By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Prior to what proved to be the Brooklyn Nets' first win in March, and just their second victory in the last six games, P.J. Carlesimo called for a gutcheck.
The Nets' interim coach questioned his team's work ethic on defense, scrappiness off the offensive glass and their overall resolve to take better care of the basketball.
He also sat down struggling power forward Kris Humphries for the foreseeable future in a bid to wake up his slumbering squad.
And for the second time during their inaugural season in our fair borough, the Nets were fortunate enough to get their make-or-break shakeup before facing the league's worst team.
Joe Johnson scored 22 points, Deron Williams netted 20 and Reggie Evans pulled down 16 rebounds as Brooklyn used a 28-9 third quarter to run past the hapless Bobcats, 99-78, before 13, 382 fans at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena.
'It was passion, not effort,'' Carlesimo said afterward, noting how the Nets turned a 10-point halftime deficit into its largest margin of victory this season. ''We didn't play with near the same passion [in the first half] that we did in the second half."
All-Star center Brook Lopez scored 16 points and Gerald Wallace had five of the Nets' season-high 10 blocked shots as Brooklyn (35-26) moved back into the coveted fourth slot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Ironically, Carlesimo's debut as the Nets' new head man took place against these same Bobcats at the Barclays Center on Dec. 28. With the team struggling through its worst stretch of the season, owner Mikhail Prokhorov gave Avery Johnson the boot in an effort to wake up his $330 milion unit.
The Nets responded with a 97-71 win that night, and once again pulverized Charlotte (13-48) Wednesday in their latest "statement" win.
Brooklyn hopes to carry over the momentum from the less-than-momentous win during a stretch of four games in five nights, which begins with Friday night's contest against visiting Washington (19-40). After that, the Nets visit Atlanta on Saturday, take the train to Philadelphia Monday and return to the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues for Tuesday's date with the New Orleans Hornets.
Humphries, one of the few bright spots during the Nets' dismal final three seasons in Jersey, has been a virtual non-factor since losing his starting spot 20 games into this campaign. The 6-foot-9 power forward is averaging 5.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game after averaging a double-double in those categories in each of the previous two seasons, numbers that garnered him a two-year, $24 million contract this past summer.
While Humphries sat out his first full game since Jan. 11, foreign import Mirza Teletovic, reportedly one of Prokhorov's favorites, logged 14 minutes of playing time. The Bosnian forward finished with three points, three rebounds and two assists.
Carlesimo hinted that he wasn't necessarily sitting Humphries for the rest of the season, explaining that it was more than likely something that he was trying for the "next four or five games." If the Nets keep winning without him, the soon-to-be former Mr. Kardashian gives the Nets a trade chip for the offseason as a valuable expiring contract in 2013-14.
Unless, of course, they need another wake-up call in a week or two.
Hoop du Jour: G Williams, who readily admits that a "juice cleanse" during the All-Star break has helped him drop some pounds and gain a few inches on his vertical leap, has scored at least 20 point in each of his last five games. ... The Nets are 5-1 when F Evans rips down at least 15 boards this season. ... The Barclays Center will host the 2013 Jordan Brand Classic on April 13 as some area high school All-Stars will take on the nation's highest-touted hoops recruits. Representing the tri-state area team from Brooklyn are: Jaquan Lynch (Thomas Jefferson), Chinonso Obokoh (Bishop Kerney/Syracuse University), Terrence Samuel (South Shore/UConn), Jonathan Severe (Christ the King) and Shamiek Sheppard (South Shore/Towson). The Nets will be in the midst of a three-game road trip that evening.