And we're back. It seems like only yesterday that the hopes and dreams of a 30-win season were dashed by the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls. Now, almost six months later, all of the key players other than Emeka Okafor from last year's up-and-down team will take the floor against the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn and Washington actually had similar offseasons, albeit on completely different scales. Washington sought to build on a promising season by tweaking a team that was working, adding complementary players via the draft and free agency. Meanwhile, Brooklyn returns most of a roster that won the team 49 games and earned a playoff berth, but the team also added Andrei Kirilenko as well as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics at the expense of a mummy that bore a passing resemblance to Gerald Wallace last year, Kris Humphries and the somewhat underrated MarShon Brooks. The Boston trio have all seen better days, but even if they're only 80 percent of what they were last year, they're going to be very effective players and could propel Brooklyn into title contention.
Where, when and how to watch? Tip off is at 7 p.m. ET at the Verizon Center. Apparently, this one isn't being televised on Comcast or even CSN+, so you'll have to watch on NBA TV or YES Network if you get it. Otherwise, you could always just come to the Verizon Center. Tickets for preseason games are cheap, even more so if you buy them off the secondary market. I won't name specific companies since it might be a conflict of interest, but one of the more prominent advertisers on this site typically has lower level tickets for preseason games for less than $30.
Why should I care? It's your first chance to see the team in action since April. Andray Blatche will be back in D.C., too, so there will be plenty of opportunities to heckle.
Will the Nets be good? Yes, until half the roster goes down due to old age. The Nets should have only four rotation players who are under 30 this year, while the team's projected starting lineup of Williams, Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Lopez has an average age of 31.6. Keep in mind that Bradley Beal still isn't old enough to drink.
Who's out? Otto Porter (hip), Emeka Okafor (neck), Trevor Booker (knee) and Chris Singleton (foot) will be out for Washington. Deron Williams sprained his ankle and will miss tonight's game, but should be good to go for Brooklyn's next preseason game. The Nets are otherwise healthy.
What will they be good at? Brooklyn should be excellent if not quite elite on both ends of the floor, with Garnett providing a massive upgrade from Reggie Evans on the defensive end, both individually and as a floor general who will make sure Lopez goes to the right spots. Brooklyn was only 17th in the NBA in defensive rating last year, but Garnett is such a game changer on that end that it's hard to imagine any team with him finishing worse than 10th. Meanwhile, the offense should feature a lot of open jumpers and due to the passing and shooting ability of everyone in the starting lineup.
What will they be bad at? Brooklyn was good across the board last year except for two areas: protecting the ball and causing their opponents to turn it over. Some of this was a result of the presence of Evans, as much of a turnover machine as anyone in the league, but it can also be tied to having too many cooks in the kitchen. Williams, Lopez, Johnson and, to an extent, Blatche were all primary options within the last few years, and the same can be said of Terry, Pierce and Garnett. It was a regular occurrence for a Brooklyn player to make a play toward the basket and kick the ball out, only to have the perimeter player hesitate before shooting or try to take advantage of an off-balance defense and make a play of his own. Garnett and Pierce successfully transitioned to complementary roles while playing with Rajon Rondo in Boston and it will be interesting to see if they can help iron out the kinks in Brooklyn's offense.
Who's going to start for Washington? Who will start is an open question and will probably be resolved at game time. Who should is another question. Jan Vesely played with the starters in practice on Friday and would make sense from a rotation standpoint, but throwing a player who's rebuilding his confidence to Garnett might not be a good idea. Al Harrington's shooting and defensive IQ are nice, but considering how starved for offense the bench is when Martell Webster starts, it would make more sense to just roll the dice with Kevin Seraphin.
Who's going to win? Brooklyn's a great team on paper, but no one has seen them in action yet, so it's hard to tell. With Williams out and Shaun Livingston likely starting in his place, Wall should be able to have a field day on offense and an easier time than usual on defense. This one will come down to whether Garnett's help defense is enough to keep Wall out of the lane. If Wall has an ordinary game, it won't be enough to make up for Brooklyn's depth and the Nets' bench should be the difference maker.
More from Bullets Forever:
- Otto Porter injury: Wizards' rookie unlikely to play in first 2 preseason games
- NBA Previews - Atlantic Division and Pacific Division links
- Path to the Playoffs: The Wizards and the Cavaliers
- Open practice recap: John Wall shines, Kevin Seraphin improves and more
- Ted Leonsis on the new season, John Wall and Bradley Beal, what he expects from Jan Vesely and more