The Brooklyn Nets are hoping a new coach can help them realize their lofty goals. A home game against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats might get the team headed back in the right direction.
Brooklyn will seek only its fourth win this month in interim coach P.J. Carlesimo's debut Friday night against the Bobcats, losers of 16 in a row.
The Nets started 11-4 after a re-energizing move from New Jersey and a $350 million spending binge, but they've lost 10 of 13 since the beginning of December. That lull cost Avery Johnson his job Thursday.
"We don't have the same fire now than we did when we were 11-4," general manager Billy King said of his 14-14 squad.
Carlesimo is 204-296 over eight seasons, the most recent a 13-game stretch with Oklahoma City in 2008-09. He won 44 or more games in each of his first three NBA seasons with Portland from 1994-97.
One of the first tasks for the veteran coach is getting better performances from his star trio of Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams.
Johnson, acquired from Atlanta in a seven-player deal in July, is scoring 16.9 points per game - his fewest since 2003-04 - while Lopez is averaging his fewest (17.5) since his 2008-09 rookie season after signing a four-year, $61 million extension.
Williams, who recently criticized Avery Johnson's offense, is averaging 16.6 points - his fewest since 2006-07 - on a career-low 39.8 percent shooting.
"Our goal is to get to the conference finals," King said. "We have to get back to playing winning basketball. It's the entire team. It's not like golf, where Tiger Woods can blame the caddie. It takes five guys on the court and they're all struggling."
The Nets, giving up 8.5 more points per game this month, let Milwaukee make 10 of 17 shots from 3-point range in a 108-93 road loss Wednesday.
The Nets now get to face a team that's struggled to contain opponents even more. Charlotte is giving up 109.1 points per game during its losing streak - tied for the second-longest in team history - and has let an opponent reach the century mark in 14 consecutive contests.
After trailing by 17 at halftime, the Bobcats (7-21) rallied to within two points of Miami in the fourth quarter Wednesday but couldn't get enough late stops in a 105-92 defeat.
Charlotte dropped a franchise-worst 23 in a row to end last season, finishing 7-59 and with the worst winning percentage in NBA history. The Bobcats started 7-5 under new coach Mike Dunlap and have lost 12 games by 10 points or fewer after suffering more than one-third of their defeats in 2011-12 by 20 or more.
"Losing is losing," guard Kemba Walker said after scoring 27 points Wednesday. "Hopefully we can stop it soon. But it's no different at all from last year. We lost last year and we're losing this year and it's not a good feeling at all."
Walker, averaging a team-best 18.6 points, shot 32.5 percent in his team's four losses against the Nets last season. Williams scored a career-high 57 points in a 104-101 victory in Charlotte on March 4.
The Nets haven't won five straight over the Bobcats since taking the first five matchups Nov. 30, 2004-Dec. 7, 2005.