New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - There are plenty of factors that go into the Nets' 5-13 start, but you have to begin with the rash of injuries they've had to deal with, which includes losing their two best players, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez for extended periods of time.
And then more bad news came on Monday with the announcement that Paul Pierce will be out two to four weeks with a broken bone in his right hand.
Williams, whose been dealing with ankle issues since the preseason and has never been at full strength, has to feel snake-bitten at this point.
The three-time All-Star point guard played just 10 minutes in the preseason due to a right ankle sprain and it led to a rocky start to the regular season. Over the first seven games, Williams averaged 11.1 ppg in just over 28 minutes as the Nets went 2-5. Then in the early moments of game number eight on Nov. 15 in Phoenix, he sprained his left ankle, which sidelined him for the next two games.
But his run of bad luck didn't end there. When Williams returned to the lineup on Nov. 20 in Charlotte, he re-sprained the left ankle and has been sidelined ever since.
Compounding the situation for the Nets was that Lopez sprained his left ankle too against the Suns and missed the next seven games and Brooklyn managed to win just one game during that stretch.
As much as the injuries to their two best players have contributed to the Nets' poor start, don't underestimate the absence of Andrei Kirilenko, who suffered back spasms on Nov. 8 in a loss to the Wizards and hasn't seen the court since.
Kirilenko's presence in the frontcourt could have been very helpful, given the atrocious play so far from Kevin Garnett and Pierce. And now the Nets' depth on the front line is even thinner with Pierce sidelined.
The deal with Boston that brought the pair to Brooklyn had many NBA observers believing that the Nets would at least be one of the top teams in the East, and had their owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, thinking championship.
But Garnett's and Pierce's play have taken a precipitous drop from last season, and you have to wonder if they have enough in the tank for the Nets to be a formidable team even if they get their full compliment of players back.
In an attempt to save wear-and-tear on Garnett's 37-year old body, coach Jason Kidd is playing him just under 23 minutes per game, but his production, nonetheless, has been terrible. He's averaging only 6.5 ppg and hitting on just 36 percent of his shots from the field.
Meanwhile, the 36-year old Pierce, who averaged 18.6 ppg in his final season in Boston and shot 43.6 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point range, was averaging just 12.4 ppg before being sidelined and was shooting 36.8 percent from the field and an even uglier 26.8 percent from downtown.
Finally, as the Nets await Williams' return, they have to wonder what kind of player he will be. Only during the second half of last season has he come close to resembling the player he was with the Utah Jazz. If he can't reach that level again, there's not a lot of reason for optimism in Brooklyn.
- I'm sure it's not any solace to the Nets, but the team they share the spotlight with in New York has been even worse. The Knicks have lost nine straight games, own the league's second worst record at 3-13, and now there are rumors that coach Mike Woodson's job is in jeopardy. It's amazing that owner James Dolan doesn't realize the obvious, and it's the fact that he needs better players and not a better coach. There's no denying that losing starting center Tyson Chandler in the fourth game of the season was a big blow, but the bigger problem has been the awful play of J.R. Smith, last season's Sixth Man of the Year winner, along with Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert.
- There seems to be a little bit of life in the Jazz lately after a 1-14 start and some of the credit has to go to rookie Trey Burke, who missed the first 12 games of the season with a broken right index finger. Utah has won three of its last four games and Burke's play was instrumental in all three wins. Last week, in his first NBA victory, he hit a runner late in regulation against the Chicago Bulls to force overtime and hit a big 3 to cushion Utah's lead. The former Michigan star had 20 points to help the Jazz win in Phoenix, then had 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting, along with six assists and no turnovers in an impressive home win on Monday against the Rockets.
- The Portland Trail Blazers' shocking 15-3 start, which is best in the West along with the San Antonio Spurs, is due in great part to LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard raising their games to a very high level. You could make the argument that they're playing like top-10 players. As a matter of fact, TotalPlayerValue.com, a basketball analytics website, currently ranks Aldridge as the fourth best player and Lillard at No. 8.
- It's hard to get much attention playing in Orlando, so that's why I have to mention what a terrific season the Magic's Arron Afflalo is having. The 28- year old swingman is averaging a career-high 22.6 ppg, and is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range. A lot of people may not remember that Afflalo came to Orlando from Denver as part of the four-team trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers.