Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson made some eyebrows raise when they said they thought this was a playoff team.
It’s OK to admit some skepticism when remembering back to last summer, when Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson said the goal for the 2018-19 edition of the club was a playoff berth.
The Nets had won 48 games in the first two full seasons Marks and Atkinson were in place as they attempted to pull the franchise out of the hole it had been placed into by former general manager Billy King and an impatient ownership that opted to trade future draft picks for fading stars.
The hole was not a small one. Rather, it was somewhere along the order of magnitude of the size of the crater left by the asteroid that hit the Earth millions of years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs.
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Dinosaurs might be the appropriate parallel for the plight of the Nets, considering they gave up first-round picks from 2014-18, either outright or via pick swap, for the likes of Joe Johnson, entering his age 31 season, in 2012, and for Kevin Garnett (age 37 season), Jason Terry (age 36 season) and Paul Pierce (age 36 season) the following summer.
The assumption was that the Nets — finally out from under the disastrous 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics — would try to “optimize” their 2019 first-round pick by losing as often as possible this season.
But Marks said the Nets were in a position to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and Atkinson welcomed that challenge.
Crazy talk, right?
But through a raft of injuries that has left the club with a completely healthy roster for exactly zero games this season, through an 8-18 start that included eight consecutive losses in late November and early December and eight consecutive losses at Barclays Center, the Nets find themselves in late January exactly where the brain trust of the organization thought they would be.
Tuesday night’s win over the Chicago Bulls was the 28th victory of the season for Brooklyn, matching its total from last season. It was the seventh win in the last eight games for the Nets, their ninth consecutive win at home, their 11th win in January and left the club 20-6 since the end of the eight-game skid that ended Dec. 7.
Regardless of the outcome Thursday when Brooklyn visits the San Antonio Spurs, the Nets will be in rare company. According to Stats by STATS, Brooklyn will have the second-best record entering February of any team in NBA history that was at least 10 games below .500 in the same season.
The Seattle SuperSonics opened 5-17 in 1977-78, but were 27-22 at the end of January en route to the first of two consecutive appearances in the NBA Finals. Seattle lost to the Washington Bullets in seven games in the 1978 NBA Finals before winning the franchise’s lone title in 1979.
So not bad company, no.
How did this patchwork quilt of a roster get put together?