There were times last season when you could see the frustration etched on Shane Larkin’s face. Losses piled up like dirty laundry as the historically bad Knicks became the NBA’s punching bag and its punch line. It was difficult to go to work every day, he said.
The truth is, not all that much has changed for Larkin this season with the Nets. The Knicks won 17 games last season, and this Nets team, which has lost four in a row, is on pace to win 21. They’ve been beset by injuries and are the worst fourth-quarter scorers in the league, leading to a slew of late collapses. They’ve yet to hire a general manager, and, unlike the Knicks, there likely won’t be any Kristaps Porzingises in their future, given that the Celtics have their draft pick.
But instead of anger or even all that much frustration, most of the Nets, Larkin included, are determined to view this lost season as an opportunity.
“I haven’t established myself as a proven backup, whatever,” said Larkin, who has been sharing time at the point with Donald Sloan after Jarrett Jack’s season-ending injury. “That’s what I’m trying to do. Every single night I go out there, I have that mentality. Even though lately I’ve been struggling, stay confident and keep playing.”
Thaddeus Young called Thursday’s practice upbeat despite the beating the Nets (11-32) got from the Cavaliers the night before. Interim coach Tony Brown is focused on upping the pace and creating a more free-flowing offense, and though it hasn’t translated to wins, it has given them something to shoot for.
“I don’t think I’ve seen everyone moving like that all year,” Brook Lopez said as they prepared to host the Jazz tonight. “I think it definitely lends to a lot of guys’ game. It gets them to the open court, to a lot of things they like to do. It’s something we needed more of.”
Larkin, who has the ignominious honor of playing through futile seasons for both New York teams, has learned a thing or two along the way about making the best out of a bad situation. (Though he wishes he didn’t have to.)
“You’ve just got to keep a positive outlook and come out every day trying to get better, because it’s not the end of the road,” he said. “You can go out there tomorrow and get hurt and never be able to play basketball again . . . This year, I’m not going to pity myself. I’m not going to get down on my situation. I’m playing the game that I love every single night.”
Notes & quotes: The Nets toured their new practice facility in Brooklyn on Thursday, with the expectation that it will be ready to replace their East Rutherford facility after next month’s All-Star break. “I’m definitely looking forward to it,” said Young, who lives in Brooklyn. Some of his teammates already are using his place to get to a Brooklyn state of mind. “Ronde [Hollis-Jefferson] has already started crashing on my couch,” he said. “Before games he comes over. He eats, he plays with my kids and then he lays down for like four or five hours.” Those who don’t want to couch surf, like Lopez, will be moving from New Jersey. “Brooklyn is such a diverse, lively place,” he said. “It’s a little bit weird, so I feel like I fit right in.”