Christmas Countdown: It's a sprint, not a marathon

Continuing through Dec. 23, ESPNNewYork.com will run a series called "Christmas Countdown," examining a hot topic each day that surrounds the New Jersey Nets.

Today's Hot Topic: Breaking down the team's schedule

Six games in eight nights to open the season. Ten of their first 14 games on the road. Two back-to-back-to-back stretches.

Nets point guard Deron Williams needed only one word to describe his team's lockout-shortened 66-game schedule: "Ugly."

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Nets rookie MarShon Brooks has fresh legs; he's only 22. But he never played more than 32 games a season at Providence. Now he faces 66 in quick succession.

Normally, NBA teams play an average of 3.5 games per week. But during this lockout-shortened season, teams will play 3.9 games per week. Days off will be limited, and rest will be hard to come by. Just don't think the Nets are willing to use any of that as an excuse. Their coach won't let them.

"I told the team when I first met with them, this is an unusual year with unusual challenges and circumstances," Avery Johnson said last week. "But we're not gonna be a team to complain or make excuses.

"It is what it is. Six games in eight nights. Three in a row. I don't think there was any favoritism with the way the schedules were made."

Johnson has had plenty of experience dealing with a lockout. In 1998-99, he served as the point guard of the NBA champion Spurs. What many people forget is that San Antonio lost eight of its first 14 games. But the veteran-laden squad turned it around, winning 31 of its last 36 contests to close the regular season 37-13. A 15-2 playoff run and a championship parade followed.

Right now, the Nets' oldest player is reserve forward Stephen Graham, 29, who isn’t guaranteed to make the roster. Chances are, they’re going to add more experience before the beginning of the season, but the point is, they're young ... and inexperienced.

  • Trivia question: Which Nets player has participated in the most games in his career?

  • Answer: Travis Outlaw, 27, who may get amnestied by the team, with 482 games over eight seasons.

The Nets play 14 of their first 22 games away from the Prudential Center, but if they can somehow overcome that daunting stretch and remain in the race, it gets a lot easier from there. Overall, New Jersey actually plays the fourth-easiest schedule in the league in terms of 2010-11 winning percentage.

Just don't tell the Nets that. They probably wouldn’t believe you.

Williams dreads looking at any calendar layout of the schedule, because he notices just how few breaks there really are. Asked what advice he'd give the younger players on the team, Williams replied, "Get ready to hit a wall."