EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - There's plenty of off-the-court uncertainty surrounding the Nets these days -- the injuries, the possible sale of the team and the swirling trade rumors. So it's not surprising that the on-the-court forecast going into the second half seems equally unclear.
"I thought we would be much better," coach Lionel Hollins said at practice Monday. "I don't know [if we can get better]. I hope we can. That's what we're striving for."
The Nets reached the halfway point with a 17-24 record and eight losses in their last nine games. Their split against Washington was marked by inconsistency -- well played at points, but a fourth-quarter cold snap and poor rebounding Saturday cost them a second win. Now, they face a three-game West Coast trip and if Kevin Garnett is to be believed, there's just no telling how things are going to go after that.
"I would like to say yes," Garnett said when asked whether the Nets can re-create last season's second-half surge, "but every year is different, and we've got a new group here . . .
"We're trying to get better at executing. We're a younger team. There's not much experience on this team, but the fight that we bring out every night gives ourselves a chance to win. You never know. I want to say, 'Yeah, we can turn it around' and I hope so, but it's about the work you put into this, and that's what we're trying to do here, practice and get better."
For one thing, if the Nets are going to have any chance at improvement, they'll have to step up their rebounding. They were outrebounded 49-40 in Saturday's 99-90 loss to the Wizards and outscored 21-11 on second-chance points. They're 20th in rebounds per game (42.1), and 18th in total rebounds. They're averaging 9.6 offensive boards and allowing 11.4.
Above all, Garnett said, more people need to get involved.
"Rebounding is one of the toughest parts of the game," said Garnett, who leads the team with 7.3 rebounds per game. "When you don't rebound well as a team, you have to rebound as a team. I think instead of one or two guys going, it has to be a collective effort. Believe me, we're trying to nitpick and fix a lot of things in this offense and this defense, and we need to highlight rebounding, and it's just one of the things that I'm sure every team has to deal with, and we're not different for that."
Hollins echoed the sentiment: "You have to step up to help . . . There's a whole bunch of stuff. You can get better at rebounds. We can't get more athletic, but we can get better."