The biggest news for the New Jersey Nets last week was obviously the announcement by owner Mikhail Prokhorov that the team was giving up in its efforts to land Carmelo Anthony.
There was plenty of action on the court too, however, with the Nets playing some highly competitive games and splitting their four contests.
The team stepped up its game on both ends of the floor and nearly came away with two wins against some of the NBA's elite teams. As always, there are areas for improvement, but everything appears to be moving in the right direction.
The Nets were 2-2 on the week, are 12-32 on the season, holding down the basement in the Atlantic Division and in 14th place overall in the Eastern Conference.
To start the week, New Jersey finished up its western road trip with a visit to Golden State, where the game went down in similar fashion to the rest of the games on the trip. They fought hard, but ultimately came up short thanks to some miscues.
Then, just before they took the court against Utah on Wednesday, Prokhorov made his announcement and the Nets proceeded to win, finally closing out a team in the fourth quarter in the process.
The Nets then finished off the Pistons early in the game's final period before losing a heartbreaker to the Mavericks—a game they will feel as though they should have won.
The areas of the game that cost the Nets a victory over Dallas are really the ones that have been causing them the most problems all year. Before we get into that, though, we have to look at what went right last week.
New Jersey's offense suddenly came to life and was efficient. The Nets averaged a 48 percent field goal percentage for the week, and the only game where they were held below 49 percent was the showdown with Dallas.
As long as the Nets work through the offense and stay patient in their sets, they can get high percentage shots and score. This is evidenced by the team's assists numbers last week, which are way above their season average.
The Nets have averaged 19 APG for the season, but last week they were at 25 APG. The ball and player movement, when it happens, creates good looks and the players are doing an excellent job of knocking down their shots.
The problem comes when they either get over-anxious and force a bad shot or stand around too much and have minimal ball movement.
Avery Johnson clearly knows how to design an offense. In the end, it all comes down to execution from the players.
Johnson also has his guys playing incredibly hard on defense. They work hard to get stops, and for the most part they did last week, with the Warriors being the only team to shoot above 42 percent.
On the whole, teams managed to connect at an average rate of 40 percent against New Jersey last week.
You know New Jersey's defense is working when teams aren't driving to the basket at will, as has been the case at times this year.
When the Nets force teams into jump shots, they are able to make teams miss at a good rate. The problem comes when they do allow penetration, which leads us to a major area for improvement: free throws.
The Nets are allowing their opponents to get to the line too often.
While it is good to force teams to earn their points by fouling them when they make drives to the rim, they would be better off not allowing opponents to get that deep in the first place.
New Jersey's counterparts averaged 29 free-throw attempts a game last week. That's too many.
Johnson is certainly aware of this. The players are also working hard and have improved to this point in this season, so it stands to reason that it is only a matter of time before they get better in that department as well.
The Nets also bail out their opponents after playing tough defense when they give up offensive rebounds. Teams averaged 11 offensive boards a game last week, and it was a significant factor in both their losses.
In general, the Nets were very good with their rebounds, holding an average advantage of 41-to-35 in that department. They just need to make sure they get a body on everyone when a shot goes up and and limit their opponent's second chance opportunities.
The final aspect of the game the Nets need to improve upon immediately is turnovers.
They're giving the ball away far too often—an average of 17 times a game last week. Given how efficient the offense was, the turnovers certainly cost them a good number of points.
All of this leads us back to the Dallas game, where all three deficient areas were on display.
The Nets had 17 turnovers, allowed 11 offensive rebounds and Dallas to got to the free throw line 29 times, which, not so coincidentally, were their averages for the week.
If they could have been better in just one department they likely would have beaten the Mavericks and we'd be talking about a 3-1 week and a team that was clearly on the rise.
Instead, they went 2-2 and still have a lot to prove.
The good news is that, if last week was any indication, the Nets are getting better and should start to win more often than they lose if they continue to improve.
This is all part of a team coming together and learning how to win. At the very least, they matched their win total from last year already and the games are definitely an upgrade in quality over last year's abysmal season.
As for individual performances, Devin Harris has significantly upped his play on both ends of the floor.
He's been taking charges and getting steals on defense, and on offense he averaged 15 PPG and nine APG. He could stand to improve his field goal percentage, but the fact that he's distributing the ball more speaks to his growth.
Brook Lopez is becoming a real force on the offensive end too. He averaged 20 PPG on 54 percent shooting last week and was aggressive in finding his shot and getting to the free-throw line. He still needs to get better with his rebounding, but if he can score like that, fans will take it.
Derrick Favors continued to show flashes while being a bit inconsistent. It's not all that uncommon for a rookie to do this, and when he does give a glimpse of his potential it becomes clear that the Nets need to let him develop.
Kris Humphries is still a monster on the glass. He notched two more double-doubles last week and the Nets need to make re-signing him a priority this offseason.
Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic played more or less the same as they have all year. They make contributions while being a bit streaky with their shots. Regardless, they are valuable additions to the team.
Anthony Morrow also made his return from a hamstring injury against the Pistons and showed what the team was missing when he scored 10 straight points at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth.
He's still getting his legs under him after missing 17 games and needs to fine tune his stroke again, but he should be back in the starting lineup before too long.
The Nets play another week full of winnable games over the next seven days, and there is the distinct possibility of an unbeaten stretch.
They will play host to Cleveland (8-35) and Memphis (21-23) before traveling to Indiana (16-25) and Milwaukee (16-25).
New Jersey beat both the Cavaliers and Grizzlies earlier this year, and will be looking to get revenge for the whooping the Bucks laid on them a couple of weeks ago. It will the team's first of three meetings with the Pacers.
If the Nets play with the same effort and intensity they did last week in their next batch of games we could be looking at a four-game winning streak.
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