Brooklyn Nets Rebound under Carlesimo

The Brooklyn Nets fired head coach Avery Johnson on December 27 and hired assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo in his stead. Since the Johnson firing, the Nets have been red hot, winning eight of their last nine games. They were slumping before the Johnson firing, but has his absence from the sidelines really motivated them to go on this current tear? “Watching us, we just didn’t have the same fire that we had when we were 11-4,” General Manager Billy King said when Johnson was fired. “Talking to Avery, we tried to figure it out. But, just wasn’t able to pinpoint what was missing.”

I don’t know what kind of mojo Carlesimo is working that Johnson wasn’t, but he should keep it up; the Nets are currently two games back in the Atlantic Division behind the New York Knicks, and the fourth overall seed in the playoff standings. The Nets have 5-2 odds to win the Atlantic Division and 20-1 odds to win the Eastern Conference. Betting on them to win the whole East might be a stretch (this is still a team with glaring weaknesses) though the thought of them overcoming the Knicks to win the Atlantic Division is a far likelier proposition.

Perhaps the biggest win of the Nets’ post-Johnson era came on Sunday when they beat the Indiana Pacers by 11 points, thanks in large part to their stifling defense. “We had Gerald (Wallace) out already and we had won five in a row,” said Deron Williams. “The last time we won five in a row we went 3-13 so this was a big game for us. We needed this game.”

The Nets secret to success has been their defense all season; they’re fifth in the NBA in points allowed, and 15th in rebounding. Their offense is middling (17th in the league), but they do enough on defense with Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche. However, their offense has been decidedly more aggressive under interim coach Carlesimo than it was under Johnson, and he hopes to continue improving his team in that aspect. However, he will need his best players, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, to play up to their considerable potential in order to achieve that. “We’re playing at a slightly higher tempo,” Carlesimo said. “We’re not attacking a set defense all the time. Hopefully, we get early postups, more early looks. It’s a little easier four-on-four or three-on-three than five-on-five. We’re trying to get the ball out quicker, make or miss.”

The Nets can easily win the Atlantic Division, but the Eastern Conference may be out of reach. There are too many other solid, defensive minded teams in the East to contend with, though if the Nets get big time production out of their star free agent acquisitions, anything could happen. Here are the rest of the Eastern Conference championship odds:

  •  MIAMI HEAT: 1-2
  • NEW JERSEY NETS: 1-1
  • NEW YORK KNICKS: 7-2
  • CHICAGO BULLS               : 7-1
  • BOSTON CELTICS: 10-1
  • BROOKLYN NETS: 20-1
  • INDIANA PACERS: 20-1
  • ATLANTA HAWKS: 25-1
  • MILWAUKEE BUCKS: 45-1
  • PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: 45-1
  • WASHINGTON WIZARDS: 75-1
  • CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: 75-1
  • DETROIT PISTONS: 75-1
  • TORONTO RAPTORS: 75-1
  • CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: 75-1
  • ORLANDO MAGIC: 75-1
  • 100%