NEW YORK -- These days in Brooklyn, it feels like it’s every man for himself.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov is trying to sell the team.
Meanwhile, GM Billy King (who might make a few trades) and coach Lionel Hollins (who is facing a close evaluation from higher-ups) are trying to salvage a $90 million wreck.
Uncertainty permeates throughout the organization.
Missing the playoffs would mean swapping a lottery pick with the Atlanta Hawks for a first in the late 20s. Ugh.
Hope comes in the form of 2016 cap space. That’s pretty much it.
Also consider: Brooklyn’s three max players -- Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams (injured) -- have been in trade talks centered on Kendrick Perkins, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Darren Collison. Ugh.
But on Friday night, for 53 minutes anyway, all of that was forgotten.
For 53 minutes, the Nets looked like a team that gave a damn, a team that their fanbase could be proud of.
If only they had gotten the desired result.
To be clear: The Nets had their chances to upset the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors.
They just couldn’t get the defensive stops or rebounds needed to get the W.
Lopez even had a wide-open look from the top of the key at the end of regulation. He missed it.
In overtime, the Raptors, who had blown a 17-point lead, pulled away for a 127-122 win.
The Nets (18-28) have now lost four straight and 12 of 14. They are 3-20 against. 500 or better teams.
Still, after dropping two straight in Los Angeles and Utah by a combined 74 points, at least their past two efforts have been admirable. If only that mattered to their starting point guard, who had the game of his life despite playing all but 47 seconds of it.
“It sucks,” said Jarrett Jack, who scored a career-high 35 points and matched a career-high with 13 assists, finishing two rebounds shy of a triple-double in a career-high 52 minutes, 13 seconds. “Especially when you battle back like that. But the thing is, there are no moral victories.”
The Nets are a game back of the Charlotte Hornets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
But here’s the good news: 1. There are still 36 games left 2. The teams in front of them have their own issues and 3. If they play like they did Friday night with any sort of consistency, they’ll probably limp into the postseason.
Meanwhile, Lopez is starting to really find his game. He had a season-high 35 points and 12 rebounds in 41 minutes off the bench.
Also, Williams, who has missed 11 straight games due to a rib fracture, should be back soon, maybe Monday night when the Clippers come to town.
That being said, Hollins won’t have to say, “What are you gonna do? It is what it is” when asked why he played Jack that much. The crazy thing is Jack, the worst real plus-minus floor general in the NBA, got the best of Kyle Lowry (4-for-17), who gutted through 44 minutes despite coming up limping on a drive late in the third quarter.
Nevertheless, the Nets certainly need Williams. The advanced metrics bear that out.
Still, Brooklyn just needs to win a game. The Nets went 0-fer at home in the month of January.
They decided to hold a pregame shootaround at their $1 billion arena for the first time all season only to fall behind 10-0 and 16-3.
Along with their inability to stop DeMar DeRozan (26 points), Louis Williams (25) or Amir Johnson (24), the poor start proved to be the difference. DeRozan and many of the Raptors have said they don’t consider this thing a rivalry, but it would be fun for them to go at each other again in the spring. Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd may be gone, but the Nets’ Twitter account sure seemed a bit miffed when the people who run it saw Toronto’s new logo looked eerily similar to their own. “Looks familiar,” the tweet read. “We The North” vs. “We Are Brooklyn.” Let’s do it.
Johnson was frustrated after the game. He was doubled on the final possession of regulation before Lopez’s miss, which came off a perfect play design. Didn’t matter. Things are bad. Maybe they’ll get better.
“It’s not a great feeling,” Johnson said. “We’re just going to keep fighting and hopefully we’ll get out of this slump.”