The schedule makers were a bit kind to the New Jersey Nets last week.
Needing to win some games, the Nets found themselves facing thee sub-.500 teams and just one winning team—a squad they had beaten earlier this season.
Thanks mostly to the effort of Devin Harris, New Jersey had a semi-successful week. I say semi because of how poorly they played against Philadelphia. I'll get into that shortly.
Before we go any further, here's a quick recap of the week:
The Nets went 2-2 on the week, are 8-20 on the season and are still in the basement of the Atlantic Division. They did move up to 11th in the Eastern Conference, however.
The biggest news for the team was their trading of Terrence Williams.
It's well known by now that Williams was a bit of a head case. He was late to practice often in his brief career and was sent down to the D-League earlier this season.
He was recalled, but was quickly traded to Houston as part a three-team deal. The Lakers were also involved and they sent Sasha Vujacic to the Nets and received Joe Smith in return. The Nets also got first round picks from Houston and LA.
The trade happened just before Tuesday's game against Philadelphia, leaving New Jersey shorthanded.
Further complicating matters, Anthony Morrow hurt his hamstring during pre-game warm ups and played just 30 seconds in the game.
All of this led to an awful performance from the Nets against the 76ers in which they shot 34 percent from the field and scored just 77 points.
The game featured the Nets at their worst. They couldn't make shots, weren't being aggressive and were unable to execute down the stretch.
After the game, the aforementioned Devin Harris called a team meeting to address his team's lack of energy.
He was displeased with their habit of getting down by double-digits early, feeling it was costing them games.
Although they did not win their next three games, New Jersey listened to its point guard and played with much more energy, leading them to two wins. They very easily could have won all three, but the lack of late-game execution reared its ugly head in a loss to Toronto.
The Nets did not shoot the ball well this week (40.3 percent), but did hold their opponents to 42 percent shooting. Toronto hit the high-mark at 46.5 percent.
Without Morrow, the team also had difficulty consistently hitting three-pointers—shooting them at 26 percent last week. For comparison, their opponents were at 33.8 percent.
Aside from that, there's not all that much to be critical of.
They need to take better care of the ball as they averaged 15.8 turnovers on the week, but that can largely be attributed to the 21 they had against Washington. The number is also above their season average of 14.4.
New Jersey played well after an abysmal game against Philadelphia. They're still a bit inconsistent, as evidenced by their loss to Toronto and the fact they haven't won consecutive games since the first two of the season, but they do seem to be getting better.
One area that really stood out last week was their rebounding.
The Nets had an average rebounding advantage of 47-39 and 14-8 on the offensive end. That's going to win them some games.
The only game in which they did not have the better numbers in rebounds was against the Raptors, but Toronto had just one more rebound than the Nets.
If you take that contest away, New Jersey had a total rebounding advantage of 149-112 on the week.
The team's free throw numbers were also vastly superior to their opponents. For the week, New Jersey attempted 113 free throws while keeping the teams they faced to 86 attempts.
Considering how well they shoot from the line, this is a huge leg-up over their competition.
From an individual standpoint, Harris was clearly the Nets' best player last week.
He could stand to shoot a bit better as he was at 38 percent from the field, but he averaged 20 points and 7.3 assists while getting to the free throw line nearly 10 times a game.
When he's being aggressive and driving to the basket, he's tough to stop.
Brook Lopez also had a nice week, averaging 17.5 points and getting to the free throw line about seven times a game, where he shot 85 percent. He really needs to figure out some way to improve his rebounding, as he averaged just 5.8 per game last week.
It's been a problem all season and it does not look like it's improving very rapidly.
Vujacic only played in two games for his new team. He didn't show much in his first contest against Toronto, but Sunday, against Atlanta, he was very good.
He scored 10 points, hit 2-of-4 three-pointers and played excellent defense—deflecting several passes and even getting three steals. For right now, at least, it looks like he was a good pickup.
How would you grade New Jersey's performance last week?
Travis Outlaw was hot-and-cold as usual, although he managed to find his way back into the starting lineup against the Hawks after Quinton Ross was injured in Toronto.
With Morrow going down, Jordan Farmar got another chance to start and was not overly impressive. If the game against Atlanta was any indication, he will be ceding some minutes to Vujacic.
The power forward spot is turning into a bit of carousel.
Kris Humphries has had a lock on the starting job and a majority of the minutes from that position, but I believe that if Derrick Favors could keep himself out of foul trouble, the rookie would be seeing more action.
He clearly knows how to rebound and be in position defensively. He simply needs to avoid picking up the cheap fouls that rookies gather. It will come with time.
Troy Murphy showed signs of life Sunday when he got 22 minutes of floor time and played most of the second half.
He played well, too, scoring 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting, grabbing five rebounds and even getting a steal.
Who knows what Avery Johnson will do, but that type of game should get Murphy some minutes as he was a big reason the Nets won.
The Nets have a short week coming up with just two games on Tuesday and Wednesday before taking a break for Christmas.
They travel to Memphis (12-16), then New Orleans (16-11). Playing with the energy they showed this week could give them two wins, and the week will give us a gauge on where the team is.