As the NBA’s regular season begins its homestretch, and the jockeying for playoff position intensifies, the Brooklyn Nets have amazingly flipped the switch and have gone from also-rans to a real postseason threat.
As recently as three weeks ago, the Nets (36-42) were underwhelming and not even in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. But fast forward to the current standings and they’re now the eighth seed, technically tied in the standings with the seventh-seeded Celtics (36-42), and just two games behind the Bucks for sixth.
Brooklyn is 7-3 in its last 10 games, and to put that into perspective, that stretch is just as hot as powerhouses like the Cavaliers and Warriors.
They’re seemingly hitting their stride at the right time, and since their trade deadline dealing for versatile veteran Thaddeus Young, Brooklyn has gelled and come together. Once thought of as an underachieving unit, it’s been the steady hand of Young and the re-emergence of center Brook Lopez that has pushed the Nets over the hump.
That sentiment would’ve been difficult to fathom prior to the Feb. 19 trade deadline, but Young has spearheaded a frontline that has been rather dominant since he was traded from Minnesota for future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett.
Young has been on some really bad teams in recent years since his last postseason appearance in 2012, but he obviously hasn’t forgotten how to lead and be a solid complementary figure. His presence has especially allowed Lopez to flourish lately, as the stretch-four has opened up the interior and mid-range game for the pivot.
Lopez, for his part, has looked rejuvenated. He’s fresh off being honored with the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award where the 7-footer averaged 28.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.25 blocked shots. He no longer appears to look like a player miscast in head coach Lionel Hollins’s system – and he certainly does not resemble the guy that the team fervently tried trading earlier this season.
Young, at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, is not the prototypical power forward in a Hollins system. But what the lefty lacks in girth, he makes up for with great defensive timing and grit, and is enough of a 3-point threat (40.5 percent during his Brooklyn tenure) to become a valuable late-game participant. He’s averaging 14.3 points per game in Brooklyn, and just may have done enough to warrant another contract when his deal expires this summer.
Lopez can also become an unrestricted free agent after the season, so this recent tear is turning into a win-win for both the players and the franchise.
Should the Nets qualify for the playoffs and possibly shock the masses with a deep postseason run, the franchise will certainly look for ways to retain both veterans, as they owe the duo a lot for their current standing.
- The Player of the Week honor was the first for Lopez in his six-year career.
- Lopez was the second Net to be bestowed the honor this season, following Deron Williams, who won it for the week of Nov. 3-9.