Deron Williams seems to be. Brook Lopez seems to be. And if you read between the lines, it seems fans should have reason to be optimistic, too.
First off, right now the Nets are only seven games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. That’s right. A team with an 11-25 record right now is still in the hunt. How ridiculous.
The paltry Celtics and mega-hyped Knicks—the eighth and seventh-seeded teams, respectively, in the Eastern standings right now—haven’t pulled away from any of the bottom-feeding teams in the East, giving the Nets a small chance to still make the playoffs this year.
Second, if you’ve heard the rhetoric coming out of New Jersey lately, you know it sounds like the Nets are going to hold firm with the Magic and hope to sign Dwight Howard in the offseason when he becomes a free agent.
That would allow them to keep Lopez, emerging star rookie MarShon Brooks and some of the other role players needed to make a serious push in the playoffs next year.
Also, did you hear what Avery Johnson said the other day about Williams having a hands-on role with the Nets' new stadium in Brooklyn? And then the rumors coming out that Williams’ brother is enrolling in a prep school in New Jersey next year?
That has to make you think he wants to stay.
It also makes sense that Howard not pursue a trade right now. Why make the Nets give up their best players when Howard can just sign in the offseason and team with them next year?
Lopez, Howard, Brooks, Williams and—insert one B-level player here—would be a legit NBA Championship-caliber starting lineup. Williams, Howard and—insert three B-level players here—would be good but not as dynamic.
Sure, it’s a risky proposition for the Nets to wait out Howard and the Magic, and it could be a total disaster if they lose out on him and Williams in the offseason. It's a prospect that could ruin the franchise for years, as I wrote about in another story.
But right now you have to like where you are if you’re the Nets: good, young players, another high pick in the 2012 draft, a slim chance to make the playoffs this year and a new stadium in the biggest market in the country opening next year.
And let’s not forget, that last part could be the most important. Howard wants to come to a big market like L.A. or N.Y.
And no offense to Dallas and all the rumors that have him and D-Will going there, but that’s not a BIG market. It’s a Midwest market, which simply can’t compare to what Howard could earn in endorsements in NYC.
Let’s be honest, Howard could take over NYC with his wide simile and bulging biceps. He’s a people person, and New York fans always embrace stars that are willing to open up—RE: the 1986 Mets.
So if I’m the Nets or a Nets fan, I like where I am right now. Even in the basement of the NBA, there’s plenty to be optimistic about.