Isaiah Whitehead (228845)
Credit: Bill Moore

OK, it’s official. It’s confirmed. The Brooklyn Nets are officially in last place in the Eastern Conference, at the bottom, 15th in a field of 15—a new year in a brand-new space. Their confirmation number is 8 wins and 25 losses after Monday’s home game versus the Utah Jazz, a much improved fifth-place team in the Western Conference. 

With a little more than a third of the season behind them, Brooklyn, who’ve only won 25 percent of their games, have become the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that has solely held watch over the last spot in the league’s basement for several years.

Not much will change for Brooklyn this season. Maybe a move back up to the 13th or 14th position. The one smart thing that their head coach, Kenny Atkinson, is doing is focusing on the development of its promising players, tweaking the defense.

“I am proud of our team’s defensive effort,” said Atkinson. “I thought we really got after it. We were physical like we asked the players to be. I thought they really responded.” And he was right, but Brooklyn just couldn’t maintain it throughout the fourth quarter. They were all even after three quarters, up by two in the first, all even at the half and down by two in the third. Brooklyn was outscored by 12 points in the fourth. 

“Trevor [Booker] had great energy tonight,” said Atkinson. “I thought he led us with his rebounding. Typical Trevor.”

He added, “I think Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson] is getting more in his comfort zone. You know we are playing him at the four a lot more, and he gets mismatches on his drives and can use his speed and quickness that way.” The coach has been reacclamating Hollis-Jefferson back into the lineup after he was plagued by injuries. 

Atkinson continues to be high on his rookie guard Isaiah Whitehead. “Isaiah is a heck of a competitor,” he noted, impressed with the 12 points, 6 rebounds and blocked shot against the Jazz. At the end, Atkinson had Whitehead checking Gordon Hayward, the Jazz’s best scorer Monday night. He dropped 30.

Brooklyn, who played Indiana last night on the road, hosts LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending champs, tomorrow (Friday). Cleveland leads the Eastern Conference, with the second best won-loss record in basketball.

Sunday’s game against Philadelphia, currently in 14th place, will be a contest for the supremacy of losses to start the week. The Atlanta Hawks visit Barclays Tuesday and the New Orleans Pelicans visit Thursday.