HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When Nets coach Avery Johnson was gushing about his team’s London excursion and how important it was for them to get that unique time away from their normal surroundings, it would have been easy to assume it was just a coach trying to say all the right things for the benefit of his audience.
But Johnson wasn’t just putting on a show for those of us media members in attendance. He was serious about the opportunity that historic trip to London — for two “home” games against the Toronto Raptors at 02 Arena, the first NBA regular-season games played on European soil — provided his new-look team. All-Star point guard Deron Williams was just days into his tenure with the Nets after coming over in a deal with the Jazz at the trade deadline.
Something clicked for the Nets over there, because they haven’t lost a game since that first win over the Raptors in London. They’ve rattled off five straight wins, including last night’s stunner over the Celtics in Newark.
There has even been mention of the playoffs (don’t laugh, the Nets have not been mathematically eliminated yet), chatter that would have seemed ridiculous weeks ago when the Nets were neck-deep in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes.
Now they’ve won five straight for the first time since January of 2008. Johnson was stoked to knock off the struggling Raptors in back-to-back games in London, the second a triple-overtime thriller that seemed like anything but a battle of teams with win totals in the teens. So you’d expect him to be fired up after guiding his team to a win over the mighty Celtics.
“The last couple of games, obviously, we beat two teams that were under .500 (Golden State and the L.A. Clippers),” Johnson told Colin Stephenson of the Star-Ledger. “But now you’ve got the team that’s basically the best team in the East coming in, and it’s exciting. I’m excited for our guys.”