The last few months of 2013 were rather unforgiving for the Nets. How has 2014 been treating them?
The exact opposite. The Nets are a whole new team, and all it took was them losing their best player to play as their best. No, really. Once Brook Lopez went down for the season, Kevin Garnett was switched (against his will) to center, setting off a chain reaction that resulted in more ball movement and better rim protection, ending in the team's best January in their franchise history. Now, instead of sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic, the Nets are surging into the "best team that's not a really good team in the East" battle. Basketball is weird.
Has Joe Johnson really had an All-Star quality season?
That's Seven-Time All-Star Joe Johnson to you.
Seriously, he probably wasn't the best choice. I've said that myself. But he's also not a vile choice selected at random by basketball Gods angry that Jerry Stackhouse was forced into retirement. He's been the only member of the starting five who hasn't had a cringe-worthy spell that lasted longer than about 5 games. He caught fire in the early part of January, right around the time these things get finalized. He's fine. He's 2 percent milk. He'll fit into the All-Star Game and no one other than Lance Stephenson will think anything of it during the game.
What are the general viewpoints from the fans and the organization about this season considering the devastating loss of Brook Lopez and how the season has been going?
I don't think anyone was expecting a massive turnaround after Lopez went down, but that's where we are. Generally I think people are hoping for the same thing last year: get into the playoffs, avoid Miami or Indiana in the first round, beat whoever they end up facing, then get smoked by Miami or Indiana in the next round. That's a far cry from the championship aspirations the team had at the beginning of the season, but it's also a more realistic look. That said, anything can happen in a seven-game series, and the Nets have already beaten the Heat twice this year...
So Mirza Teletovic. Where did this come from?
Bosnia and Herzegovina. He wasn't here last year, not like this. I wrote at the beginning of the year that I wished Mirza was better. I spoke with him at the end of November and he openly admitted he had no idea what his role was, or if he even had one, in Brooklyn. Now he's hitting shots, making smart passes, and boxing out way more than any of us saw coming. His shot's so pure when he's on, and he still gets free so easily around the perimeter that he's a threat to go off on any given night.
Who ya got tonight?
Give me the Nets at home after 2 days rest over the Bobcats on the second half of a back-to-back.