After six games on the road for a Circus Trip — no, really, the Nets take this trip annually so the circus can come to Barclays Center — the team finally returns home tonight to take on the Chicago Bulls in Brooklyn.
The team technically took a seven-game road trip, but the first game was just before the All-Star Break. (If you want to count All-Star festivities, it was an eight-game road trip for Mason Plumlee and Joe Johnson.)
Here’s six takeaways from the six-game trip:
- 1) They took advantage of an easy schedule. It’s a good thing that the Nets were able to get wins on the road against professional basketball teams, but the wins and losses came against teams you’d expect them to win and lose to.
The Jazz (21-38), Bucks (11-47), and Lakers (20-39) are bottom-feeders with a combined winning percentage of .295, and the Denver Nuggets are imploding under Brian Shaw. On the other side, despite being the same seed in the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors are 6.5 games ahead of the Nets. The Portland Trail Blazers are 41-18 and handed Brooklyn one of their worst losses in franchise history.
So they left 4-2, but looking at the trip before it started, you’d probably guess they’d go 4-2.
- 2) Deron Williams is stronger. Williams hasn’t exactly barreled out of the gate like he did after last year’s All-Star festivities, but he’s scoring more, getting to the rim more, and looks like he’s shaking his post-ankle injury rust. Other than a slump from shooting outside, Williams looks poised to make a solid second-half run.
- 3) Joe Johnson’s injuries affect him. Johnson has reportedly battled tendinitis in his knee and a jammed finger, and the numbers speak for themselves: after a 27-point performance against Utah, Johnson shot 32 percent from the field in the next five games. Outside of that Utah game, the last time Johnson shot over 50 percent in a game was against the Dallas Mavericks on January 21st. It may be time to just give him rest.
- 4) Marcus Thornton can go off. After solid but quiet off-the-bench performances in his first two games with the Nets, Thornton showed off his innate scoring ability against the Milwaukee Bucks, dropping 25 points in 23 minutes on 8-13 shooting (4-7 from beyond the arc). Thornton got his points either attacking the basket or spotting up from outside, and was a key scorer for the Nets in the fourth quarter to hold off the league-worst Bucks. He and Alan Anderson make for a solid backup backcourt.
- 5) They still can’t rebound. Even on their 4-2 trip, the Nets were outrebounded by an average of eight rebounds per game. The Trail Blazers in particular dominated the Nets 53-29 on the glass, tied for their worst rebounding margin on the season. On a related note, the Nets lost by 44 points.
It wasn’t just that game; opposing teams outrebounded the Nets in five of the six games. If rebounding won games (i.e. the winner was the team that had the most rebounds), the Nets would be 20-35 with two “rebounding ties” so far this season. They’ve still got one open roster spot, and they might want to use it on someone who can help them control the glass.
- 6) Jason Collins isn’t awful. Much of the criticism of the Jason Collins signing was that it was only for public relations, that Collins wouldn’t be able to help the Nets. Even if you trap yourself in cynicism and agree that the move was just a PR move (which doesn’t seem to be the case), Collins has pretty much performed to a level you’d expect out of the last big man on your bench; he’s setting screens, not scoring, and playing interior defense. He’s also in better shape than his New Jersey days. He’ll stick around, if only for that 22-footer.