Joe Johnson can't explain it. Call it the Nets' mystery.
"I'm not sure, honestly," he said before the Nets played the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena Friday night. "It just so happened that the past two years, we've turned it around here in Oklahoma."
Mired in a disastrous start in each of the previous two seasons, the Nets journeyed to the nation's heartland and got a much-needed win in one of the NBA's most hostile home-court settings to turn things around. Both wins triggered a resurgence, sparking 9-1 records in their next 10 games.
They did it again Friday night. Reserve Jarrett Jack scored 23 points, Deron Williams added 17 and Brook Lopez had 16 points and 10 rebounds as the Nets beat the Thunder, 94-92.
No wonder the Nets, who entered on a five-game losing streak, had a sense of deja vu against a team that was without injured stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
"I was just saying the previous two years that we've had the tendency to turn around, it's been right around New Year's," Johnson said before the game. "It's a little early, and if it's going to happen, now would be great."
If the Nets are going to reverse course the way they did after their two previous visits, it seems likely that it will happen without Andrei Kirilenko.
Kirilenko, a healthy scratch in the previous two games, didn't make the two-game trip that ends Saturday night in San Antonio because of personal reasons, according to the team. But it appears as though Kirilenko has played his final game in a Nets uniform.
When asked if Kirilenko will be back with the team after the trip, coach Lionel Hollins said, "I don't know." Pressed again later, Hollins said: "I have no idea."
Ineffective in the seven games he's played, Kirilenko averaged 0.4 points, 1.1 rebounds and 5.1 minutes, not exactly eye-popping numbers for someone who believed he'd flourish in a better-defined role this season than what he felt he had under Jason Kidd last season.
Heading into training camp, Kirilenko was excited about Hollins' offense because it has similar principles to the system in which he played under Jerry Sloan with Utah.
But he hasn't played well and fell out of the top half of the bench rotation. Now he seemingly has dropped off the map altogether, and the Nets reportedly have had discussions with the 76ers about shipping Kirilenko and fellow Russian Sergey Karasev to Philadelphia.
Karasev's father used to play with Kirilenko, so they have a good relationship. Karasev said, "Really, I don't know what's happening with Andrei. Nobody knows."
Kirilenko's versatility, particularly defensively, was supposed to be an asset. Instead, he's on the outside looking in and might not get another chance.
"That's just life," Hollins said. "I go with what's out there and who is getting the job done, and there's times that certain other guys that have fallen back, they've earned their trust back. But it's basketball."