Some observations as the All-Star break ends and the second half of the season gets set to begin:
1. The Nets are 6.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and both Deron Williams and Brook Lopez have expressed a sense of optimism that the team can make up that ground and qualify for the postseason. If D-Will plays like he has of late, Lopez returns to 20-and-8 form and the Nets stay healthy, it could happen, right?
2. Things have to get better, don’t they? The Nets started an NBA-high 14 different players and 17 different lineups (5 SFs, 2 PFs, 4 Cs, 5 SGs, 2 PGs). They lost three players to season-ending injuries -- Shawne Williams, Damion James and Keith Bogans (waived). Shelden Williams, is the only Net to appear in all 35 games this season. D-Will has played in 34 of 35. Anthony Morrow has played in 33 of 35, and Kris Humphries has played in 32 of 35. Players on the Nets’ roster currently -- including James and Williams -- have missed a combined 133 games.
3. The Nets are 3-13 at Prudential Center. They’re shooting 41 percent there -- 31.5 percent from 3-point range. On the road, where they’re 7-12, they’re shooting 43.4 precent -- 39.2 percent from beyond the arc.
4. Slow starts. The Nets love them. They are 4-19 when trailing after the first quarter, and rank last in first-quarter scoring margin (minus-3.9).
5. Think they could use Dwight Howard? The Nets rank last in the NBA in defensive efficiency. They’re allowing opponents to shoot an NBA-high 48.1 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from 3-point range. They’re 2-16 when allowing 100-plus points. Offensively, they rank last in points in the paint (30.4).
6. Other stats of note: the Nets are 2-22 when trailing after three quarters; 1-22 when being outrebounded; 8-22 when they have a lesser field goal shooting percentage than their opponent; 2-13 when their opponent shoots 50 percent or better from the field; 2-15 when they shoot a lower 3-point field goal percentage than their opponent; and 8-18 against teams from the East.
7. D-Will is averaging 27.9 points and 9.6 assists on 45.8 percent shooting in Nets’ wins. Those numbers plummet to 19.9, 7.6 and 39 in Nets’ losses. He’s a 42.1 percent 3-point shooter on the road compared to 31.8 percent at home. Stupid hockey arenas.
8. D-Will had quite a good All-Star performance: 20 points, four assists and three rebounds on 8-for-11 shooting -- 4-for-7 from 3-point range. In the second quarter, he converted an alley-oop dunk from Dwyane Wade and added a reverse dunk off a baseline drive. Late in the fourth period, D-Will had a steal and layup off an inbounds play which brought the East within 148-147 with 1:40 left. Ninety-two seconds later, D-Will had a chance to give his team a lead off a set play, but he missed an open 3 from the left wing off the front of the rim.
9. Morrow was eliminated after the opening round; He hit 14 3-pointers. He finally got going from straightaway, but went a bit too slow and ended up leaving a few balls on the rack by the time the buzzer sounded. Morrow was upset and hopes to have another chance. He deserves it. His tribute to Drazen Petrovic was the best thing to happen at All-Star weekend.
10. D-Will is an 85 percent free-throw shooter. He couldn’t hit a 15-footer when it counted in the Skills Challenge, though.
11. Let’s be honest: the NBA needs to retire All-Star weekend. The dunk contest stunk. With the exception of the last four minutes or so, the game stunk. Instead of wasting everyone’s time, the players should be able to getaway and go on vacation with their families.
12. Assuming that Jordan Farmar and Mehmet Okur return from injuries soon, the Nets could actually have something they haven’t had all season: a capable bench. Add in Morrow and Shelden, and you have yourself a pretty decent nine-man rotation.
13. Six of the Nets’ first seven games are on the road to begin the second half. Seven of their last 10 games of the regular season are at home. Their final game in New Jersey -- barring a playoff berth -- will be on Apr. 23 against Philadelphia.
14. You’re a Nets fan. No need to tell you to prepare for the worst. Still, if D-Will leaves, then you’re looking at something like Lopez (assuming the Nets retain the restricted free agent), Brooks, two 2012 first-rounders and a point guard to be named later plus a ton of cap space. The Nets’ only other commitments are to Morrow ($4 million), Petro ($3.5) and Jordan Williams. Farmar ($4.25) has a player option, as does Shawne Williams ($3.125). The Nets could look to move Farmar via trade, though, and he’s playing the best basketball of his career, so he could be a nice addition for a playoff contender. And Morrow, given his reasonable salary, could be moved as well.
15. The Nets rank second to Orlando in made 3-pointers (309) and are 10th in the league in accuracy (35.7 percent). Of the Nets’ 1,172 made field goals, 26.4 percent are 3s.
A look at games missed by player:
Shelden Williams: 0
Deron Williams: 1
Anthony Morrow: 2
Jordan Williams: 2
Kris Humphries: 3
Johan Petro: 5
Sundiata Gaines: 5
Jordan Farmar 6:
DeShawn Stevenson: 10
Shawne Williams: 10*
MarShon Brooks: 10
Mehmet Okur: 18
Damion James: 28*
Brook Lopez: 33
*Out for the season
Starting lineups (with record):
1. James-Humphries-Petro-Morrow-D. Williams 1-1
2. James-Humphries-Okur-D. Williams-Gaines 0-3
3. James-She. Williams-Okur-D. Williams-Gaines 0-1
4. James-She. Williams-Okur-Brooks-Gaines 0-1
5. Stevenson-Humphries-Okur-Morrow-D. Williams 2-1
6. Stevenson-Humphries-Petro-Morrow-D. Williams 0-1
7. Brooks-Humphries-Petro-Morrow-D. Williams 0-3
8. Brooks-Humphries-Okur-Morrow-D. Williams 1-1
9. Stevenson-Humphries-Okur-Morrow-D. Williams 2-2
10. Stevenson-Humphries-She. Williams-Morrow-D. Williams 1-1
11. Sha. Williams-Humphries-She. Williams-Morrow-D. Williams 0-4
12. Sha. Williams-Humphries-She. Williams-Farmar-D. Williams 1-0
13. Sha. Williams-Humphries-She. Williams-Bogans-D. Williams 0-1
14. Morrow-Humphries-She. Williams-Farmar-D. Williams 0-1
15. Stevenson-Humphries-She. Williams-Brooks-D. Williams 2-2
16. Stevenson-Humphries-Lopez-Brooks-D. Williams 0-1
17. Stevenson-She. Williams-Lopez-Brooks-D. Williams 0-1