Gut-check time for struggling Nets

frank_250.jpgThe best thing you can say about the Nets’ trip is that it’s over. At least the West Coast portion of it is. They still have a quasi-road game tomorrow at the Knicks and then the schedule really gets tough.
 
Yes, tougher than going West.
 
Now we will really find out about the Nets’ mettle — whether Vince Carter can rally them, whether Brook Lopez can go back to being a double-double guy every night and whether Keyon Dooling can inspire them in place of Devin Harris, who is out indefinitely with a sprained left shoulder and strained left deltoid.
 
We also will learn whether Lawrence Frank will have an even shorter leash on Yi Jianlian, which the coach probably should at this point.
 
Collectively, the Nets had too many bad moments, too many breakdowns, did too many things that led to the four gut-wrenching losses on the trip that ended terribly in Denver Monday night when the Nuggets grabbed as many offensive rebounds (25) as the Nets grabbed defensive boards (25). That should never happen.
 
But all of that has to be behind the Nets now. They’re two games back with 15 to play. Their singular focus has to be the playoffs and not worrying about what happened over the last week or in March, which has been brutal.
 
It will be tough because the reporters will keep reminding them either through our questions or writing. Like now. The Nets are 2-7 and in all but one loss — in Denver — they led in the fourth period. The Nets’ first six losses were by a combined 24 points.
 
When it’s all said and done, these are the games everyone will point to as the reason the Nets didn’t get in the playoffs, if that in fact does happen, and it’s looking more and more likely that it will.
 
But the Nets have to put it behind them and concentrate on the Knicks without Harris because after that they have four games against the NBA’s three best players and three MVP candidates.
 
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Nets president Rod Thorn said.
 
Dwyane Wade is at the Meadowlands on Friday. All the NBA’s scoring leader has done to the Nets this season is average 35 points, 5.3 assists, three steals and 2.3 blocks in three wins. Lopez remembers what he did to him, swatting him a couple of times late in their last meeting.
 
Then it’s a home-and-home with MVP frontrunner LeBron James. The Cavs are a game ahead of the Lakers for the NBA’s best record and have lost just once at home. Enough said.
 
Then it’s Kobe Bryant’s turn when the reigning MVP leads the defending West-champion Lakers into New Jersey Friday for their only visit this season.
 
Those are four difficult games, much more difficult than at the Warriors, Blazers, Clippers and Nuggets.
 
That was a winnable trip, and it wound up being winless. Many people probably are predicting winless for these four, especially with Harris’ return date uncertain.
 
This is where we’ll find what the Nets are made of and whether they learned anything or are more hungry because of what happened on the trip. Their season is not over unless they’re already defeated mentally. Then they really have no shot against Wade, LeBron and Kobe.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

One comment

  1. carlucc226@yahoo.com

    The Nets are pathetic, plain and simple. Yi Jianlian is the second worst professional basketball player next to Kwame Brown, why the hell he has started over 60 games is ridiculous. Lawrence Frank can’t inspire this team and they most likely will fall short of the playoffs. That being said they will most likely trade Carter in the offseason to clear cap room for the 2010 free agency, but no one realizes that NONE of the superstars want to come to New Jersey. Sure get rid of Carter just like they did Jefferson, bad move because this team relies on Vince and if he’s gone so is any chance of this team ever going anywhere because 2010 is going to be a bad surprise for the New Jersey Nets.

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