Along the way, New Jersey set the NBA record for worst-ever start to a season (0-18) and had several other key players in addition to Harris be sidelined with injuries. As if to underscore how miserable the Nets luck has been, on Nov. 7 fourth-leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts was diagnosed with the NBAs first confirmed case of swine flu.
While no rational person expected New Jersey to contend for a playoff berth, even in the Eastern Conference, its difficult to fathom how the Nets could be 3-32. On paper, they have some attractive building blocks, with Harris, Douglas-Roberts, emerging second-year center Brook Lopez and rapidly improving Yi Jianlian. Ironically, their historic losing streak almost never got started the Nets coughed up a big fourth-quarter lead in Minnesota in Game 1.
As my colleague NJNets.com writer Ben Couch wrote, this has been a season that started with low pundit expectations (generally 25-30 wins), falling victim to a similarly developing Timberwolves team in the opener which included the first of many, many injuries when Jarvis Hayes tore his hamstring in two places and everything snowballing from there and rolling off a cliff.
For the surging Hornets (17-16), tonight is a prime opportunity to post a season-high fifth straight victory, as well as extend their home winning streak to six games.
Weve taken some strides to be a better team, and we look like a better team and are playing better on defense, Devin Brown said this morning. But when youre coming into a game like this, you cant look at (the Nets) record. If you do, you start falling into that trap, and they hang around in the fourth quarter, when you dont know what could happen. Weve got to come out and show that we can be the team we want to be. We have to have a good start and maintain that for four quarters.
New Orleans is in the midst of its best stretch of the season and is trying to build on its first consecutive road victories of 2009-10.
Theres a different confidence right now, Brown described. Were holding each other accountable for our defensive mistakes, and everyone who steps on the floor knows that. Whether it was earlier this year or last (season), we werent doing that.