The Nets always go West in November, but there are some major differences about this week’s trip than some of the past ones.
First, they’re not going during Thanksgiving Week for the first time in seemingly forever, which is because they’re no longer in Izod Center.
The second is they’re leaving on a high, despite Saturday’s last-second one-point loss to the Magic. The Nets feel like they’re improving.
“Tough loss last night but I really feel like we are getting better,” shooting guard Anthony Morrow tweeted before the Nets flew to Los Angeles for tomorrow’s game with the Clippers.
The Nets would have felt much better had the left on a two-game winning streak, but their attitude was similar to two Novembers ago, when they left for Los Angeles after back-to-back wins. They went 3-1 as Devin Harris blew up and led the Nets to three straight wins to end the trip.
The Nets hope they can enjoy similar success on this four-game trek, especially since Harris is playing like he did two seasons ago. But recent history hasn’t been good for them.
Three years ago, the Nets went out after back-to-back blowout losses to the Heat and Magic and Jason Kidd kicked off the shootaround in Utah with the first indication that he wanted to take his ball and go somewhere else. You remember the infamous “let go of the rope” remark.
The Nets went 3-1 on the trip, but Kidd’s head already was in another place. His body joined it three months later.
Then last year, the Nets left with an 0-13 record and probably needed a two- or three-win trip to save Lawrence Frank’s job. They lost by 14, 10, 16 and then Frank was fired.
There have been other forgetabble moments, but the Nets don't have to worry about some of their past problems this time, which is why this could be a trip where the Nets surprise some people.
First of all, the Nets aren’t playing the best of the West. They open tomorrow against the 1-9 Clippers, then play at Utah, where it’s always tough to win, then at Sacramento, which is a team the Nets have beaten already, and then close it out at Denver, an up-and-down team that has a disgruntled All-Star forward most NBA insiders expect to be traded by the Feb. 24 deadline.
You might have heard his name before: Carmelo Anthony.
If the Nuggets play more down than up, they could be forced to move Anthony sooner rather than later. There are some within the Nets who wouldn’t mind expediting things since they’re a leading candidate to land Anthony.
If the Nets play well this week, especially in the game against Anthony, it could help their chances of getting him. Remember, he has to agree to sign a contract extension with the Nets before they agree to acquire him.
But the Nets are not looking over their shoulders, worried about Anthony or any of their players being unhappy or the security of their coach.
Avery Johnson has everyone’s attention and they’re playing hard for him and for each other. He’s putting them in situations to succeed. If they get more consistent play from the starting shooting guard and both forward positions, execute better and limit their defensive lapses Johnson thinks they can be better than expected.
“What I’m trying to convince our guys is that our defensive system that we’ve implemented, it works – when we do it right and we execute it,” he said. “We’re playing against NBA guys, so they’re going to score. But part of what I’m doing here is trying to change a mentality and change a losing spirit.
“They got a little snippet of what we can really do against a good [Orlando] team when we execute defensively. Offensively we know we still have a ways to go, but we shot 49 percent from the field and we had three guys that scored 20 points and we battled. I’ve just got to try to convince them we can be a good basketball team if we do it longer and stronger.”
This is a good week for the Nets to start.
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)