Nets on verge of first winning road record since moving to NBA in 1976
PHOENIX - P.J. Carlesimo was stunned, unable to wrap his head around the concept.
Since trading in the ABA's red, white and blue balls for the NBA's in 1976, the Nets have never posted a winning road record. When informed of that, the interim coach was incredulous.
"No, I don't believe that," he said. "I would respectfully question your guy's bookkeeping. That can't be right."
Carlesimo paused for a second, gathering his thoughts as the validation came in from every direction. He shook his head.
"That's very surprising to me," he said. "Wow."
Believe it: The Nets (19-15 away from Barclays Center) appear poised to top their high-water mark of 20 road wins in the 2005-06 season, the year Jason Kidd, Vince Carter & Co. lost to the Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Entering Wednesday night's game against the Trail Blazers, they've already reached the same number of road wins they posted in 2001-02 -- the first of two straight trips to the Finals.
Of the Nets' seven remaining road games, four of them are left in this string of eight contests away from home. So the Nets -- who are off to a 3-1 start after Sunday's 102-100 escape against the Suns -- actually can break the franchise record before their next home game if they win half of this upcoming stretch.
"We've got a ways to go to do that, but yeah, that would be a significant achievement," Carlesimo said. " . . . A lot of things people have talked about us doing, ending streaks and all that, that's the most significant. Twenty-one wins, for any team, that's a first step. Some teams go well beyond that, but when you get to 21 on the road, you've done a good job."
Like Carlesimo, the players were unaware of the franchise's road history. But they know what the implications could be if they continue their success away from Barclays Center.
"It'll be good," Gerald Wallace said. "It'll show we can win on the road. It'll do us great going into the playoffs. The playoffs, the biggest thing is you've got to be able to win on the road. So if we can get that and have that confidence going into the playoffs, I think we'll be all right."
For whatever reason, there appears to be more of a calm, relaxed atmosphere around the Nets on the road. They often play better and looser. Jokes and trash-talking among themselves are commonplace in their postgame locker room. Laughter usually is in abundance.
"It seems like at times we just feel really comfortable on the road," Deron Williams said. "I honestly don't have a reason for it. But I'm happy with it. I think in all my years being on 50-win teams in Utah, we never had a winning road record. So that says a lot about us."
Better yet, it'll have a big say in the Nets' seeding when the playoffs roll around in a few weeks. They have their eye on catching the Pacers and Knicks. After beating the Hawks Monday night, Indiana leads the Knicks by a half-game and the Nets by 21/2 games.
"We are going to have to win on the road if we want to have success because most of our games the rest of the season are on the road," Williams said. "We only have [five] home games, so we have to win on the road if we want to keep climbing the standings. If we want to catch Indiana, New York, we have to pull some of these games out."