Brooklyn Nets look to turn around bad season vs. Hawks

By on April 19, 2015

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It’s become almost fashionable to dismiss the Nets as pretenders.

Former Net Paul Pierce recently characterized Deron Williams as indifferent and scared of the spotlight in an ESPN.com story.

Critics have used the Nets’ 38-44 record as proof that the playoff system needs to be revamped to include the top 16 teams, regardless of conference.

And a matchup between the No. 8 Nets and top-seeded Hawks has aimed a spotlight again on the knee-jerk way the Nets were constructed compared to the long-term approach of the Hawks.

As the Nets travel to Atlanta for Game 1 of a playoff series on Sunday, it’s easy to pick on the team from Brooklyn.

But listening to Thaddeus Young talk of this season being so difficult because of the death of his mother of breast cancer in November certainly added a rare human component to a team that can sometimes seem cool and removed.

And hearing Lionel Hollins talk about what it means to return to the playoffs after his contract wasn’t renewed in Memphis and was out of basketball for a year did the same.

While the Nets can’t change the personnel moves that failed in the past, they now at least have a chance — and a slight one against a Hawks team that won 60 games and all four meetings with Brooklyn this season — to lift a cloud that has hovered over the team all season.

In a letter to fans on the team website, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov spoke of the relief he felt barely making the playoffs.

“It really came down to the wire but we’re in the playoffs and hallelujah, baby!” he wrote.

“(It’s a) perfect situation — we’re the underdogs,” Young said following practice on Saturday. “So we have to play with a little chip on our shoulders each and every day. It’s the start of a new beginning, a new journey. When you go into the playoffs, the records are 0-0.”

Young’s mother, Lula Hall, died of breast cancer on Nov. 13 following an 18-month battle. She was 57. Young, playing with Minnesota at the time, missed five games then to go on bereavement leave.

He was then swapped for Kevin Garnett in February.

“It’s definitely been probably one of the toughest if not the toughest year,” Young said. “She was a great woman. She did everything she could to sacrifice for me and my brother and sisters so . . . I know she wants me to continue to play and continue to be strong and she will always be close to my heart and I just play for her each and every game.”

Young has fit in seamlessly with the Nets since he arrived. He was also part of a Sixers team in 2012 that upset No. 1 Chicago as an eighth seed in a first-round series. So he believes in momentum. As does Hollins, who reached the Western Conference finals with the Grizzlies in 2013 before he and Memphis went their separate ways.

“I’m happy to be back here and having been out a year and to come back and coach a team and get back — it makes me happy,” he said. “But I’m much happier for the players and I’m proud of them and their will and how they stuck with it and earned the right to get here.”

REBOUNDS
Alan Anderson went through the contact portion of practice on Saturday for the first time since he was sidelined for seven straight games with a left ankle injury, although Hollins still didn’t say if he will play on Sunday. “He’s going to dress but I don’t know what I’m going to do as far as putting him in,” he said.

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