New York Times



[toggle_content title=”Nets Fans Make a Lot of Noise, but This Time, It’s a Negative Message” class=”toggle box box_blue” ]

The Nets have had an extended honeymoon in this maiden season in Brooklyn, but the fans finally lost their patience Sunday night, screaming their displeasure as the San Antonio Spurs, playing without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, drilled the home team, 111-86.

As the Spurs completed a dominating second half, outscoring the Nets, 60-29, the angry voices began to boom.

“Deserved,” the Nets’ Deron Williams said. “These people pay money to come see us play, and play better than that.”

They were the first sustained boos the Nets had heard since arriving in Brooklyn. But then, this was as listless and demoralizing as any loss the Nets have had. They failed to take advantage of the Spurs’ depleted lineup, failed to hold an 8-point lead in the third quarter and utterly failed to contain Parker, who carved up their defense for 29 points and 11 assists.

The Spurs pushed their league-best record to 40-12, while the Nets continued to fade, slipping to 29-22. The Nets have lost six of their last nine games, all but one by double digits, and their psyche has never looked more fragile.

There have been more Nets trade rumors — including Ben Gordon and Josh Smith — in recent days than Nets victories.

From Coach P. J. Carlesimo to every starter, the Nets bemoaned an inability to fight through trouble, to keep their heads, to respond constructively and to play with a singular purpose. In the aftermath, there were hints of a fractured locker room.

“We got to understand that this is a team game,” Gerald Wallace said. He added: “You’re allowed to get mad. But instead of going your own individual way, we got to pull together as a team, buckle down. And that’s when we got to tighten up our defense a little bit more, instead of going into five different guys out on the court.”

The Nets have enough fight, “but the fight right now is in the wrong direction,” Wallace said. “Everybody is wanting to fight individually, instead of pulling together as a team. And that’s fighting as the Brooklyn Nets.”

The lack of team play was evident in the box score: the Nets had just 12 assists, one more than Parker had by himself. They had four assists in the second half, when the offense deteriorated into a series of one-on-one efforts. Williams, the Nets’ presumed offensive leader, had 3 assists and 15 points. The Nets committed 18 turnovers — continuing another bad habit — which led to 30 points for the Spurs.

The Spurs wiped out the Nets’ lead with a 12-0 run early in the third quarter, and the Nets simply disintegrated from there. By the end of the period, the Spurs had turned an 8-point deficit into a 10-point lead. Minutes into the fourth, it was an 18-point game.

“We let our emotions affect the way we play,” Carlesimo said. He added: “Even against arguably the best team in the league, in our own building, you can’t do that. It’s not acceptable. We need to be better.”

Parker thoroughly outplayed Williams and left the Nets off balance all game with his clever drives, timely passing and perfect teardrops in the lane. At one point, Parker so badly faked out Brook Lopez that Lopez staggered as Parker easily skipped past and tossed in a scoop shot.

Joe Johnson had 19 points for the Nets, but just 6 in the second half. Lopez had 18 points, but just 4 after halftime.

The Spurs rested Duncan and Ginobili, their ailing stars, which at a glance seemed to bode well for the Nets. But then, the Nets have not handled good fortune well. Last week, they lost to a Los Angeles Lakers team that was missing Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace (and lost Pau Gasol in the fourth quarter). The week before that, they barely beat a Chicago Bulls team that was missing three starters.

At this point, the Nets can assume nothing and underestimate no one. Every team is a threat.

“It’s almost like we have two different teams,” Williams said, “and it’s just guessing which one’s going to show up on a given night.”

The Spurs dealt the Nets their worst loss of the season — a 31-point rout on New Year’s Eve.

That humiliating defeat, oddly enough, spurred the Nets’ resurgence, starting with a 17-point rout of Oklahoma City two days later, and they won 10 of their first 11 games in 2013.

But the Nets have been sputtering ever since. They have been turnover-prone, offensively inefficient and generally out of sorts, looking more like the team that got Avery Johnson fired in December than the one that came alive under Carlesimo in January.

“I think when things start to go bad, instead of fighting back, we kind of hang our heads and do the opposite,” Williams said. “It’s just a mentality that we have, we’ve developed, which is bad.”

Is he worried?

“Nah,” Williams said. “Not really.”


When the Nets fired Avery Johnson and promoted P. J. Carlesimo in December, it posed an emotional conflict for Gregg Popovich. Carlesimo is a close friend, and Johnson is a protégé. Popovich remains critical of the Nets for making the change so quickly. He said Sunday that he was “thrilled” for Carlesimo, then added: “But I wasn’t thrilled — nobody would be — to have a friend lose a job, like Avery. That was something that at the time I thought was a little shortsighted or a little bit impatient. But it’s not my business, and I’m not there.” … Toko Shengelia, who sustained a mild concussion two weeks ago, was cleared to play. He was on the inactive list.

[toggle_content title=”Nets Said to Be Considering Deal to Send Humphries to Bobcats” class=”toggle box box_blue” ]By HOWARD BECK

Kathy Willens/Associated Press
The Nets’ Kris Humphries lost his starting job to Reggie Evans, and he has been buried in a crowded frontcourt rotation.
The Nets could bolster their bench scoring and loosen their frontcourt logjam under a proposed trade with the Charlotte Bobcats.

The teams are considering a deal that would send Kris Humphries to Charlotte in exchange for Ben Gordon, according to a person briefed on the discussion. The person cautioned that it was “just talk” at this stage and “nothing concrete.”

The proposed deal, which was first reported by ESPN, came from the Bobcats.

Gordon, 29, averaged between 15 and 20 points a game in his first five seasons, all with the Chicago Bulls, although his production has declined in recent years. He is averaging 13.1 points a game this season, better than any of the Nets’ reserves.

The Nets are desperate for 3-point shooting, and Gordon could fill that need, with a career mark of .406 from the arc. He is younger than Jerry Stackhouse and Keith Bogans and more polished than MarShon Brooks.

Humphries lost his starting job to Reggie Evans, and he has been buried in a crowded frontcourt rotation that also includes Andray Blatche and Gerald Wallace. Trading Humphries could also open playing time for Mirza Teletovic.

[toggle_content title=”It’s Sunday in the City: Let’s Play Two” class=”toggle box box_blue” ]By HOWARD BECK
The Knicks will host the Clippers at 1 p.m. Eastern.
The case might be a tad overstated. But on Sunday, because of changing fates and serendipitous scheduling, New York just might be the center of the basketball universe.

Starting at 1 p.m. Eastern, four of the N.B.A.’s top teams will play two games, over 10 hours, in two boroughs, about six miles apart. The Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers will play first, at the Garden. A few hours later, the Nets and the San Antonio Spurs will tip off at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

This virtual doubleheader will feature 12 current or recent All-Stars, a 2-time most valuable player, 3 current Most Valuable Player contenders, several likely Hall of Famers and one lovably irascible coach.

The Spurs own the best record in the Western Conference, just four and a half games ahead of the third-place Clippers. The Knicks are second in the Eastern Conference, four games ahead of the Nets. Combined, the four teams have a record of 135-66.

The task of describing this hoopla to a national audience will fall, appropriately, to a guy from Queens. Mike Tirico, who grew up in Whitestone, will call the play-by-play on both games, the first on ABC and the second on ESPN.

Tirico plans to take the No. 2 train from Midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn. And he is already reveling in this uniquely New York moment.

“Growing up in Queens, I was of the tap water that makes us believe that this is the mecca of basketball,” he said Friday. “And I still believe that.”

This moment was made possible by the Nets’ move to Brooklyn last fall, the first time two N.B.A. teams have occupied the city simultaneously. The Knicks and the Nets have played home games on the same day seven times. But this will be just the second time that the schedule affords enough time for a fan or a broadcaster to attend both.

Barring triple overtime at the Garden, Tirico should make it to Brooklyn with enough time to grab a Nathan’s hot dog before settling in at the broadcast table.

“To get back on the subway, to go from one to the other, will be kind of cool,” Tirico said. “I’ll go load up a MetroCard and give my 2 dollars and 50 cents to my city of birth.”

The games should be pretty good, too. Consider the talent that will gather.

Tim Duncan (Spurs) owns two M.V.P. trophies and four championships. Duncan and Jason Kidd (Knicks) are locks for the Hall of Fame, as is Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich.

Chris Paul (Clippers), Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Tony Parker (Spurs) are all M.V.P. contenders this season. The roster of recent All-Stars includes those three; the Spurs’ Duncan and Manu Ginobili; the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire; the Clippers’ Blake Griffin; and the Nets’ Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.

The Spurs (39-12), defying all odds and expectations and age, once again look capable of making a run to the finals. The Clippers (35-17), despite a recent swoon caused by injuries, are also in contention to win the West. The Knicks (32-16) appear capable of making the Eastern Conference finals. The Nets (29-21) are a notch below the other three but have the talent to finish in the top tier of the East.

That last paragraph itself is stunning in its own way. The Clippers, until recently, were considered among the worst franchises in sports. Now they are threatening to win their first division title, with the pairing of Paul and Griffin, and the best bench in the N.B.A. The Knicks, hapless for most of the last decade, are in position to win their first division title since 1994. The Nets are on track for their first winning season since 2005-6.

The Clippers just got Paul, Griffin and Chauncey Billups back in the lineup Friday night, and they are fully healthy for the first time this season. With Paul’s passing and Griffin’s dunking, they remain one of the most electrifying teams in the league.

“If you gave most fans the option to see one of the two teams, they’d want to go see the Clippers,” Tirico said, comparing the Clippers and the Spurs, while acknowledging that this is probably backward, given San Antonio’s wild success over the last 14 years.

“In this era of oversaturated sports coverage, they’re the most underappreciated franchise in the four major sports, period,” he said of the Spurs.

In an earlier era, N.B.A. doubleheaders were common. But the games were played back to back, under the same roof, on a single ticket. The Lakers and the Clippers will occasionally play on the same day at Staples Center. But no other city can match what will unfold in New York on Sunday.

“To have it in two distinctly different buildings, with a distinctly different feel, that’s one more unique New York turn on this whole deal,” Tirico said. He added: “Yeah, all politics are local. But I think our basketball politics in New York have always been in the right place.”

[toggle_content title=”Nets Find Out How Much Better Wall Makes the Wizards” class=”toggle box box_blue” ]By SCOTT CACCIOLA

WASHINGTON — When the Wizards’ John Wall stepped in front of C. J. Watson near midcourt early in the second quarter to swipe a loose ball and take it the other way, the play seemed harmless enough. Turnovers happen in basketball games, and Watson watched as Wall raced in for a two-handed dunk.

What made this mistake so disastrous for the Nets was that it was merely one of many, all of them in succession, each missed shot and errant pass compounding the damage like the interest on a credit-card balance.

The Wizards routed the Nets, 89-74, at the Verizon Center on Friday night as Billy King, the Nets’ general manager, watched from a courtside tunnel. It was a lackluster performance that did little to assuage concerns that the Nets, as currently constructed, are flawed in some fundamental ways.

“I’m very concerned,” said Coach P. J. Carlesimo, whose team has lost five of its last eight games.

Carlesimo was sharply critical of his reserves, who combined to shoot 4 of 21 from the field and provided little resistance in the pivotal second quarter.

“Maybe we have to substitute differently, or maybe we can’t put guys in the game together, or maybe we can’t continue to give people chances of hurting us defensively or by not putting the ball in the basketball,” said Carlesimo, who did not cite any players by name. “We just have to look at it. It seems it’s been a recurring problem. We can’t dig that big of a hole.”

The Nets (29-21) shot 32.9 percent from the field, committed 15 turnovers and did little to contain Wall, a turbocharged point guard who collected 15 points, 9 assists and 4 steals. It was the third straight win for the Wizards (14-35), a much-improved team since Wall’s return from injury last month.

“I feel like we could be in a playoff spot right now,” Wall said. “You don’t give up on a season this early.”

The Nets, meantime, appear to be confronting another identity crisis in a season that has been full of them. Deron Williams scored 20 points to lead the team, but he shot just 7 of 20 over all. Joe Johnson had 14 points, and Brook Lopez finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds.

“There’s no reason why we should be talking about how the effort wasn’t there, the energy wasn’t there,” Williams said. “Especially in some of these big games. Maybe this wasn’t a ‘big game’ for us. But it should have been.”

The second quarter was a mess for the Nets, who missed their first 12 field-goal attempts. The stretch of ineptitude lasted more than eight minute. At times, it looked as if the Nets were heaving a bowling ball, or shooting into gale-force winds, or simply blindfolded. For the quarter, the Nets shot 4 of 22 over all, including 0 of 7 from 3-point range, and were outscored, 30-11. The Wizards built a 51-31 lead by halftime, and the game was effectively over.

“During that second quarter, I don’t know what happened,” Johnson said.

Late in the third, the Nets mounted a 14-0 run that was keyed by Williams. They still trailed by 12.

“When you can’t make free throws, when you can’t make 3-point shots and when you can’t make shots in the paint, it’s very hard to win,” Carlesimo said.

The Nets were in no position take the Wizards lightly, not after losing at home to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday and barely squeezing past the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.

On Jan. 4, the Nets needed two overtimes to take a 115-113 victory over the Wizards — and it should have been marked with an asterisk, since the Wizards were still a week away from getting Wall back.

Wall missed the first 33 games of the season with a left knee injury, and the Wizards labored to a 5-28 record without him. Since making his season debut Jan. 12, Wall has been nothing short of a transformative presence. The Wizards entered Friday’s game riding the good feelings generated by back-to-back wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Knicks, and they kept their momentum going against the Nets.

“It’s not working right now,” Carlesimo said of his rotation. “We have to look at everything.”

[toggle_content title=”Nets Win but Don’t Look Very Sharp in Doing It” class=”toggle box box_blue” ]By ZACH HELFAND

Detroit’s Viacheslav Kravtsov driving on Brook Lopez on Wednesday.
In their previous meeting against the Pistons, Carlesimo said, the Nets had “killed them at home by 1 or 2 in double overtime.”

On Wednesday, the Nets barely prevailed again. They had to shake off a quick turnaround after a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, sloppy play early and spotty shooting, but the Nets claimed a 93-90 victory behind strong bench play.

Greg Monroe led all scorers with 23 points, but he could not hit the tail end of two free throws with 33.6 seconds left and a chance to tie the score. On the next possession, Brook Lopez posted up Monroe and converted a layup to extend the Nets’ lead to 3, which effectively sealed the victory. Will Bynum’s desperation 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short, and the Nets held on.

“There were things we did do well,” Carlesimo said after the game. “The fact that we hung in, the fact that we didn’t turn the ball over and the fact that we executed down the stretch. I mean to find a way to win on the road is a good thing. You know, we’re not there yet, but good teams find a way to win.”

Entering Wednesday, the Nets had lost four of their last six games, in what has become the roughest stretch of Carlesimo’s short but productive tenure. But the game against the Pistons, as well as Friday’s matchup against the struggling Washington Wizards, offered the opportunity to break through the malaise against teams the Nets usually feast upon. The Nets now own an 18-1 record playing against sub-.500 teams. But they do not always make it easy.

The Nets were content to play catch-up for much of the game Wednesday. At the start of the first two quarters, they gave the Pistons some slack, and in a late-period scoring fury, they reeled them back into striking range.

The Pistons used easy transition baskets off early turnovers to open a double-digit lead in the first quarter, before a late Nets run cut the lead to 1 point at the buzzer. Deron Williams had three turnovers early in the game, which led to Detroit scores. Williams finished with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting and reached 5,000 career assists, though he mostly dismissed the milestone. “I know I’m not catching John Stockton,” he said with a smile.

Again, in the second quarter, Detroit led by as many as 13 points before allowing 7 unanswered points in the final 2 minutes 38 seconds of the half. The Pistons’ lead held until the fourth quarter, when the Nets clawed back thanks to strong bench play from MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and Andray Blatche, who combined for 24 points.

Carlesimo said the bench salvaged the game “twice, when the frontline guys weren’t doing good and it looked like the game was going to get out of hand.”

Despite the win, the Nets’ underlying problems remained. The shooting was spotty. Before the game, Carlesimo said that against the Lakers, it “looked like there was a lid on the basket.” The Nets missed the rim altogether on six shots Wednesday, including three air balls in a row by Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic laughed off the misses, but they almost crippled the Nets’ fourth-quarter comeback.

The effort, too, was inconsistent. At times, they played sloppily, at other times, uninterested. During a timeout with 5 minutes 19 seconds remaining and the Nets leading just by just a point, several players on the bench grew distracted by a dancing usher on the scoreboard.

But when it counted, Lopez and his teammates responded with just enough. Lopez finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds on 8-of-14 shooting, including the layup in the waning seconds of the game. Joe Johnson said the play was disguised as a similar play designed for him, and it fooled the Nets bench.

“You never know who’s going to take the last shot on this team,” he said. “I think that’s the great thing about the setup that we have.”

The victory was enough to ease memories from the tough loss to the Lakers and a grueling travel day.

“It was kind of polar opposite tonight” from the Lakers game, Lopez said. “Tonight, we were great in the last three minutes.”