Before the start of the NBA season, not a single soul thought that the New Jersey Nets had a chance to do anything meaningful in the NBA this season.
In fact, many publications, such as Sports Illustrated, who had them dead last in the Eastern Conference in their preseason issue, and ESPN, who had something to this effect of "How Bad Will the Nets Be?" on their cover, refused to give the Nets any sort of credit at all.
While the team did get younger, and did lose key some players such as Richard Jefferson, these viewpoints were harsh in every possible manner.
After all, the Nets still did have Devin Harris, a young point guard on the rise, and Vince Carter, who—while healthy—is still a top player in the league.
Even worse though, many thought that Carter would be packing his bags by the trade deadline. While still possible, it has not happened yet—and until it does, the Nets cannot be downgraded because of this.
After 13 games, the Nets, while not a great basketball team, are still a solid one. Yes, they are 6-7 overall—but with some of the talk that was around them, many thought that a sixth win would not be in the cards until January or so.
This team has decent talent—and even more importantly, a young core that can grow together down the line.
Luckily for the Nets, this core, which includes Sean Williams, Brook Lopez, and Josh Boone, has been quick on the learning curve up to this point.
In addition, Harris has been more of a leader than anyone could have asked for up to this point, and Carter has been brilliant in the clutch as of late, as his amazing game against the Toronto Raptors this past week shows.
They also have a coach in Lawrence Frank who has worked his way up from being almost nothing, and he refuses to let this group play to anything less than their abilities.
In essence, this is a group that was constantly put down, and not given even a puncher's chance.
To the dismay of some, though, this is not a terrible basketball team. They have given some good teams runs for their money up to this point, and nothing—not even a blowout at the hands of the Lakers earlier this morning on the East Coast—can take this away from this group.
While the Wizards have been destroyed by injuries and unfairly fired their coach Eddie Jordan, and the Thunder sent P.J. Carlesimo—one of the best minds in the NBA—packing, the Nets have been playing basketball that, while not great, is still entertaining to watch, and usually competitive.
Yes, they are under .500—but it is only by one game, and management has not jumped the ship yet on this team.
At the same time, they are clawing and scratching their way through each and every game to try and earn respect throughout the league. While an amazing season will probably not be in the cards, a decent one may still be the result.
In the East, with some teams currently playing terrible basketball, who knows? This could be enough to get the Nets into the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference come playoff time.
Do not count this group of supposedly under-talented players out just yet—they may very well go out and shock some people throughout the basketball world and sports media by the end of the regular season.