EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The day started with everyone at the Nets’ practice facility smiling and feeling a sense of relief because nothing happened at the trade deadline and ended with the coach throwing himself under the bus.
Lawrence Frank took the blame for the Nets’ 107-96 defeat to the Wizards Friday night, but everyone on the team needs to look in the mirror after this performance.
There could come a point where the players stop listening to Frank. There were many times it seemed they stopped last year, but Frank survived. And he should survive this. His players just have to match his work ethic for the final 26 games.
It would be hard to believe that the players aren’t listening. Not after Vince Carter, the subject of countless trade rumors, and Devin Harris talked about having a sense of urgency and finishing the job yesterday morning.
These two especially have taken pride in making the Nets a playoff contender when everyone thought this team would finish with somewhere between 20 and 30 wins. They still might. But for them to give up now would be terrible and an indictment of their characters. Both care too much about this team and themselves to let that happen, so I’m not buying it.
Carter’s face lit up Friday morning when he talked about the satisfaction he would feel by getting this team to the playoffs. But it’s time to stop talking and start acting. It’s up to them and it starts with their leaders.
“If you want something that bad, if you really want something that badly, you dig in,” Frank said. “I’m just doing a poor job because I’m not getting these guys to compete as hard as we need to.”
The accountability has to be shared. These were the Wizards, after all.
Washington won 12 games before Friday night. Make it 13 now, with two against the Nets. And if/when the Nets miss the playoffs by a couple of games, you know exactly where you and I are going to point. Actually there are so many, but the two to Washington were right there.
The Wizards abused the Nets inside, out-worked them and out-hustled them. The Wizards played with fight where as the Nets had none and fell for the fifth straight time.
“I’m just doing a poor job,” Frank said. “If I can’t get these guys to compete harder, I’m just doing a poor job because there’s no excuse for it.”
Frank used a word before poor that we can’t print, and he almost slipped and used one that started with horse that actually would have been two words, but you get the drift.
It was a poor performance by everyone from the guards not containing the dribble to the big players allowing the smaller Wizards to dominate.
During this five-game skid, the Nets’ defense has been a big issue, along with their interior play. You can accept a little easier when it happens against Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming. But Washington doesn’t play with a real center.
Darius Songaila is a forward playing center, and Andray Blatche is a power forward playing center. But the Wizards as a whole played with much more force than the Nets. It showed in such stats as Washington’s 60-36 edge in points in the paint, 54-41 advantage on the boards and forwards Dominic McGuire and Antawn Jamison grabbing one fewer board than the Nets’ starting five (27-26).
“We didn’t play with a lot of energy,” Devin Harris said. “We got our butts kicked inside.”
But Harris said it’s up the players to reach inside off themselves to get out of this rut.
“It’s the heart that you show and going out and playing hard every night,” Harris said. “It’s not like guys aren’t trying. They’re making right plays. We’re just not being successful.”
Everyone shares in the blame.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)