Most fans tend to have a hierarchy of the way they follow the NBA.
They pay the most attention to their team, obviously, and then devote themselves to keeping abreast of what's going on with the rest of their division so they know what their team needs to do to come home with the crown. From there, it's the rest of the conference and then the other conference if the bandwidth is big enough for all of it.
Things don't quite work that way with the Nets. The Knicks occupy prime space on the radar screen, of course, but the Lakers aren't far behind.
That's all because of Dwight Howard and the possibility that the Lakers respond to their dreadful start to the season by backing out of the Howard acquisition by trading him to another team. The Nets remain the team most often linked to the struggling big man -- who has missed the last two games with a shoulder issue -- thanks to last year's never-ending soap opera.
So Nets fans are probably pleased to see that the Lakers roll into Barclays as winners of five of their last six games. Given all the upheaval early in the year, it's hard to imagine the Lakers would cut bait on the team they put together this season once they start showing signs of life.
Having said that, it's hard to know what the Lakers are thinking because it is clear they still don't know what they are. Steve Nash is healthy, but Kobe Bryant has taken over the main facilitator duties for the offense in this recent hot streak by dishing 61 assists in the last six games while taking just 84 shots.
It's worked well, especially in the last couple of games as Pau Gasol has returned from Mike D'Antoni's doghouse thanks to Howard's absence. Once Howard returns to something resembling full speed or the Lakers hit a rough patch, it's pretty much impossible to know how the team (and Bryant, most importantly) will reorient themselves.
This shouldn't be of paramount concern to the Nets, although life would certainly be easier for Brook Lopez if he doesn't have to face a month of questions about being traded while he's having the best season of his life. Strangely, though, they find themselves in a place where a loss on Tuesday would actually limit the chance of a headache down the road.
P.J. Carlesimo won't be using that as part of a motivational speech to the team, because a thundering win would further establish this team as one that doesn't need to gamble that the Howard of the last two years is an aberration that will be corrected down the road. Either way, it will be a good thing for the Nets to get to a place where the fate of the Lakers is no longer something that concerns the Nets or their fans.