Nets proud of their playoff berth
LOS ANGELES -- Hold the bubbly.
At least that's the way Deron Williams sees it.
Although the Nets have clinched their first playoff berth since the 2006-07 campaign, he wasn't ready to crack open a bottle of the expensive stuff and toast everyone. In the eyes of the point guard, whose last postseason taste came in 2010, the Nets are right where they thought they'd be.
"We expected that. It's not time to celebrate,'' Williams said after Friday's practice at UCLA as the Nets (40-28) got set to hook up with the Clippers (47-22) Saturday night. "It's great for the organization, it's great for the fans. But as far as we are concerned, we expected to be there and we are just trying to get as high a seed as possible now.''
He added: "It's good for us, first season in Brooklyn, to be in the playoffs. That was definitely the goal to make the playoffs this year. We've accomplished that goal, but like I said, we've still got a ways to go.''
By virtue of the 76ers' loss to the Nuggets Thursday night, the Nets became one of six teams to earn a playoff nod entering Friday's action.
Joe Johnson was brought here to help reshape the franchise's image and serve as Williams' sidekick in an All-Star backcourt. So although he's already been to the playoffs seven times, he understands the gravity that comes along with the Nets' presence among this year's collection of postseason teams.
"Of course it means something,'' Johnson told Newsday. "It's not a given that you make the playoffs every year, despite what kind of team is being put together. Nothing is a given and set in stone that you are going to make the playoffs that year. You have things that happen and injuries and what not, but we've been blessed to be injury-free for the most part.
"I mean, we've still got a lot of work ahead of us. But to know that we've clinched a spot, that's pretty big.''
P.J Carlesimo wasn't about to downplay the playoff berth, noting the stark contrast in emotions he's always encountered once his team's fate has been sealed after its regular-season finale. Knowing you're not going to be among the 16 teams left vying for the Larry O'Brien Trophy can be crushing.
The Nets, with all their seasons of mediocrity, have experienced that sensation all too often. So although Carlesimo is quite aware that the Nets getting themselves in isn't necessarily a cause for a chorus of congratulations, he couldn't be more thrilled. Especially for the likes of Brook Lopez, who's never played in the postseason and was in his early college days the last time the Nets slapped the playoff logo on their court.
"It's a treat to be in the playoffs,'' Carlesimo said. "I hate to say it. You are not belittling the regular season, but it's night and day. It's the same way in college. When you get to the conference tournament or the NCAA, it's night and day from the regular season. The playoffs are night and day from the regular season, and until you experience it, you probably don't appreciate it. So of all our guys, hopefully, he's the one who appreciates it the most.''
Carlesimo sure is. He's about to enjoy the ride.
"There's six teams in right now,'' he said. "There's going to be 16, but there's six right now. The fact that we are one of the first six to get in, to me, is an accomplishment for our players. We shouldn't be the ones patting ourselves on the back, nor should we say, 'Aw, we knew we were going to get it. It's no big deal.' It is a big deal. I told the players they should be proud and they shouldn't act like it's not a big deal. It is a big deal and I'm really happy for them. I think it's great.''
Carlesimo paused and deadpanned: "No team has ever won the NBA championship without getting into the playoffs, so that's very significant.''
Particularly when you factor in just how brutal things were as the Nets awaited their transition across the Hudson River. Remember, they were 58-172 in their previous three seasons.
"The last couple of years were rough,'' Williams said. "Rough for the franchise, rough for everybody with the move looming and everything like that. So like I said, it's great for the organization, great for the morale of the team and the franchise, and we are definitely happy about being in the playoffs.''
Perhaps coming right on cue, just days after that postseason nod was sealed, the Nets might need a little playoff fever Saturday night against the Clippers, who are 27-8 at home.
"It's going to be a big test,'' Johnson said. "I thought Dallas was a test for us and we came out and responded to the challenge. But [Saturday] night, it's going to be a bit different, I think a bigger test, a bigger challenge for us as a team. They are fighting to try to stay ahead if the pack and we are trying to get ahead of the pack as well.
"So it's going to be a playoff atmosphere, I'm sure, a playoff-type feel, and I think it will be a pretty good game.''