Three wins to start the season would not be a major accomplishment for most NBA teams. For the New Jersey Nets, it's a franchise record, their best start since joining the league in 1976.
"I've been here for six years, and this means more to me than anybody," said center Jayson Williams, who has seen the team win a total of 86 games over the past three seasons. "I've been in purgatory for six years, and now I'm finally out."What makes the start even more remarkable for second-year coach John Calipari is that the Nets have beaten Indiana, Milwaukee and Golden State without two of their starters. Shooting guard Kerry Kittles has a groin injury and rookie power forward Keith Van Horn probably will miss at least the first month with a badly sprained ankle.
Injuries also have forced the Nets, who last made the playoffs in 1994, to practice in recent weeks with fewer than 10 players.
"I told them before the game that three wins in a row is a barrier to this organization," Calipari said Wednesday night after seven Nets scored in double figures in a 112-96 win over the winless Warriors. "You may say that is ridiculous, but it is. Now we have to say, `What are the other barriers we can break?' "
Some of those answers may come over the weekend. The Nets, who won 26 games last season, face Miami at home tonight, then go to Chicago Saturday to meet the Bulls and Michael Jordan.
Calipari is anxious to see what happens against those two playoff teams.
"The thing that happens when you start anteing up is the other teams come to play," Calipari said. "You don't win a game sneaking up. You win it now when they are playing at their best. Nothing feels better than beating a team when they play their best."
None of the teams the Nets have beaten played very well. Indiana and Milwaukee both blew double-digit second-half leads, and the Warriors fell behind by as many as 30 points.
One major area of improvement for the Nets is defense. They held the Warriors' Latrell Sprewell to four points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field. He averaged 35 points in the first two games of the season.
While the Nets don't have a true big man in the middle, they are playing great help defense.