Getting through trade deadline is only Nets’ first hurdle to turning season around

Brooklyn Nets
Elijah Hughes and Brooklyn Nets forward James Johnson play for a loose ball in the fourth quarter at Vivint Arena.
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA trade deadline is rapidly approaching and the Nets and James Harden have been at the epicenter of the trade speculation. Without question, the outside noise has not helped the Nets who entered Tuesday’s game against Boston having dropped eight straight games.

while just getting past the trade deadline will help ease some of the outside pressure, it will only be the beginning for Brooklyn, which will be looking to make a run to an NBA title. At the moment, they find themselves among teams that will need to go through the play-in round just to make it to the NBA playoffs.

It’s a far cry from where they were just a few weeks ago, worrying about whether finishing the year with home-court advantage would be a good thing or not.

“We’ll see. I can’t do the hypotheticals,” Kyrie Irving said recently when asked if the pressure lessens after the deadline. “We just have to keep our heads on straight right now and understand that from the perspective where everybody is sitting down and watching us, it’s easy to judge us. It’s easy to say this could happen that, could happen, look at our organization, look at the team up and down and make your criticism.

“For us in this locker room, we’re just rocking with who we have healthy day-to-day.”

All the Nets woes have to be looked at, though, through the lens of the current circumstances. Brooklyn has not looked like the same team without Kevin Durant on the floor.

Add on to that the absence of Joe Harris, who has had to deal with the recovery from ankle surgery much longer than anyone anticipated, and a constant flow of other injuries that have popped up. LaMarcus Aldridge has missed time due to an MCL sprain, Nic Claxton has been dealing with a hamstring strain and James Harden missed three straight games now.

For Harden, that included Tuesday’s game against the Celtics.

Durant isn’t expected to return to the floor for Brooklyn until at least the NBA All-Star break, which is still over a week away. The Nets will have five games still on the calendar after Tuesday before the break hits and that means the battered Nets would have to find a way to survive them before reinforcements finally arrive.

“There’s a good chance we’re in the play-in after the all-star break,” Nash said. “We’re not going to panic. There’s still plenty of games after the all-star break when Kevin gets back where we’ll hopefully have James and Kevin at home. And James, Kevin and Kyrie on the road. Hopefully, LaMarcus comes back and Nic is available and you go down the line. At some point, it would be great to have Joe back. You’re talking about five guys. That’s your starting lineup that’s out potentially

“It is what it is. These guys just are going to show this resolve and that’s the opportunity here.”

The Nets have shown what they can be in spurts over their current slump. They’ve played competitive games without their superstars on the court and their rookies and role players have answered the call enough for there to be some hope.

Blake Griffin called the concern level for the Nets “very high” after their loss to Denver, but there’s more at play in the eyes of others on the team.

“It’s big picture perspective at the moment,” Patty Mills said. “For everyone to kind of look within and be up for the challenge. We’re in the trenches at the moment and we have to believe in ourselves. … Get on path and get on track.”