that's pretty dire, down whatever we were to the Rockets. They stil believe. I think that's a big part of the characteristic of this team."
In his first six weeks back from preseason ankle surgery, DeMarre Caroll showed flashes. A big game or some sharp shooting here and there. But he couldn't find the consistency he was looking for.
"Oh man. It was very challenging," said Carroll. "So hard. I think I was ready to jump off a cliff for about a good month and a half. I couldn't play consistent basketball. I couldn't put it all together. Like I said before, my hat goes off to Jordan Ott, my assistant coach, really stayed with me, texted me, we went through film every day, we stayed late. He did a lot of things to help me get back to my level, and I think he deserves a lot of the credit."
But Carroll has played a big role lately as the Nets have continued the surge that began with December's seven-game win streak. Over Brooklyn's last 11 games, Carroll has been the team's third-leading scorer, averaging 15.5 points while shooting 45.3 percent overall and 41.9 percent from 3-point range and grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game. He's scored in double figures in 10 of those 11 games.
"The timing of him getting back into form, into shape has been monumental," said Kenny Atkinson. "I do think there was a time period where he just wasn't healthy enough. I think now he's hitting his stride. He's healthy. He's feeling good. I think that's the normal time it takes to come back from, obviously he had surgery. I love the way he's running the court. He's the old DC. That's what we saw in Atlanta. He's obviously shooting the ball well, running, defending."
ABOUT THE KINGS
The Kings are joining the Nets as one of the NBA's big turnaround stories for the 2018-19 season, with a 24-22 record after finishing 27-55 last season. They've won four of their last five games, giving the Nets' playoff aspirations an indirect assist while they're at it by handing the Detroit Pistons two losses and splitting a pair with the Charlotte Hornets. The Kings are third in the NBA in 3-point percentage, led by Buddy Hield, who shoots 45.6 percent from deep and leads Sacramento with 20.5 points per game. Sacramento plays the league's second-fastest pace (104.27) and with that, are also second in field goal attempts per game (92.7). Second-year guard De'Aaron Fox leads the team with 7.3 assists per game and averages 17.6 points while shooting 36.7 from 3-point range.