Nets Ready Deep Run

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This year may very well be a special one for the New Jersey Nets. Not because they clinched their fourth Atlantic Division title in five years with a 96-94 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, but because this team has the ability to make a loud noise during the upcoming playoffs.    

The Nets are clicking on all cylinders and peeking at the right time. For the last month, or so, they have been the hottest team in the NBA. This month they matched a team milestone of 14 straight wins, before seeing it end on a brilliant fourth-quarter performance by Cleveland’s LeBron James last Friday.    

In the Eastern Conference, the Nets are a solid three-seed behind the Detroit Pistons and the Miami Heat. Catching the second-seed Heat maybe out of reach, but that doesn’t matter much giving the Nets’ strong play at present. In fact, I think teams in the East should be very wary of meeting the Nets in the playoffs.

The chemistry of the team seems to be growing game by game and they have a rock-solid core behind Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. Jason Kidd is the league leader in triple-doubles recorded a historic 74 triple-double on April 6th adding another one against Milwaukee three nights later.  Night in and out, the 14-year veteran pushes and directs the team with his leadership skills. In the NBA, he is fifth and seventh in assists and steals per game respectively dishing out 8.5 assists a game and adding 1.8 steals. And in the all important department of assists-to-turnover ration he is ranked fourth. The Nets’ floor general is on the NBA’s top ten in at least eight statistical categories.

Vince Carter at shooting guard is playing as good as he has at any point in his career. He is currently ranked 12th in scoring, shooting .433 percent from the field and is tenth in point-per- 48 minutes at 31.1 a game along with six rebounds. Carter’s transition to the Nets has been a smooth one since coming from the vitriolic situation he faced in Toronto.

Kidd and Carter are superstars and Richard Jefferson is right on the heels of becoming one. Jefferson has shown steady improvement and is himself a highlight reel. He is ranked 24th in scoring (19.9) shooting .498 from the field with seven boards a game.

Forward Nenad Kystic’s play is also an important factor in the Nets recent successes. Kystic is averaging 13.3 points with 6.3 rebounds. In a March 17th game against the Lakers for instance he was outstanding scoring 26 points, including the game winner. The Nets will need him to maintain a high level of play as they push into the playoffs.

So, just how will the Nets do in the playoffs? Well, it’s not hard seeing them in the Eastern Conference Finals again. In fact, I think that the Nets can beat number two-seed Miami. Yes, you heard me right. The reason I say this, isn’t just based on the Nets winning this year’s head-to-head series against the Heat. First of all, the Nets match up well against them. The Heat have only one clear cut advantage against the Nets, and that is at the center position with Shaq. But Shaq has lost a step or two and the need for doubling him incessantly is not what it once was. Yes, you still have to reserve extra fouls when you play him, but the Nets can overcome that.

Now what about Dwayne Wade? Well, Wade is no doubt a young superstar. He is a determined and relentless player. But I think that he can be neutralized by Carter and Jefferson. I would expect that both of them would take turns guarding him. Also, there is the injury factor. For example, there is the injury to Alonzo Mourning. Mourning who had been getting more minutes due to an earlier injury to Shaq was playing superbly before he went down with a calf injury. If Mourning isn’t able to play, or if, he can’t play at the level he was before the injury, it will seriously hurt Miami since he is the primary backup for Shaq. And to make matters worse, Shaq is also nursing an injury and it is unclear just how much he will be affected by it.

Moreover, unlike the Nets, Miami’s chemistry doesn’t seem to be very strong. I think that some of Miami’s changes have hurt them, such as, the trading of 3-point specialist Damon Jones to Cleveland. Consequently, their game from behind the arc is much weaker than it was a year ago.

The one thing for the Nets that is imperative is that their “bigs� must play big. Besides Kystic, center Jason Collins must play solid defense and stay out of foul trouble. If they can do that, Nets fans are in for a real treat this year.

“Speaking Truth To Empower.� To contact The Black Star News write
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