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Thursday, April 11, 2013
Playoffs not enough, says Nets' coach

By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com

Right now, Brooklyn Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo doesn't think just making the playoffs is good enough.

"No. I certainly wouldn't say that going into the playoffs," Carlesimo said Thursday on ESPN New York 98.7's "The Michael Kay Show."

"I don't know what expectations are. When you have as many changes in a roster as we've had for a year, who knows what we should've done; whether we've won as many as we should've; whether we should've won a lot more; whether we're supposed to win our matchup in the playoffs, whoever that is. That's all gonna evolve. I mean, injuries could be a factor, a lot of things could be a factor.

"When it's all over, certainly (owner) Mr. (Mikhail) Prokhorov is gonna be the one to decide if we did a good job; if we did what we were supposed to do; we did what was expected ... who knows that? That's not for a coach to say."

The Nets (46-32) qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2006-07 on March 21. Their magic number to clinch the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs is two. But given that they spent $330 million to improve their roster in the offseason, expectations are high. Prokhorov said that a successful first season in Brooklyn would be defined as possibly a trip to the conference finals.

That may be a tall task, given the Nets would likely play the top-seeded and defending champion Miami Heat in the second round should they advance. The Heat swept the Nets in the regular season, winning all three games by an average of 21 points. LeBron James owns a personal 17-game winning streak against the Nets.

However, the two teams have not played since Jan. 30, and Deron Williams wasn't healthy then. Since Feb. 19 (25 games), the 28-year-old point guard, no longer hampered by inflammation in both of his ankles, is averaging 22.8 points and 7.9 assists while shooting 48.1 percent from the field, 41.8 percent from 3-point range.

"Without question the team to beat in the East is Miami, but I don't think they're unbeatable," said Carlesimo, who said similar things earlier this season. "They've proven to be the best team in the league to this point, but I think particularly, if you've got a front line that can rebound and you can take care of the ball against them, which we have not done, then I think they can be vulnerable. It's going to take a heck of an effort to beat them -- no question about that -- but I don't think they're head-and-shoulders above everybody else."

Why haven't the Nets been able to stay with the Heat this season?

"Their quickness factor, and we have some tough match-ups both frontcourt and backcourt," Carlesimo said. "We have an advantage in terms of rebounding, but we haven't been able to take care of the ball well enough and we haven't been able to handle their pressure well enough to control it.

"Until we prove that, I can understand why somebody would say they're not capable of beating Miami, but again, I don't think it's insurmountable. I think our guys realize what they have to do and we haven't played them in a long time. We're playing right now as well as we've played all year, and if we're healthy, I like our chances against anybody."

Carlesimo is 32-18 in 50 games since taking over for Avery Johnson, but it's unknown if he'll be back next season. Carlesimo's chances of keeping the job long-term are expected to ride on how well his team performs in the playoffs.

"I like where we're at," Carlesimo said. "I think going into the playoffs right now if we can continue to keep our guys healthy -- Joe Johnson looks like he's back, making progress. We still have four games left in a little more than week. We just, Joe's gotta be healthy. Gerald Wallace got banged up last night, and we've been holding Keith Bogans out a couple games trying to get him healthy, but right now my biggest concern is the health and then we'll just deal with whatever we've gotta deal with in the playoffs."