The Brooklyn Nets have been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA, with a winning record 2 games shy of the All-Star break. But this summer is critical.
In spite of a spate of injuries that have sidelined key performers for months at a time, the Brooklyn Nets are still defying offseason predictions.
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Even after Friday night’s 125-106 drubbing at Barclays Center at the hands of the lowly Chicago Bulls, the Nets remain in sixth place in the Eastern Conference at 29-28 with two games remaining before the All-Star break.
Brooklyn is 1½ games up on the Charlotte Hornets, currently seventh at 26-28, and two games clear of the eighth-place Miami Heat (25-28). Lurking just outside of a playoff position are the Detroit Pistons, 2½ games in back of the Nets at 25-29.
There are promising signs on the injury front. Allen Crabbe returned Wednesday after missing 26 games and scored 19 points in the loss to the Bulls in just his second game back, hitting 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
LeVert finished with 11 points and matched a career-high with five steals in just 15 minutes. He scored nine points in the fourth quarter, showing his creativity and explosiveness off the dribble didn’t go anywhere.
The Nets had just two players listed on the injury report Friday — their lowest total of the season — and have the potential to have a completely healthy roster by the end of February.
The Nets will return from the All-Star break on Feb. 21 with a brutal schedule over their final 23 games.
Sixteen of those final 23 games will be against teams currently holding playoff positions.
Included in that is a gauntlet of eight straight games to finish out the campaign that will include a home-and-home with the Milwaukee Bucks, road games against the Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers and meetings at Barclays Center with the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat.
Of those remaining 23 games after the break, 12 are on the road — including a seven-game trip in March through Oklahoma City, Utah, the LA Clippers, Sacramento, the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland and Philadelphia.
If the Nets hold onto a playoff spot after that, they will have earned it.
But this summer will be the most crucial of the rebuilding process engineered by general manager Sean Marks, who talked to the media Friday in the wake of the passing of the NBA trade deadline on Thursday.
There are several star-caliber players either entering or potential entering the free agent market this summer and Marks is balancing short-term needs and wants with the long-term plan as he and coach Kenny Atkinson attempt to reach the postseason for the first time on their watch.
There’s a lot of moving parts to juggle right now and here is a breakdown of what those are.