When the Nets fired Avery Johnson amid a losing skid, P.J. Carlesimo got his feet wet with a game against the woeful Charlotte Bobcats.
It had to make Carlesimo happy, then, to see that the schedule served up the Bobcats again on Wednesday night as the Nets try to snap themselves out of a funk that's seen them lose four of their last five games. Sometimes winning can breed the confidence you need to turn things back to your advantage and few teams offer you quite so good a shot at winning as Charlotte.
The Bobcats are the kind of team you can go out and run right off the court in a way that makes you feel like the king of the world. Based on the score of Wednesday night's game, you'd think that's just what the Nets were able to accomplish.
But the 99-78 score was misleading. This was not a case of the Nets carving up the Bobcats because they'd found their footing again after a rough patch caused by Joe Johnson's brief absence with an injury, it was a case of the Nets beating an awful team with a performance that wouldn't have beaten a halfway decent one.
After shooting 22 of 44 in the first half of the game, Charlotte slumped to 10 of 40 in the second half to hand back a 10-point lead and let the Nets run away with the game. You could argue that the Nets' defense stepped up once the second half got underway, but it looked a lot more like the Bobcats suddenly bricking all of the attempts that they were making before the break.
Where there was a clear difference was on the boards as the Nets won the battle on the glass in the third quarter 17-4 to carry them into the lead. That's effort, something the Nets decided to try in the second half of the game after conserving their energy throughout the first half and something that they might want to try for a full 48 minutes in the future.
They'll want to try it because teams with any ability whatsoever are going to beat them when they turn the ball over 25 times and give up points in the paint the way Chinese restaurants give out fortune cookies. Deron Williams and Johnson can combine for nine threes on good shooting nights all they want, but it isn't going to mean a thing if the rest of the effort is so half-hearted.
Carlesimo talked about shaking up the rotation and he did bench Kris Humphries, but this pretty much looked like the same Nets team that created all the concern in the first place. That was the case in Carlesimo's first game as head coach as well.
Beating the Bobcats means nothing. It's what the Nets do next that will count and we know that they'll have to do more to seriously alter the trajectory of their season.