When the Nets moved from Newark to Atlantic Avenue, they changed their name from New Jersey to Brooklyn.
Their identity has been a little harder to suss out. As we've discussed in the past, the first 53 games of this season have seen the Nets bounce from world beaters to beaten up more than once.
All of that ping ponging back and forth makes it hard to know just what to expect from the team over the final 29 games of the year. One of the things that makes it particularly difficult is the lack of a clear idea about what the team's leader will be able to offer on the court after a first half that failed to reach expectations.
That question is the first of five that will have to be answered before we can write the story of the first season of NBA basketball in Brooklyn.
What's going on with Deron Williams?
Williams missed the final two games before the break thanks to problems in both ankles that have often left him as a shell of his former self this season. Williams says that he's going to be back on the court when play resumes against the Bucks on Tuesday even though he admits that he needs more time to heal up and can't even dunk because of the injuries.
If Williams isn't able to provide a more consistent level of performance in the second half, the Nets are going to struggle to keep up their pace. The team plays at a slow pace built around Williams being on the court with the ball in his hands so anything less than the admittedly disappointing results thus far will have drastic implications.
Will they make a move?
The Nets have been dangling Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks in trade talks for weeks now with Hawks forward Josh Smith thought to be the object of the team's affections. G.M. Billy King put the chances of a trade at 10 percent, although you accept the words of a G.M. two days before the deadline at your own peril.
Smith's a very good player, but it might not be the best move for the Nets to bring in another offensive player who needs the ball in his hands to be effective. Things get plodding for Brooklyn a bit too often on that side of the ball and any move should be designed to alleviate that issue.
Can the Nets be road warriors?
The end of March sees the Nets start an eight-game road trip that ends in early April with a trip to Cleveland. The teams on the slate aren't particularly good, but the swing will come at a moment when the Nets will likely be fighting a tough battle for playoff position in the East and any trip of that nature can be daunting.
What's in reserve?
The Nets have gotten strong contributions from Andray Blatche and Keith Bogans, but the rest of the bench has been mediocre at best this season. Getting more out of Humphries (assuming he isn't dealt), Brooks (ditto), C.J. Watson and Mirza Teletovic would help the Nets navigate the storms to come without overworking the starters before the postseason.
Is P.J. the man for the long haul?
This goes back to the identity question because you get the feeling the Nets would like a more dynamic name on the sideline than Carlesimo, but it will be hard for the team to cut bait if they were to finish with a division title. For our money, we'd keep Carlesimo, whose lack of flash hasn't stopped him from succeeding where Avery Johnson failed.