BROOKLYN— I’m sure it’s happened before. If I sat perfectly still for an hour and downed a couple of espressos, something to really get those synapses firing, I could remember a week like this for a New York sports team.
Consider the Nets’ plight: The self-generated expectations for a championship season were battered by a slew of injuries. When the Nets finally got healthy, they won 4-of-5, looking very much like a playoff team.
Confidence was high. The players were expressing an appreciation for coach Jason Kidd’s simplification of the offensive and defensive schemes. Hello Brooklyn!
And then came the first jab, the one that stuns and sets you back. The Nets lost at home to a young Washington Wizards team. Then five days after having obliterated the Philadelphia 76ers by 36 points in Barclays Center, the Nets lost 121-120 in OT to the Sixers in Philly.
Confidence was staggered. Players expressed anger and frustration at being done in by the same themes: a failure to rebound and an inability to keep teams out of the paint. What’s up, Brooklyn?
What’s up, is down.
“We’ve got to be up for everybody,” said Paul Pierce. “It’s not like we’re walking giants. We are bottom-feeders right now just like Philadelphia, so we’ve got to be up for everybody. We don’t have the luxury to come in here and coast and feel like we can come into the fourth quarter and turn it up.”
The morning after that loss, the Nets might have bottomed out. And the hole might be too great to escape.
General Manager Billy King announced that star center Brook Lopez, who had been having an All-Star caliber season, had broken the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot and would be lost for the season.
“No one knew,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “That just shows how tough Brook is. He told [Nets athletic trainer Tim Walsh] and our medical staff something was wrong, and they took [an X-ray] and found out what the problem was.”
The Nets have more than a problem. They have a dilemma.
Kidd had decided earlier this month to run the offense through Lopez. Lopez, 25, had averaged 20.7 points on 58-percent shooting, six rebounds and 1.76 blocked shots.
Going into Monday night’s game against the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers (22-5), the Nets were 9-17 and some major adjustments were going to have to be made. King said no trade was imminent but he would not rule out any move that makes sense and could help the team.
“If there’s a deal out there that we feel is going to make us a better team, we’ll do it, regardless of the tax or the future,” King said. “But we’re not going to panic and do a move just to make a move because we feel we have to.
“I still believe in this group. Brook’s a big part of it, but we do have other guys. That’s why we have depth.”
WET PAINT: Even before losing Lopez, the Nets had been doing an awful job of defending the paint. In the 121-120 OT loss to Philly, the Nets were outscored 66-30 in the paint and 49-37 on the glass.
“We need to have a better effort on the glass,” Pierce said. “It’s just inexcusable right now, one of the biggest teams in the league, for us to get crushed on the glass every night.”
CRUNCH TIME: The Nets failed to take advantage of a favorable schedule through mid-December and now it might cost them. Beginning with Monday night’s game against the Pacers, the Nets host Chicago on Christmas day.
The Nets play their final home game of 2013 on Friday night against the Bucks before flying to Indiana for a Saturday night rematch against the Pacers, who have won 13 of their first 14 home games.
That starts a nasty road trip that continues in San Antonio on New Years Eve and culminates in Oklahoma City on Jan. 2. The combined record of those three teams was 67-15 going into Monday night’s games.
M.A.S.H.: There’s no replacing Lopez but the Nets got some good news. Jason Terry (knee), who missed the last 15 games, practiced Sunday, as did swing forward Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms).