The Brooklyn Nets are quickly becoming a thorn in the side of the rest of the NBA with each passing win.
They are 24-23 after surviving Hurricane Harden to pick up their most impressive regular season win since their move to Brooklyn.
It is the latest in a rapidly growing list of impressive victories.
They beat the Raptors in overtime on Dec. 5 and beat the LeBron-led lakers 13 days later. This week alone they beat the Celtics and overcame a 58-point explosion from the hottest player on the planet in James Harden.
This is the first time that Brooklyn is .500 or better in January since the 2012-2013 season.
“Yeah, I’ll say this: I’ll admit it, that’s real progress,” said head coach Kenny Atkinson after their big win against Houston. “I’ve really tried to back off, don’t want to get ahead [of ourselves] or have a parade or anything. But that’s real big-time progress.
The franchise began its tenure in New York with a win-now mentality that failed to produce the championship contender that the front office was hopeful for.
It turns out that giving up a ton of first rounders for just-past-their-prime Hall of Famers in the form of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry is not a sustainable strategy.
Instead, the Nets have benefitted from a smart rebuild and have a core that is tailor-made to fit a superstar or even two.
Brooklyn is officially a place that can offer the opportunity for a high-level player to come in and see success.
Nets fans going full savage mode as Brooklyn blows out Boston. pic.twitter.com/FuOjSU9BE7
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) January 15, 2019
The Nets were not supposed to be this good yet.
The now infamous Pierce/Garnett experiment cost the team years of relevance and the opportunity to improve through the draft. Free agent to be D’Angelo Russell has been a revelation this season posting career highs in multiple sections of the stat sheet.
Spencer Dinwiddie is a leading candidate for 6th Man of the Year and has been notably clutch in multiple big games this season. Jarrett Allen took advantage of Clint Capela’s absence and became just the fourth player ever to have a 20-20 game before the age of 21.
Caris LeVert was the best player on the team before his injury and will be back in full health for the 2019-2020 campaign. This team is no longer a recovery day on the schedule for elite NBA teams.
Their winning is a product of an improved ability to win close games.
They were 4-12 in clutch games (five-point margin or less in the final five minutes) before their overtime win against the Raptors in early December. Since then they are 9-2 and executing on both ends when it matters most.
THIS IS WHAT D'ANGELO RUSSELL WAS BORN TO DO pic.twitter.com/4MUu7eNABn
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) January 19, 2019
Good teams know how to finish games and it finally seems like the Nets have a working formula.
Spencer Dinwiddie can probably walk on water if the Nets need it in the clutch and his elevation along with solid team defense has turned their fortunes around.
Via @BrooklynNets PR:
Best records in the NBA since December 7th:
1) Pacers – 15-4
2) Bucks – 16-5
3) Nets – 15-5
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) January 17, 2019
The Nets have been an afterthought in the talks surrounding the free agency of the game’s biggest stars.
Kawhi Leonard is picking between Toronto and Los Angeles. Will Jimmy Butler join him if he goes to LA? Will KD join LeBron? These are the questions that have dominated NBA Twitter but with each Brooklyn win, the conversation will become more interesting.
Brooklyn offers an opportunity for a max player to come in and be a star leading a group of young players just coming into their prime.
It is a sweet deal that not many other rosters can offer. LeBron has it with the Lakers. Kyrie has it in Boston. Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard should each at least consider what life might be like in Brooklyn.
Much has been made of the lifestyle afforded to those who can win in New York City. Prior to this season, many assumed that would come in Madison Square Garden if the Knicks found a running mate for Kristaps Porzingis.
Now? The Nets look like they could potentially bring high-level basketball back to New York City for the first time in years if they find a star with the correct fit.