Ed Davis is nothing if not honest. When Portland let him leave as a free agent last summer and he signed with a Nets team that had gone 48-116 over the previous two seasons, the veteran center wasn’t anticipating a playoff run coming out of the All-Star break.
“When I signed here in July, I didn’t think this was a playoff team, honestly,” Davis said after Nets practice Wednesday. “But when I got here and started to see players and see how good guys were and see coach’s philosophy and his scheme of things, my mindset changed.”
Recently, Davis jokingly called the Nets’ first game after the break against his former Trail Blazers Thursday night at Barclays Center a “must-win,” but on a more serious note Davis said each of the remaining 23 games are significant for the 30-29 Nets, who are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
“But before the break, we knew what we had on the table when we got back,” Davis said. “So, I think a lot of us were focused on unfinished business, closing out the regular season strong and making this push for the playoffs.
“For sure, there’s urgency. We had a bigger gap on the ninth and 10th seeds, and they closed that distance a little bit. Luckily, we’re in a position where we control our own destiny. We can just focus on ourselves. That’s a good situation to be in.”
The Nets slipped in a 2-5 stretch before the break, but they are 1-1 against seventh-place Charlotte as well as against Detroit and Miami, which are tied for eighth, and have two remaining games with the Hornets and Heat and one with the Pistons, which gives them a chance to control all tiebreakers. They have finished the season series with 10th place Orlando and have a 2-1 edge.
Veteran power forward Jared Dudley, who has recovered from a hamstring injury and is available against the Blazers after missing 16 games, noted the importance of starting fast with seven of the next 10 games at home before the Nets tackle a seven-game road trip spanning 17 days.
“This is when teams start picking it up,” Dudley said. “For us, it’s multiple games where we’re playing teams that are fighting for stuff. We start off with Portland, and then Charlotte [on the road Saturday]. That Charlotte game is worth two games when you play someone that’s behind you, like Detroit, Miami.
“When you play those teams that you’re fighting for the playoffs, you’ll see the added pressure, the added tension in the games. That’s good for the development of these guys…As good as the season is, it can end on a high note or on a low note. It’s good to have that fear factor, good to have that pressure to see where guys come out at.”
Notes and quotes: Treveon Graham is back after missing the previous game for personal reasons…Coach Kenny Atkinson said Caris LeVert is “trending toward his normal minutes” in his fourth game back from a dislocated ankle.