The Brooklyn Nets might have exceeded expectations this season, but losing their first-round playoff series in five games might have served as a wake-up call for the team.
"We have a long way to go," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said after Tuesday's Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, per Tom Moore of the Courier Times. "We understand where we are. The level where the Sixers are is a long ways away."
Brooklyn entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and shocked Philadelphia with a Game 1 win on the road. However, the squad suffered four straight losses leading to elimination, with only one of those games decided by single digits.
The 76ers earned a 122-100 win in Tuesday's clinching game, going up 23-2 in the first quarter before cruising to a win.
As Atkinson noted, it was clear there was a significant divide between the Nets and Philadelphia following the series.
With that said, the Nets are still headed in the right direction with their first winning season since 2014. Young players D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert are coming off the best years of their careers, while Jarrett Allen completed an impressive rookie season.
If the team can take advantage of its cap space this offseason by signing a high-profile free agent, Brooklyn can go into 2019-20 as one of the top contenders in the East.
Although the head coach is keeping the team grounded, fans should be excited about the future.