The Nets have won seven straight games, the current longest winning streak in the NBA, and they’ve done it in impressive fashion, too. They’ve beaten three top seeds, the Nos. 1 (Raptors) and 3 (76ers) seeds in the East, and the No. 4 (Lakers) in the West. They’ve twice won the back end of a back-to-back on the road (after failing to do that 33 straight times); handily beaten their crosstown rivals at the Garden; and won the last four using a starting line-up with an average age of 22 years. And they’ve done it all with arguably their best player on the bench, recovering from a dislocated leg.
But are they just one player away, as Vince Goodwill of Yahoo! Sports wrote before they beat the Bulls in an ugly game Wednesday night in Chicago? Are we getting ahead of ourselves?
Goodwill, in fact, thinks that with the addition of a superstar, the Nets have made so many advances so fast that they could be next year’s Lakers. Here’s what he argues… that like last year’s Lakers, they’re “recovering from the muck and preparing for a star.”
He recounts the Tuesday night heroics that led to the Nets big win over those same Lakers:
If it weren’t D’Angelo Russell tormenting his former team with late-game triples and the “ice in my veins” celebration, it was surprising second-year center Jarrett Allen going where few men have gone before: stopping LeBron James at the summit with a blocked dunk attempt.
There’s also Spencer Dinwiddie adding to his catalogue of 30-footers and smirks as he antagonizes the many who left him for dead following a couple of stops and starts to his career.
They are, like the Lakers of 2017-18, ready-made for a star to drop by, Goodwill says, but Dinwiddie throws a bit of cold water on the plan, gently counterpointing that the Nets have had success with developing their own.
“Well, I mean, they [Lakers] were pretty bad last year [finishing 35-47]. Our record [14-18] is decent,” Dinwiddie said. “It ain’t terrible now. I don’t think it’s a poor comparison. I also don’t think we’re getting LeBron. We’ll see what happens next, but we got a lot of young guys trying to prove themselves and do a lot of things. Any time you have a collective mindset of wanting to improve and wanting to be great, anything can happen.”
Goodwill makes some interesting points about the Nets rebuild, pointing out the upside of not having all those picks when Sean Marks walked in the door in February 2016.
In a way, though, not having lottery balls to rely on seemed to have liberated general manager Sean Marks. Whether it was taking on bad contracts to acquire draft picks or taking a chance on players who came at a low cost, such as Dinwiddie and Russell, Marks had the opportunity to be creative.
Dinwiddie doesn’t disagree and makes an additional point that no doubt came with one of his trademark smirks.
“I can see what you’re saying. It probably liberates [this] regime,” Dinwiddie told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t think it liberated [former GM] Billy King, clearly.”
Goodwill also believes that the Nets next big move could be for a missing star. “They appear to be buyers in the trade market as opposed to solely relying on swimming in the treacherous waters of free agency,” he writes.
He’s not alone in that particular assessment either. Brian Windhorst of ESPN wrote Wednesday as well, of the possibility of the Nets perhaps shortening their rebuild for a “now” move.
Suddenly they’re two games out of sixth in the East and sources report they are hinting in talks with teams they could be a buyer at the trade deadline. That’s not something that has been heard in years.
Who? What? When? There’s been a LOT of speculation that the Nets could move DeMarre Carroll and his $15.2 million deal for a player, not picks, to round things out as the Nets plan for free agency. NBA-TV last weekend listed the contracts most likely to be moved before the deadline. Jeremy Lin was No. 1; Carroll was No. 2. The Nets also have other trade pieces like the Nuggets first rounder this June, which is unlikely to be higher than No. 25 unless Nikola Jokic is abducted by aliens.
The trade deadline is now 51 days away. Plenty of time for more speculation for the Nets, their front office and their ownership; plenty of time for discussion on the organization’s next move. Patience, young Sky Walkers…