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dirt_dobber
02-06-2007, 11:11 AM
http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/story/494778p-416848c.html

Frankly, Nets look lost

BY MITCH LAWRENCE
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Maybe Lawrence Frank hasn't lost the Nets. Maybe they're still listening to their coach. But after yesterday's debacle, a 101-99 overtime loss at the Meadowlands to the lowly Atlanta Hawks on a day the Nets mailed it in for the first 44 minutes or so, it's definitely open to question.

Not long after Tyronn Lue's 22-footer at the end of OT sent New Jersey to its sixth loss in its last eight games, Frank chastised his team for doing what teams that tune out their coaches regularly do.

"It's just disheartening when we're not giving maximum effort because it's something we had been doing," Frank said. "We turn that switch on and off, very selectively, during the game. It's very hard to figure."

It's harder to figure given that the Nets boast Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, two All-Star performers and veteran players who shouldn't be allowing their team, now three games behind Toronto in the Atlantic Division, to go through the motions. Not when it has lost six of its last eight to fall to 22-26. But that's exactly what happened before the Nets woke up and sent the game into overtime after trailing by four points with 43 seconds to play in regulation.

Carter and Marcus Williams got the Nets into the extra session with late baskets, but they lost their fourth buzzer-beater in their last eight games when Lue knocked down his shot over Antoine Wright. Led by Joe Johnson's 37 points and eight assists, the Hawks reacted as if they had won the Super Bowl. Josh Smith ran to midcourt and tackled Lue, who then was carried off the floor by his teammates.

While the Hawks (18-28) were a picture of jubilation, the Nets walked off the court in mass dejection. Carter and Kidd agreed with Frank's harsh assessment. But they need to prove they're still listening to their coach starting tonight in Philadelphia, when the Nets continue a stretch in which they play five games in seven days.

"We have to find a way," said Carter, who drilled a wide-open three-pointer with 2.9 seconds to play in overtime to tie the game at 99-99 and finished with 27 points. "We have to come out and play hard and scrappy, from start to finish. We can't decide to do it at certain points of the game. We have to do it as a unit, for 48 minutes. I think we understand it. We just have to do it."

Either that or the Nets will miss the playoffs. If they are waiting around for Richard Jefferson to return to fuel their late-season charge, that would be a mistake. Jefferson was supposed to miss four-to-six weeks when he underwent ankle surgery on Jan.22. According to one source, it now looks as if he'll be out for the full six weeks, placing his return sometime in the beginning of March.

"Everybody is trying to do their best," Kidd said. "We're fighting uphill. Our margin for error is very slim. We've just got to stay together. Any time people have counted us out, we have always responded."

They need to again, more than ever.