Following a loss, the Nets locker room frequently features frustrated players blaming a lack of energy for their poor performance. They didn't have the energy in a 111-86 blowout loss Sunday night in Brooklyn, but they did in Indiana just a night later.
Rookie Tyshawn Taylor powered the point en route to an 89-84 overtime win against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers entered the contest losers of only four home games through 24 chances.
The Nets accomplished a rare road win in Bankers Life Fieldhouse without starting point guard Deron Williams. Williams is arguably one of the league's best point guards and the Nets' most valuable player, despite not having played like it over the past year or so.
After a humbling performance against the short-handed San Antonio Spurs Sunday, the Nets learned Williams would miss the remaining two games before the All-Star Game to nurse ankle injuries.
Although the Nets are easily a better team with Williams, their attitude shifted against the Pacers. The energy returned. The hustle returned. The win returned.
"It was a complete team game tonight," said center Brook Lopez, who poured in a game-high 25 points. "Everyone contributed from top to bottom. Everyone stuck together."
The Nets didn't beat the Eastern Conference's third ranked team because Williams "finally sat out." But their carefree attitude and dogged hustle at least raises the question why they were able to play so much better despite missing their floor general?
Longtime Nets beat writer Dave D'Alessandro described Williams as "one evening gown shy of a diva."
Ric Bucher recently said Williams' demeaning attitude following teammates' mistakes involved eye-rolling and staring at the bench. Those aren't Bucher's thoughts either. Those are direct observations from scouts.
Whether or not the opinions of those outside the Nets organization represents what his teammates think about him is anyone's guess. One game is also an incredibly small sample size. The Nets' performance Monday night at least generates some food for thought, though.
The team bumbled offensively, but what they lacked in offensive execution they made up for in defensive tenacity. Reggie Evans hauled in 22 rebounds while Gerald Wallace posted a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds).
Wallace also displayed the leadership the Nets seem to lack with Williams running the point. He blocked two shots, grabbed two steals, and efficiently used a foul to give at the end of regulation to ensure overtime.
He had the right attitude, as did his teammates in the grind-out win.
Williams attributed his poor body language in New Jersey to a struggling team and apathetic teammates, but what's the excuse now?
Even with the Nets underachieving, they're still 30-22. Things could be a lot worse.
But if Williams has reached "diva" status, the Nets deserve a large portion of the blame. They rolled out the red carpet for a great player, not a legendary one. Management desperately wooed Williams as if he was the only player capable of saving the franchise.
So Williams has an ego, who do you think gave him one?
After playing a large part in the resignation of Jerry Sloan, the Nets subsequently made Williams a de facto management head. Williams is a guard, not a marketer, not a general manager, and not a talent evaluator.
The Nets reportedly traded for Wallace as a good-will move to curry favor with Williams. In reality, they simply could've kept the No. 6 pick which turned into Damian Lillard and signed Wallace as a free agent.
In exchange for the likely rookie of the year, the Nets essentially traded for 16 games of Wallace. All in an effort to please Williams.
So that might explain why for one game in February, the Nets played like a team not walking around on eggshells.
As Lopez said, the Nets had a "complete team game." Let's see if that continues after the All-Star break.