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The Nets need work, but are headed in the right direction

Marcus Henry | 4/12/2011, 4:46 p.m.

There's a lot to criticize about the Nets, who dropped to 17-39 after a 102-85 loss to the Spurs on Monday.

The Nets play Boston Wednesday night in their last game before the all-star break. One thing you can't fault the Nets for is their effort. Avery Johnson's screw finished the first half of the season 13-15 at home. Those 13 wins are more than they had all of last season.

Is that any reason for optimism? Yes. With seven of their remaining home games against teams with losing records, the Nets are certainly capable of finishing above .500 at home. The Nets would need to win at least eight of those 13, but it's not out of the realm.

Here's what the Nets can hang their hat on: Brook Lopez and Devin Harris. Lopez has had some issues rebounding (5.7), but he's been a consistent scorer (19.6). Harris has been effective (15.1 ppg, 7.7 ast) and so has Anthony Morrow. Morrow is averaging 13.3 points since December 24. Kris Humphries (9 ppg, 9.4 reb) and Sasha Vujacic have also been bright spots.

But that's where the positives end. Lopez needs some help in the paint. Rookie power forward Derrick Favors has played well at times, but he isn't ready to be a consistent producer.

The Nets also need help at the shooting guard and small forward positions. Basically, they need depth at just about every position.

But Nets fans shouldn't expect too much help before the trade deadline. With so much uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement, teams will be reluctant to take on big contracts or part with key players.

That won't stop Nets general manager Billy King, who has five first-round draft picks and several trade chips to bargain with, from working the phones over the next two weeks. Harris, the expiring contract of Troy Murphy and Favors are enticing chips.

Barring a blockbuster trade, which at this point is a long shot, status quo will remain in the second half for the Nets.