Just when the Nets looked like they were turning the corner…

When Brook Lopez was ruled out for at least the first two months of the season, predictions for the Nets were dire. Most believed they would have no chance to land a big-time player to team with Deron Williams at the trade deadline and that the Nets would be headed back to the draft lottery.

The Nets did what they could and actually showed some fight, beating Philadelphia and Cleveland last week. Those good feelings were dashed after rookie shooting guard MarShon Brooks was diagnosed with a broken right pinkie toe. Brooks apparently injured the toe during Sunday’s 94-73 loss to Toronto. The Nets hosted Detroit last night (Wednesday). Brooks had missed the three previous games leading up to Toronto. Nets coach Avery Johnson chose not to dwell on the missing players.

“Forward march…That’s it,” said Johnson. “Just keep on marching. We’re down a couple of our players, but keep marching forward. We can improve in some areas.”

Not having Brooks and Lopez could have a dire long-term effect on the Nets, especially if they are still intent on putting together a package to land Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard or another major star at the trade deadline. However, Johnson is relying on his healthy players to take advantage of what is in front of them.

Added Johnson: “We still have an opportunity. We still have a guy who we consider the best point guard in the NBA, we still have one of the best shooters in the NBA in [Anthony] Morrow and we’re undersized at the four and five positions, but those guys play really hard.”

Playing hard will only get you so far in the NBA. You need the necessary talent to make a real impact. That notwithstanding, don’t expect Williams or Johnson to concede anything. The Nets have a lot of shortcomings, but their inspired play, at times, will be enough to rack up a few wins.