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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
P.J.: Team effort boosts D-Will, JJ

By Matt Ehalt

Johnson-Williams
Joe Johnson and Deron Williams have stepped up their games under P.J. Carlesimo.
It's taken a team effort for Nets point guard Deron Williams and shooting guard Joe Johnson to return to their All-Star forms under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo.

"I don't want to say (Williams is) not playing better, he is," Carlesimo said on the Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "But I think a lot of it is the team playing better, and some of the residual effect is helping Joe and Deron."

The Nets have surged to an impressive 11-2 mark since Carlesimo took over for the fired Avery Johnson, and the team's dynamic guards are finally starting to play up to their contracts. Joe Johnson and Williams are both shooting better since the change, and the team's offense is in sync.

For D-Will and JJ to step it up on any given night, they need help -- and the reserves have answered the call lately. The coach said most teams plan their defense around stopping Williams and Johnson, so they see constant double-teams and are harassed all game. When the secondary players play up to par, it aids the Nets' guards since teams can't apply the same defensive intensity to the pair.

Monday's 88-85 win over the Knicks was an example of the improved play of the Nets' reserves. Kris Humphries scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Keith Bogans had eight points in addition to playing some great defense on Carmelo Anthony. Carlesimo also praised Andray Blatche, MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic.

"In a sense, it does become easier for Deron and Joe," Carlesimo said. "People can't just gang up on them quite as much as they were. I think they're getting better looks now, and I think they're not playing under duress with people draped over them all the time."

The Nets have played almost perfect ball over the past month, which makes their struggles earlier this season stand out. The Nets were a 14-14 team prior to Avery Johnson's dismissal, and suddenly have become one of the hottest teams in the league under Carlesimo.

Carlesimo believes the team's struggles had to do with a combination of scheduling (the Nets had five back-to-back games in December) and an injury to center Brook Lopez. He also said the significant changes to the roster played a role as the players had to adjust to one another.

"We got a lot of new faces in the rotation, so I think guys are getting more comfortable playing with each other also," Carlesimo said.

The Nets have surged after their coaching change, while the Lakers have continued to struggle since theirs. The Lakers brought in a new coach with a new system, but Carlesimo said the Nets run the same offense as before, and 90 percent of things are being done the same way.

The only difference is the Nets are winning.

"For us, it was an easier transition because we're doing virtually the exact same things that we have," Carlesimo said. "Most of the staff is still here. It's made for an easier transition for our players, and our players being as accepting and responsive as they have has made it easy for us."