Brooklyn returns from All-Star break to define their team and future

Vincent Davis | 2/22/2018, 4:11 p.m.
One win in their last 12 games. Seven straight defeats. No wins thus far in February. Six losses at home. ...

One win in their last 12 games. Seven straight defeats. No wins thus far in February. Six losses at home. Five on the road. Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Houston, New Orleans and Indiana left here victorious. Losses mounted in Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Manhattan and Detroit.

The Brooklyn Nets return from the NBA All-Star break tonight (Thursday) with a game in Charlotte, N.C., against the Hornets. Game 60 on their schedule.

With a record of 19-40, Brooklyn has 23 games remaining in the regular season. The Chicago Bulls here in Brooklyn Monday night followed by immediate travel to Cleveland to play the completely revamped Cavaliers Tuesday, a back to back, Brooklyn’s last game of the month before embarking on a four-game road trip at the beginning of March, three in Cali—Sacramento, Los Angeles (Clippers) and Golden State. They’re in the fourth quarter of this 2017-18 season. There will be no post season. How will the final quarter play out? They’ve lacked defensively all season.

In the week leading up to All-Star weekend, guard D’Angelo Russell, coming off the bench, has been an impactful offensive contributor. Russell dropped 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists against the Pelicans, 16 points and 5 assists against the Clippers and 18 points versus Indiana on Valentine’s Day.

Russell returned to play in mid-January after injuring his knee Nov. 11 against the Utah Jazz.

Russell was the No. 2 pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015, and traded to the Nets in the 2017 offseason in exchange for center Brook Lopez. Since returning from his injury a month ago, Russell has built up his play, his stamina and his minutes. In his last three games, Russell has averaged 29 minutes on the court.

Leading up to the trade deadline Feb. 8, forward DeMarre Carroll was recognized as the Nets’ greatest asset. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was briefly mentioned too, but he’s injured. If Brooklyn were to pull off an impressive trade to bolster their future, get some draft picks, it was estimated that Carroll would be the attraction, but two weeks later, Carroll has only reaffirmed the value of that estimation.

Carroll is one rebound short of four consecutive double-doubles—14 points, 12 rebounds against the Detroit Pistons; 12 points, 9 rebounds against the New Orleans Pelicans; 12 points, 10 rebounds against the L.A. Clippers; and 21 points, 10 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers.

There have been other contributors, but one of Brooklyn’s problems has been contributions on defense.

“We couldn’t stop them,” said Brooklyn’s head coach Kenny Atkinson, referencing their Clippers game. “We never found a solution to stopping them,” but that’s been the case for Brooklyn’s other 40 losses as well. That’s been the story of this season. They haven’t been stopping them. They haven’t been stopping anybody, but it’s more important right now that they get healthy and further develop the nucleus of this team for next year and the year after.