I will be the first person to admit that I was wrong about the Brooklyn Nets, who I severely misjudged just a little over two weeks ago.
With the developing star Caris LeVert down and out with a horrific-looking foot injury, the Nets nosedived. Following the 24-year-old’s injury, the Nets won just two of their next 11 games as they allowed a hair under 113 points per game.
The mega-slump prompted me to pose this simple question: Should the Nets tank without Caris LeVert?
It wasn’t a bad idea. After all, the Nets went from a 38-win pace with LeVert in the lineup to just 16 on Dec. 5. Tanking could result in a premier talent like Zion Williamson and an organization with plenty of money to spend next summer could come back extremely strong for the 2019-20 campaign.
Well, the Nets showed me that notion was a silly, silly idea.
Suddenly, Brooklyn has reeled off six-straight wins, its longest win streak since reeling off the same amount of consecutive victories from Mar. 25-Apr. 3 of 2015.
These wins haven’t necessarily been over slouches, either. Their streak began with a 106-105 overtime victory over the NBA-best Toronto Raptors before taking down the crosstown-rival Knicks in Madison Square Garden the very next night. Kenny Atkinson’s men responded with a three-point win over another Eastern Conference favorite, the Philadelphia 76ers before taking care of the inconsistent Washington Wizards and lowly Atlanta Hawks.
But Tuesday night in Brooklyn showed me enough to suggest that it’s playoffs or bust in a weak Eastern Conference for these Nets.
Against his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, D’Angelo Russell stared down LeBron James and led the Nets with 22 points, including a dagger of a three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining in the 115-110 victory:
— NBA (@NBA) December 19, 2018
Your grandmother’s favorite man off the bench, Spencer Dinwiddie, poured in 18 of his own as he continues to prove that he is more deserving of his new three-year, $34 million contract extension. He’s averaging 17.2 points and five assists per game for a guy who has started just three games.
Don’t even get me started on Jarrett Allen, who set the tone in the opening minutes with a monstrous block of an attempted dunk from James.
Jarrett Allen will tell his grandchildren one day about the time he blocked LeBron James at the rim. pic.twitter.com/Vct2d8tXbk
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) December 19, 2018
Do you know how rare that is? LeBron has attempted 1,850 dunks in his career. After his encounter with the 20-year-old afroed menace, he has not been blocked just nine times.
In an age of hot takes, my sudden zealousness regarding the Nets might be filed in the overreaction drawer. The fact of the matter, though, is that this is a fun team to watch. A team that is just 1.5 games back of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Taking a more conservative route, I will say this: There is little doubt in my mind that the Nets should be in the postseason conversation by the end of the season, especially with the last two weeks that they’ve had. Will they make the second round? Probably not. But the Nets have something pretty promising to build on in the coming years.