We know the Nets. We love the Nets. We're hoping to love the Nets a lot more come draft day.
But that love, if that's even the right word, has been waning of late, mainly because the Nets have actually been winning games, erasing the light scribbles of Joel Embiid or any other high lottery pick all the way to Gary Harris that we've been gleefully jotting down on top of the Hawks' already solid foundational portrait.
So, to find out more about the team we love to watch lose most, Dennis Velasco of Nets Daily has answered some questions on the eve of the Hawks-Nets matchup in London.
And yes, we talk about Iso-Joe.
Question (Daniel Christian): The Hawks are praying that the Nets miss the playoffs so they can capitalize on a deep lottery in the upcoming draft. Obviously, without a first round pick, there's no reason for Brooklyn to tank. Do you think the Nets make the playoffs? How close will it be and what will they have to do to pull it off?
Answer (Dennis Velasco): I think the Nets will make the playoffs, not because they're particularly good or anything, but because I think the Eastern Conference is and has proven to be thus far, pretty bad in general terms. Yeah, you have the powerhouse Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, but then there's a significant drop-off. Currently the Nets are on the fringe of making the postseason, but have recently been finding out what works - small ball and truly executing and understanding how to play team defense. It's the latter element that is truly driving this run by the Nets, as well as, dare I say, some good coaching by Jason Kidd. As long as those things continue, as well as Andrei Kirilenko staying healthy, the Nets should be in good shape. Mind you, they've been doing this without Deron Wiliams. I think once he comes back, he'll be hungry to prove his worth to the team.
Q: Two years ago the Hawks shipped off their 120-million-dollar-man, Joe Johnson, to the Nets. Johnson has been forced to carry the Nets this season with Williams dealing with nagging injuries and Lopez being out for the year. How would you evaluate Johnson's play so far this season?
A: There have been some valleys, but there's been more recognizable peaks. Simply put, he's been clutch, whether you believe in that concept or not. When he's been good, he's been tremendous. I think there's always some sort of adjustment period for JJ whenever a main player is out, such as Bropez or D-Will, or when new teammates come along, such as Paul Pierce. However, after he adjusts to where his spot is on the totem pole on the court, he really gets it going and performs well... it's just that there have been so many moments where adjustment has been needed. I think once D-Will gets back and things are settled, Johnson will be consistently good... I hope anyway.
Q: Deron Williams won't be in London, but it's arguable that Shaun Livingston could be equally disruptive against Jeff Teague's defense. His size and style play makes me wonder how well JT will hold up. There's been no better comeback story in a long time, so give your evaluation of Livingston's season and how he matches up against the Hawks.
A: When he has a specified role that he knows how much he'll play, such as starting point guard because D-Will is out, he's excellent. In fact, to a small degree and for a short time, he's been a game-changer. When playing time is up in the air and the rotation isn't as set, Livingston has stunk. One issue that many people had with the Nets during the early part of the season and up until recently, what was the direction? Who was the leader on the bench among coaches? Would Kidd ever step up and have the team believe in him and execute? I think that chaos affected Livingston to some degree, but now that he knows he's getting PT, he can relax and just perform. When D-Will gets back, S Dot will be be next to him as the Nets continue to play small ball, which has been successful. I expect S Dot to be successful too.
Q: Who do you think wins in London and why?
A: I think I'll have to go with momentum here, not really about Ws and Ls, but more of the momentum of believing. Yes, it sounds corny, but it's easy to see that the Nets are believing in the system that Kidd has put forth. Things are simpler. They're believing in each other, especially defensively with more certain rotations and game plans, such as their plan to bother LeBron James, which worked. Plus, the old guys have had several days of rest. I expect the Nets to come out spry and raring to go.
Bonus Question! What's your favorite British or British-themed movie?
A: Monty Python and the Holy Grail! "What is your favorite color?" "What is the capital of Assyria?" "What is the velocity of a swallow?" Haha! But, if I could choose any British piece of work, it wouldn't be Shakespeare, it'd be Benny Hill.