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Bad as they are, Nets still have hope in weak division

Nets' Joe Johnson tries to drive past Milwaukee

Nets' Joe Johnson tries to drive past Milwaukee Bucks' Khris Middleton during the first half. (Dec. 7, 2013) Credit: AP

MILWAUKEE -- Kevin Garnett was saying that the Nets are keeping a positive attitude despite their disappointing beginning. But he couldn't deny it's a challenge even for someone who's been in the league as long as he has.

"Easier said than done, you know?" said Garnett, now in his 19th season, before the Nets beat the Bucks, 90-82, at the Bradley Center Saturday night.

Especially when they had lost nine of 11 coming in, six by double-digits, and had dropped their last two home games by at least 20 points for the first time in franchise history. The Nets had been in danger of falling into a tie for last place in the Eastern Conference with the Bucks, surely not where they thought they'd be when they put together this $102-million roster.

(Then again, after beating the Bucks, they're only 21/2 games behind the first-place Celtics in the Atlantic Division.)

Still, the Nets have insisted they're making subtle improvements under coach Jason Kidd, even if the results aren't obvious to most observers.

"Absolutely," Garnett said. "Absolutely we're getting better. I get what it looks like, and I get the end result is a win, and that's what you're trying to get. When you look at final scores and all that, I get all that. What you don't understand is during the course of a game, we're having positive moments. We're having points where we're all making strides. We have lapses, and major lapses . . . You can't take anything away from the teams that have beat us.

"Add in all the moving parts of all this, and we're still having lapses, but we're playing well and we're making strides and we're trying to focus on that. But at the same time, we're paying attention to the things that don't make us so great, including the lapses where we don't score the ball, and Jason is trying to adjust to all of this."

Garnett acknowledged that the Nets' current transition -- with Kidd reassigning Lawrence Frank and essentially switching things up schematically a quarter of the way through the season -- isn't ideal. The Nets already were a work in progress, so shuffling the playbook could set them back even further in their development.

"Losing Lawrence and his philosophies, putting in new philosophies, it's very difficult during the year," Garnett said, "especially when you're moving and the schedule doesn't permit you to stop and have a lot of practice time to work through it. But this is a no-excuse league. We have to adjust to it. We're professionals and we can and we will."

He added: "I have a lot of confidence that we're going to get this."

Same goes for Kidd. It's on him to pull the Nets out of their funk and show he was the right man for the job despite having no previous coaching experience.

"This is a veteran club, so we all understand that we haven't played our best basketball," Kidd said. "But we're getting better and we're getting healthier, too. With that being said, hopefully we can start putting a streak together where we get some wins under our belt on the road and at home.

"When you look at our division, we're, I think, [21/2] games out . There are some positive things to look at."

Notes & quotes: Although neither played, Deron Williams (ankle) and Paul Pierce (hand) made the trip. When asked if Williams will return Tuesday against the Celtics, Kidd said that "from what I understand, he's still on track to do that." Pierce worked out before the game, hoisting jumpers while sporting only some black tape on his right hand. He's nearly a week into his estimated recovery timetable of two to four weeks.

New York Sports