This was one of the Nets' worst games of the season -- think about that statement for a moment. They were out of it against the Wizards right away and were trounced, 97-77.
This is the same Wizards team that the Nets held a 23-point lead against last month, which represented their biggest cushion of the season. The Wizards that enjoyed a laugher this time, though. They built a 20-point lead in the first quarter and led by as many as 25 in the fourth.
You could say this was a complete game for Washington. After all, they completely destroyed the Nets and made them look terrible.
Johnson probably had some choice words for the Nets privately at halftime and after the game. But in front of cameras, tape recorders and notebooks, he refrained from lighting into his team.
Some of the strongest things said were, “We couldn’t get in sync at any facet of the game. Not one of our better efforts this year.”
And, “but this wasn’t one of our best games. The guys really should feel bad about this one.”
This was the game where the media expected the direct, no-nonsense Johnson to say something less vanilla during his postgame remarks. He picks his spots to say something, and usually, it’s after a really poor performance against a bad team.
The Sacramento loss on the road comes to mind, as Johnson said the Nets needed, “better leadership from within,” or after a loss at Charlotte when Brook Lopez, and his lack of rebounding, was the coach’s object of ire.
The bigger issue here, though, is the Nets are struggling to win games that could be deemed winnable.
Think back to New Year’s Day when they were throttled in the second half against the Timberwolves and lost by 15. To close out 2010, the Nets dropped a close game to the Bulls.
The loss at home against the Sixers was another really bad effort against a bad team. Friday's night loss topped it, though, and it came after a win against the Bulls.
Maybe the Nets can’t handle prosperity. But this is why they need to shake up their roster. They’re not scoring enough, not getting strong fourth-quarter play and not playing with consistent effort.
The Nets want to do something to improve the team, but all of their efforts and players are tied up in Carmelo Anthony trade discussions. They can’t move Troy Murphy because his salary is critical in the Anthony deal, whether it’s a straight trade with Denver or a three-team swap.
As we reported in The Record, the Nets have tried to recruit the Pistons as a third team to take Murphy’s contract in what would be a terrific deal for New Jersey.
There are many pieces to it, but the main players the Nets would receive are Anthony and Chauncey Billups from Denver and Richard Hamilton from Detroit. The Nets would send Devin Harris and Derrick Favors and at least two No. 1s to the Nuggets. These talks are said to be ongoing.
The Nets will continue to look for ways to get Anthony and shake up this roster as Johnson tries to keep his team’s head in the games.
But it’s got to be distressing that the Nets aren’t coming to play in games that they realistically could win.
It has to be difficult for Johnson to say nothing.
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)