The New Jersey Nets finished a disappointing first half of the season by winning two of four, including wins over playoff contenders in the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks on the road. They also got center Brook Lopez back after he missed the first 32 games of the season and are looking at a playoff run despite a 10-25 record.
However, the optimism that Avery Johnson and his crew are trying to carry into the second half can't overshadow what can only be considered an incomplete start to the 2011-12 NBA season. For the second straight season the franchise has had to answer non-stop questions about another team's star (this time around it's Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard playing the role of then-Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony) and has been unable to keep a starting lineup on the floor.
It's the final season for the Nets in the Garden State, but instead of going out with a bang, the sound most heard coming from the Prudential Center has been a thud. That's thanks to a scary 3-13 home record, second only to the Charlotte Bobcats for fewest wins at home.
There have also been plenty of screams in Newark and not from the terrible play. That's mostly because no one has been in the building to see the team play. The screams have been from the Nets players that have been rotating on the injury report every day, with two players being knocked out for the season with foot injuries (Damion James and Keith Bogans).
Johnson has done all he can to push his team to stay competitive and has been able to lean on Deron Williams delivering one of the best seasons of his career. The free agent-to-be is averaging a career-high 22.2 points to go along with 8.2 assists while often willing the Nets back into games after they found themselves in huge early holes.
Making things even more difficult for the struggling and short-handed Nets are the swirling rumors about a potential Howard deal. With half the roster involved in any trade and Williams' future directly tied to D12's, the distractions are never far from the court for this squad.
Much like last year, the focus is on Brooklyn and the brand new Barclays Center that awaits for the beginning of the 2012-13 season. That means despite a fantastic campaign from Williams, boo-bashing double-doubles from Kris Humphries and the emergence of rookie MarShon Brooks, the New Jersey Nets first half report card is very clearly marked with "INCOMPLETE".