LOS ANGELES -- Deron Williams paused, turning around to find the nearest piece of wood to knock on a few times. So his stall inside the visitors' locker room at American Airlines Center in Dallas was going to have to be good enough.
Call him superstitious, but as someone who finally is essentially pain-free, the last thing the Nets point guard wanted to do was jinx himself or his teammates when asked about the Nets' current health state. But make no mistake: As the Nets speed toward their first postseason since the 2006-07 season -- which would become official if the 76ers lost to the Nuggets in Denver Thursday night -- they're virtually as healthy as they've been all season long.
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Aside from Joe Johnson continuing to work his way back from his sore left heel, no one is really hindered by anything, which many other teams can't say as they hit the regular season's final stretch. That could give the Nets an advantage in the Eastern Conference race, in which 51/2 games separated second place from seventh entering Thursday night. There was only a 31/2-game gap between teams occupying the fourth and seventh spots.
"It's huge,'' interim coach P.J Carlesimo said. "We could get to two and we could get to eight. We literally can, and you can say that about most. And with the schedules we all have left, it could go either way. So yeah, are we concerned with making the playoffs and where we end up? Yes, but it's not as important as being healthy.
"If we can have two things on April 17 when we play Detroit , it is, one, to be in the playoffs, and two would be to be healthy, and then we'll take our chances.''
The Nets' only real worry at the moment centers around Johnson's heel. He hasn't been playing all that well since the injury first crept up days before the All-Star break. Johnson has topped double figures in only three of his last six games.
"I'm pretty good,'' he said. "My heel kind of stiffens up a little bit when I sit. But it's part of it. I'm still able to go out there and be productive and give the guys what I've got.''
They're going to need it, particularly on their eight-game excursion away from home, which resumes Saturday against Lob City, aka the Clippers.
"This is a big stretch for us,'' Williams said. "We knew that before we went on this trip, that these road games were going to determine a lot, and we are going to find out a lot about ourselves. So far, we've done well. We are 2-0 and we just want to continue to build on that.''