P.J. Carlesimo reflects on the Nets' first half

Interim coach praises 'resilient' team, tabs consistency as second half key
02/14/2013 9:41 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Despite some head-scratching inconsistencies, P.J. Carlesimo praised his Nets team as resilient.(AP)
With Wednesday night’s win over Denver, the Brooklyn Nets finished the first half of the NBA season with a 31-22 record. The 30-win plateau is one only 10 NBA teams have hit this season, and it’s a milestone interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo reflected on Wednesday when asked how he felt about where the team stands at the All-Star break.

“I hadn’t thought of a number, but way back when, we might have said 30; that’s one of the things you always think of, is that if you’re a decent team, you want to be at 30 wins before the break,” Carlesimo said.

The interim boss, who is 17-8 since taking over for the fired Avery Johnson on Dec. 27, praised the team’s win total as a significant achievement given the fact that their original coach was axed barely a third of the way into the campaign, although they were helped by familiarity.

“I think they handled that (the coaching change) as well as they possibly could, and for good reason, because I think it wasn’t as big a change for them,” Carlesimo said. “It’s the same staff, the same coaches that have been here with them, and a lot of the system is exactly the same.”

That said, Carlesimo knows there are still many things to work on in the second half, pointing to Nets’ struggles with quicker-paced teams and their penchant for letting bad losses get away with them as two of biggest areas for improvement. But, on the latter note, the coach did have some praise for how his team has handled a few of those blowout losses as a great example of their resiliency.

“We talk about some of the losses we’ve had, but to be fair, we’ve bounced back well at times,” he said. For example, if you turned on the TV for the second half of either San Antonio game and that was the first time you saw us this year, you’d think about investing some money about us not winning anytime in the near future – but we came back to win at Indiana Monday, and the first time we came back to win at Oklahoma City a few days later. Same thing at Atlanta, we were pathetic, but came back and beat them here a couple days later.”

As far as positives go, one particular advantage Carlesimo noted was his team’s 18-2 record against sub-.500 teams; that means they’ve taken care of business when expected, but the coach knows that they must do it all the time, and it’s an area they can greatly improve upon in the second half.

“We’ve done a lot of things positively, but I don’t think we’re to the point yet where we’ve proven we can be consistent for a long time against the good teams,” Carlesimo said. “We’ve sprinkled in some of that and played some of the best teams in the league well for a while… and probably the other biggest thing we’ve struggled with is the really quick, up-and-down teams. Every year there’s teams you match up well with and some you don’t; sometimes you understand it and sometimes it makes no sense, but with us, it seems to be a pattern and we have to figure it out.”

Carlesimo knows the Nets also need to be better on the road, as they will play 17 of their final 29 away from Barclays Center. Brooklyn is a .500 team outside the borough, but once again, Carlesimo cited three of their 12 road wins specifically as moments the team can look at for inspiration.

“If you told us at the beginning of the year we’d win at Oklahoma City, at Indiana, and at New York, I’d say that’s pretty strong; we’ve been a decent road team, not a great one, and those are big wins,” he said.

One other thing that will help going forward, Carlesimo said, is something that the team can only gain by showing up every night.

“This is a new roster, and anytime you have a new roster, it’s a work in progress; you look at San Antonio or Miami or Oklahoma City, the feeling is that you have a reasonable expectation and you can predict what they’re going to do,” Carlesimo said, but then admitted that beyond even roster makeup, simply being at Barclays Center now and not the Prudential or IZOD Centers is a big factor as well.

“Part of it is the new building, too; as much as this is a great home court and has been such a huge advantage, it is a new building,” he said. “We’ve had 30 home games, and when you compare that to guys like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Boston, or LeBron and them in Miami, or San Antonio, playing with the same teammates, for the same coach, and in the same building for a number of years, there’s a lot that goes into that.”

In explaining that phenomenon, Carlesimo called upon his the words of another of his former bosses, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who described the combination of a team’s familiarity with each other, the coaches, and their surroundings as “corporate knowledge.”

“I love that phrase, and there’s a lot to that; when you don’t have it, you have some of the inconsistencies we have,” Carlesimo said. “But you don’t acquire that kind of experience and familiarity overnight.”

All that said, Carlesimo admits that while he believes the statements Johnson always made about “not being there yet” are still true, he hopes that the best of the 2012-13 Brooklyn Nets is still to come.

“I think we’re a little hard to figure at this point, because we haven’t settled in to what we are,” he said. “Maybe we won’t, and maybe this is what we are; I don’t think that’s the case, and it remains to be seen what we’re going to do in the last 30 games, but I like where we’re headed.“

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