They say numbers never lie, but I’ve finally encountered one that’s at least telling a fib.
The Brooklyn Nets had an excellent 2012-13 regular season, ending the campaign with a 49-33 record. Fast forward to the regular season the team just completed on Thursday night, and the Nets will enter the postseason with a mark of 44-38.
So the superior record last season obviously means that team was better than the current one, right? Not so fast.
The idea of a team that finished a whole five games better than another not being the more complete squad of the two may sound as impossible as a cat driving a car – the one cat video we’re never going to stumble upon on Youtube – but this season’s Nets have definitely made that possible.
Had it not been for a start to the season that was so unwatchable that even Nets writers like myself felt like they were being robbed of two and a half hours almost every time they took the court up until New Year’s Eve, this team would have easily matched or exceeded last year’s win total.
And when the calendar began reading 2014, coach Jason Kidd influenced his players so deeply that they executed the most transformative 180 any team across the league did at any point this season.
They did it with exquisite ball movement. They did it with superb defense. They did it without All-Star center Brook Lopez.
And most importantly, they did it with leadership. What Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko have brought to the table in terms of experience and keeping their unit motivated has gone lightyears beyond what the Nets had on the floor last postseason when they looked like they didn’t care that the Chicago Bulls were running them off their own home floor in Game 7.
The leadership has massively improved since then. So has the depth. And so has the cohesiveness on both ends of the floor. Put that all together, and you have two things – a much better team, and a number that does indeed lie.