By Daniel Stein-Sayles
The Brooklyn Nets opened the final leg of the 2012-2013 National Basketball Association regular season with a bang. Shooting guard, Joe Johnson, hit two huge shots versus the Milwaukee Bucks last Tuesday – one to force extra time and then one to win the game for the Nets as the overtime buzzer sounded. The Nets and their fans hope that this is a good sign for the team going forward in their inaugural season in Brooklyn.
The Nets’ season has looked brighter since they fired then-Head Coach, Avery Johnson, and replaced him with Assistant Coach, P.J. Carlesimo, in late-December. Center, Brook Lopez, was named an Eastern Conference All-Star, and the Barclays Center residents entered the All-Star break riding a two game winning streak against the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets, both playoff-caliber teams. However, the Nets will go as far as point guard, Deron Williams, takes them.
Just a few years ago, Williams – now 28 – was one of the first names mentioned in conversations about the best point guard in the league. Now, the face of the Nets is putting up the worst numbers of his career. Williams has had some injuries this season which have contributed to his disappointing performance. However, injuries aside, if Brooklyn wants to make a run in the playoffs, they’re going to need their point guard to lead them.
Along with Williams, the Nets’ bench, which has been among the worst in the league in 2012-2013, needs to show improvement. Power forward, Andray Blatche, has been a solid contributor all season, but the Nets need talented players like power forward, Kris Humphries, and shooting guard, MarShon Brooks, to play up to their talent level. If the bench can carry a bigger load, and small forward, Gerald Wallace, can contribute more on offense, the team can stop relying as much on isolation plays as they have thus far.
Right now, the Nets look like a sure playoff team but not necessarily a championship contender. The Nets not making any moves at the trade deadline puts pressure on the current roster to play up to their potential. Brook Lopez must continue to be a force on the inside, while Joe Johnson and Deron Williams have to carry the Nets in the perimeter if they hope to earn home court advantage in the playoffs.