Nets Move Forward Without Melo
(AP) — Now that New Jersey’s pursuit of superstar Carmelo Anthony has ended, the relieved Nets can finally move forward.
So too can the Detroit Pistons, another club involved in the failed three-team deal.
After snapping their latest skid, the Nets can match their win total from last season when they host the Pistons on Friday night.
Hours after New Jersey owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced the club halted its attempt to trade for the Denver Nuggets’ star, the Nets (11-31) snapped a six-game skid with a 103-95 home win over Utah on Wednesday.
In addition to money, Prokhorov said the deal had became too public and was playing out longer than he hoped.
While Wednesday’s victory was New Jersey’s second in 13 games since posting consecutive wins Dec. 19-21, it also was a sign of the team’s collective relief knowing it could remain intact.
The projected deal involved as many as eight New Jersey players. The Nets’ Troy Murphy and Johan Petro would have gone to Detroit for disgruntled swingman Richard Hamilton.
“We’re going to have less distractions now and just puts our minds at ease,” said guard Devin Harris, who appeared headed to Denver. “We can move forward and hopefully have more wins like this. We weren’t exactly walking on egg shells, but with everyone talking about it, asking about it and writing about it, well, it does get annoying. It was a tough situation for all of us.”
Brook Lopez scored 11 of his 20 points in a 29-point third quarter while Harris added 14 with eight assists as the Nets shot 49.3 percent and reached 100 points for the second straight contest.
Though New Jersey has the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference, it is much improved from the club that had three wins at this time last season.
“We’ll keep developing the players we have and keep improving,” coach Avery Johnson said.
The Nets look to further improve with a third straight victory overall and at home against Detroit (15-27).
Lopez scored 25 points and Harris had 22 with nine assists in New Jersey’s 101-98 season-opening victory over the Pistons on Oct. 27. Lopez has averaged 29.7 points in his last three home games versus Detroit.
The Pistons had their season-high three-game winning streak snapped in Wednesday’s 86-82 loss at Boston. Detroit shot 41.9 percent after making 52.4 percent of its shots while averaging 104.7 points during the winning stretch.
Despite the loss, the Pistons still believe they are making strides in the right direction.
“We competed with the best team in the East, and one of the better teams in this league, on their home court,” said Pistons guard Tracy McGrady, who has started the last five games. “If we can give this type of effort night-in and night-out, we’re going to give ourselves a chance. We just have to learn how to close out games and to execute down the stretch.”
Detroit likely needs McGrady to get back track after he totaled 13 points on 6-of-16 shooting in his last three contests following a two-game stretch where he scored 38 and made 14 of 28 shots.
McGrady went scoreless on three shots in 13 minutes off the bench at New Jersey in October.
Averaging a disappointing 13.2 points, Hamilton has not played the last five games amid talk his days with Detroit could be numbered.
Updated January 20, 2011
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