12:45 pm Jan. 9, 2013
Yesterday might have been a hard day for the Brooklyn Nets to focus on basketball.
The day began with a speculative Daily News story about a theoretical trade for Dwight Howard.
Then came reports that a Nets player had been questioned by Philadelphia police in an alleged sexual assault. The player wasn't named at first, so a local TV reporter grilled Deron Williams about it.
Once the player turned out to be Andray Blatche, the team and coaching staff needed to fend off real questions about the incident, with a report from that reporter's television station including some ugly details about the night in question.
But then the Nets went out and dominated the Philadelphia 76ers, in Philly, 109-89.
The common complaint about the Nets, that they are overhyped, was turned on its head. The Nets used their on-court play to overshadow a rough public-relations day off of it.
Blatche was at the center of this effort. Though he didn't start, he managed to score 20 points in 22 minutes, taking a game-high 15 shots. He added seven rebounds, two assists, and did not commit a turnover. It was a strong performance for someone who had been out all night and then questioned by police in the early morning.
But all the Nets contirbuted. After a solid first half gave the Nets a 48-47 lead, a 35-14 edge in the third quarter ended all suspense. Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson all had multiple field goals during the onslaught; the Sixers scored six baskets as a team in the quarter. By the end of the third quarter, Reggie Evans collected a career-high 23 rebounds; that total was higher than the Sixers' total for the game of 22.
The quarter also served as an effusive counterpoint to the 30-5 destruction the Nets suffered at the hands on the San Antonio Spurs on New Year's Eve, also in the third quarter.
The Nets haven't lost since. Five of their six largest margins of victory this season have come under P.J. Carlesimo, who has only been the coach since December 28.
Many of the January victories have come against the league's lesser teams, teams the Nets frequently beat under Avery Johnson as well. But in his final days as coach, Johnson's Nets weren't even doing that, let alone earning victories like the one the Nets tallied against the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this month.
Whatever else the story is, things are going well for the Nets.