Less than a week ago, I was wondering if the Nets would make the playoffs. In the midst of the clutter that was the end of the East playoff race, the Brooklyn road seemed to be full of sand traps, while its competitors had relatively easy schedules on the way to the finish line. Of course, the Nets were not discounted in the final stretch; they were discounted when they had a start of 9-18; They were discounted before the season began. Just four years ago, Brooklyn was the laughingstock of the league, a franchise apparently ruined by a crooked trade that sent the Celtics to choose the Celtics in exchange for a pair of superstars. If they could pbad that, What was winning some more of his last six games?
The Nets lost to the Bucks on April 1, then the Raptors two days later. But the Nets won their next showdown with the Bucks for five and scored a 108-96 victory over the Pacers on Sunday. Those wins, along with some losses from other teams at the conference, put the Nets at the top. It's official: Brooklyn goes to the playoffs.
The return trip of the Nets to relevance should not have happened so quickly. That infamous trade left the franchise with a puzzle almost impossible to solve. But when Sean Marks was hired as general manager in February 2016, he began to change the culture of the franchise, making smart moves (such as using restricted free agency for his benefit) and collecting badets. Only two years ago, the Nets won 20 worst games in the league, and the franchise has not had a lottery selection since 2010; They are now in the playoffs and are ready to go to the offseason with maximum space and an attractive situation for potential free agents. Things seem to be looking up.
The Marks construction project has worked imperfectly, brick-by-brick building from a collection of retreaded talents (DeMarre Carroll, Spencer Dinwiddie) and second-chance (D & # 39; Angelo Russell) boys from draft picks in diamond form (Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen), to experienced veterans (Jared Dudley, Ed Davis). Brands and coach Kenny Atkinson have created one of the funniest basketball teams.
The pace of Brooklyn is the 11th fastest in the league this season, but it often felt like they were playing even faster, running from one end to the other with a style that was reckless (they hand the ball to the sixth highest rate of the league) but also stimulating and sometimes very effective. For a team that felt like it was playing with house money throughout the year, free of expectations or loaded story lines, this strategy made sense. How do you compete with more talented teams? Making them uncomfortable with speed and a lot of 3s. Only the Bucks, Hawks, Mavericks and Rockets made more triples this season than Brooklyn.
The deciding factor on Sunday was the perfect setting for the Nets to highlight the style that helped them win 41 games. Against the Pacers, who play at a glacial pace and thrive when they probe and pbad slowly, milk the clock until they find the best shot possible, it was a great contrast. Appropriately, it was D & # 39; Angelo Russell who led the way with 20 points, six rebounds and six badists. The system deserves credit, but even the most egalitarian system needs an access option, a compbad when things get difficult; Very often this season, that was Russell.
Russell is almost too perfect for the restart of the Nets. Just two years ago, Magic Johnson questioned Russell's leadership skills and changed him from Los Angeles; Now the guard is the leader of a playoff team. And the bet that the Nets made to him is indicative of the types of opportunities they must take to rebuild successfully. It was a calculated risk with a clear thought process and a bet on its own development program, which has brought out the best.
Russell's jump put him in the playoffs before his old team (which is now in a six year drought) and has made the Nets worthy of attention again. What they do from here on is the icing on the cake.