It was less than three weeks ago that the Brooklyn Nets were the toast of the NBA.
That was the franchise’s best start ever through 15 games and they finished the month tied with the crosstown New York Knicks for the lead in the Atlantic Division.
Coming on the heels of five straight losing seasons in New Jersey, it was just about the best possible scenario for a team that had been irrelevant and mostly ignored across the Hudson.
But Brooklyn has followed up November’s success with a 2-7 mark so far in December after Tuesday night’s 92-90 loss at the Barclays Center to the Utah Jazz. Tuesday night followed what has become a familiar script for the Nets in December; a solid first half followed by an abysmal effort after intermission.
Brooklyn shot just 31 percent in the second half (10-for-32) and scored 33 points after the break to squander a 57-44 halftime advantage.
Even more troubling for the Nets is that the loss was the fifth in their last six games at their new home. Brooklyn’s lone home-court win this month was a grueling double-overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday.
Point guard Deron Williams expressed his frustration with Johnson’s isolation-heavy system on Monday. The numbers bear out Williams’ struggles. He is shooting a career-low 38.8 percent this season, including just 29.9 percent from 3-point range. Williams had 14 points and five assists in 35 minutes in the loss to his former team on Tuesday night.
For his part, Johnson told ESPNNewYork.com Tuesday that he’s got no problem with Williams expressing himself.
“Whether it comes out publicly or whether the guys talk to be about stuff privately, I got really thick skin, and it doesn’t irritate me one bit,” Johnson said. “So a lot of his concerns, we’ve talked about privately. You guys just found out about it publicly.”
Williams was a 46.6 percent shooter while with the Jazz, a number that has dipped to 39.6 since coming to the Nets in a trade with Utah in February 2011.
Hardly the stuff one would expect from a three-time All-Star and two-time Olympian.
Even Williams said that the answer comes not in changing the system so much as it does from executing it.
“We have great plays,” Williams said. “We’ve had instances where we’ve had great offense, so it’s not a problem. It’s a problem with consistently executing. And we do run a lot of iso plays, which benefits a lot of other people, so we’re gonna continue to run those plays, because that’s Joe (Johnson’s) game, that’s what he’s most successful at, and then Brook (Lopez) on the block as well.”
The Nets don’t have much of a chance to recover from Tuesday’s disappointment. They head to Manhattan tonight for their third meeting of the season against the Knicks, a game that can be seen nationally on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST.
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