Starting Five: Nets not thinking division yet

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Before the Nets start thinking about challenging Toronto for the Atlantic Division title, they first want to focus on reaching .500.

At 23-26, the Nets want to establish more consistency before setting their sights on the division.

“Truthfully, winning the division hasn’t even come up,” Paul Pierce said. “So it’s all about growing, playing better basketball right now. I think first you’ve got to get over .500 before we start talking about winning the division. Then you can talk about raising your goals up.”

The Nets can inch closer to that first goal of pulling even by taking care of business before All-Star Weekend. The Nets host Charlotte on Wednesday before going to Chicago on Thursday.

It won’t be easy beating two Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls back to back, but going into the break on a winning streak would have the Nets feeling really good, considering their tough schedule ahead.

When the Nets return from the All-Star break, they embark on a six-game West Coast road swing against the Jazz, Warriors, Lakers, Blazers, Nuggets and Bucks.

After Wednesday's game, the Nets won’t play at Barclays until Mar. 3.

“That’d be huge,” Deron Williams said of winning these next two games. “And then we’ve got that long road trip when we get back, so essentially most guys are going to be gone for 2 1/2, three weeks straight. So you know it’s important for us to finish strong [before the break].”

Pierce knows how teams can easily lose focus before the All-Star break.

“This is the time of the year, you see the break coming where teams tend to get relaxed,” Pierce said. “So we are going to continue to try to grow, gain some momentum and try to finish out the first part of this season on a good note.”

Up now: Deron Williams just wants to get healthy again.

Joe Johnson is practicing for the All-Star 3-point contest. Watch him practice, and watch Jason Kidd show he can still hit the 3.

What’s next: The Nets host the Bobcats Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Net fact: How important is it for the Nets to be in the lead after three quarters? They are 21-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.

Net question: What’s your prediction for the Nets in their next two games before the All-Star break?