Less than a week ago, I wondered if Nets would get the play. In the midst of the confused mess that was at the bottom of the Eastern racing race, the way to Brooklyn seemed to be full of sand traps, while its competitors had relatively simple schedules on the way to the finish line. Of course, the Netsi were not just rejected in the last part; were discarded when they started at 9-18; were dismissed before the start of the season. Just four years ago, Brooklyn was a laughing league, a franchise that was apparently destroyed because of the unhappy trade that sent Celtics to the first rounds of bajillion in exchange for several old super stars. If I can pass that, what was the conquest of a few more last six matches?
Nets lost from Buck on April 1, and then two days later to Raptors. But Netsi won his next Bucks match for the fifth and won the 108-96 win over Pacers on Sunday. These victories, along with some of the other teams' losses at the conference, put Nets on top. Official: Brooklyn goes to play.
The journey of the network into relevance should not be so fast. This notorious trade has left the franchise with almost impossible to solve puzzles. But when Sean Marks was employed as a general manager in February 2016, he began changing the franchise culture, making smart moves (such as using a limited free agency for his own benefit) and raising funds. Just two years ago, Netsi won 20 worst matches, and the franchise has not had a lottery since 2010; they are now in the playoffs and are set to enter the outskirts of the season with a cap and a tempting situation for potential free agents. Looks like things look up.
Marks' construction project worked on imperfect perfection, he built a brick by brick from the collection of Renewed Talents (DeMarre Carroll, Spencer Dinwiddie) and second-class boys (Russell, from diamonds in rough designs LeVert, Jarrett Allen) veteran (Jared Dudley, Ed Davis). Marks and Coach Kenny Atkinson have built up one of the most entertaining basketball teams.
Brooklyn's pace is the 11th fastest in the league this season, but it often felt as though they were playing even faster, shaking from end to end with a style that was unhappy (it spins the ball at the top six in the league), but also exciting and sometimes very efficient. For a team who felt like playing with home money all year long, without expectation or bursting stories, this strategy made sense. How to compete with talented teams? Doing them with uncomfortable speed and lots of 3s. Only Bucks, Hawks, Mavericks, and Rockets took more than 3s this season to Brooklyn.
Sunday was the perfect setting for Nets to highlight a style that helped them win 41 games. Against Pacers, who play with glacial rhythm and progress when they slowly probe and pass, shaking the clock until they find the best possible shot, that was a powerful contrast. Angelo Russell has led the way with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. The system deserves recognition, but even the simplest system should go for an option, a compass when things become rocky; So often this season, that was Russell.
Russell is almost perfectly perfect for a boy who returns to the poster to restart the net. Just two years ago, Magic Johnson tested Russell's leadership skills and replaced him with Los Angeles; now the guard is the leader of the playground. And the bet that Netsi made on it points to the kind of chances that they needed to be successful. This was a calculated risk with a clear thinking and betting process on its own development program, which pulled out the best of it.
Russell's rebound brought him to play before his former team (now six-year-old drought) and again made Nets worthwhile. What they are doing here is the whipped cream on the top of the cake.