In January, the Nets were one of the NBA’s hottest teams, climbing to their high-water mark at four games above .500. But they have been in a 4-9 tailspin for more than a month to fall a game below .500 and put themselves in jeopardy of dropping out of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
With just 17 games left to right the ship, coach Kenny Atkinson said all options are on the table, including lineup changes, after watching his team lose its third straight game to a team behind it in the standings in Miami. The now seventh-place Nets trailed by 31 points in the fourth quarter Saturday. The odd thing is that the Nets are completely healthy, but the return of injured players seems to have upset their chemistry.
“This is a struggle period,” Atkinson said. “We obviously have guys coming back. It’s up to me to do a better job of finding how everybody fits in their role. Right now, we’re a little out of sorts with their role and minutes situation. We haven’t found that comfort area where everybody feels comfortable in their role.”
Atkinson gave his team a day off Sunday before facing the Mavericks Monday night at Barclays Center. That begins a stretch of three games against teams that have losing records, including the Cavaliers Wednesday at home and the Hawks Saturday in Atlanta. That’s followed by a March 11 game at home against the Pistons (31-31), who took over sixth place Sunday. Then, the Nets embark on a killer seven-game road trip.
Asked if he might consider lineup changes, especially at power forward, where either DeMarre Carroll or Rodions Kurucs might be a candidate to replace Treveon Graham, Atkinson didn’t rule it out. “I think we have to look at it,” Atkinson said. “My job as a head coach is to help these guys out of this struggle. If that means a lineup change, we’ll do it. If it means sticking with the same guys, we’ll do it. It’s something we have to talk about and put everything under consideration.”
Over their past three losses, the Nets have broken down terribly on defense, but part of it stems from poor shooting performances on offense that have fueled their opponents’ transition offense. The frustration of poor shooting might be affecting the Nets’ defensive energy.
“We’re used to scoring the ball, used to things clicking for us on the offensive end,” said Allen Crabbe, who scored three points on 1-for-9 shooting at Miami. “It’s probably affected the defense in some negative ways.
“We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and find our identity. We know what it takes. We’ve got the pieces. It’s just putting it together .