Nets hoping to recapture some magic of last season

Nets guard Deron Williams, right, drives against Sacramento Nets guard Deron Williams, right, drives against Sacramento Kings guard Greivis Vasque during the first quarter. (Nov. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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OKLAHOMA CITY - There they were, in the same scenario they faced precisely a year ago.

It's as if the schedule-maker simply did a copy-and-paste job, sending the Nets straight from San Antonio on New Year's Eve to a date with the Thunder the day after the calendar officially flipped over.

The current Nets were coming off a 21-point pasting at the hands of the Spurs that led to some soul-searching -- just as they were on that same date a year ago, when they lost by 31.

So they were hoping for a sense of deja vu Thursday night. Their eye-popping win over Oklahoma City a year ago propelled them on a seven-game winning streak.

"We just need a win," Deron Williams said before tip-off against the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. "I don't know about last year. This is this year. I guess it's similar because we just got blown out by San Antonio. But this is a different year, so you can't even compare it to last year. We just need a win."

They needed it for their psyche if nothing else, just to give them something to feel good about. Wins have been tough to come by for the team with the league's highest payroll, and their lone signature victory feels like eons ago.

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When the Nets beat the Heat Nov. 1, there was a sense that general manager Billy King's vision of building a team to compete with the two-time defending champs had come to fruition. But it's been a disaster ever since.

They've been injury-ravaged, losing Brook Lopez for the season to a fractured right foot and watching Paul Pierce and Williams miss time to battle their own ailments. The Nets (10-21) had dropped six of their last seven entering Thursday night.

Jason Kidd tried to shake things up again, inserting Shaun Livingston into the starting lineup to play alongside Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

As they search for the right combination, the Nets insist they've remained upbeat.

"We've just got to keep talking about getting better, keep talking about things we can do to get better," Pierce said. "We feel like we can win. We've just got to stay positive and I think for the most part, it's been positive on the bus, on the planes. Guys are sticking together because we feel like eventually it will turn around. We said look, hey, it's 2014, so this is a chance for us to get off to a good start."

With the Nets' cap situation, it's going to be difficult to make any significant changes, so the team as presently constructed is going to have to get the job done. But Johnson echoed Pierce's thoughts and believes the Nets still have enough to win.

"I feel the same way. That has never wavered for me," Johnson said. "I think we've got what it takes to win. We've just got to somehow find a way to put it together and make it work. I mean, because this is it."

Thunder coach Scott Brooks suggested the Nets should get somewhat of a pass -- for now.

"I think I see a lot of unfair, unrealistic expectations," Brooks said. "With injuries, you are not going to win in this league when you have your point guard hurt for a big chunk of the games and your center hurt, your small forward hurt all at the same time. You are just not going to do that. This league is too good. There's too many good teams, there's too many good players. So it's so hard to judge them fairly with all their injuries. But that is part of the game. You've got to manage it and navigate through that.''

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