Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Are they good? They're 2-2 but come on, all five of their starters have made All-Star teams within the last two years. Yes, they're good, and they're going to be very good once they've spent more time playing together.
Who's out? Washington will be missing Chris Singleton and Otto Porter, while the Nets are more or less healthy and should have everyone available. Yes, that includes Andray Blatche.
Why should I care? Brooklyn's ball movement is a beauty to behold and it's rare that you get to see this many legends in one place. Even their minor players like Dray and Shaun Livingston (one of my favorite players of all time regardless of who he's playing for) are pretty fun to watch.
In lieu of the typical, here's what they do well, what they don't do well stuff, I spoke to an expert, Nets Daily's Dennis Velasco. Dennis knows his stuff and I highly recommend checking out his work at Nets Daily (including our email exchange previewing the game) as well as his own site, Baller Mind Frame.
1. Andray Blatche seemed to be in beast mode at the beginning of last year but came down to earth a bit. At least back when he was in DC, he was a guy who had all the talent in the world and if he'd ever gotten his head on straight and taken advantage of his physical gifts, seemed like he could be at least a top-15 power forward. That didn't exactly happen. How's he doing in Brooklyn and what do you think of him?
I'm a huge fan of Andray Blatche because he's enigmatic. Not to the extreme that someone like another former Wizard, JaVale McGee, is, but Dray obviously likes to have fun and keep things light. Last season, Blatche basically had to stay in line because his contract wasn't guaranteed and while he was going to get dough from the Wizards, it should be a desire for a professional basketball player to actually, you know, want to keep playing basketball. Last season, Dray bought in and he was great, particularly in the beginning, and any degree of regression was kind of looked over because of how ridiculously talented he was.
This season, he's a little more comfortable and he's fallen in love with the behind-the-back dribble and shooting from the perimeter (long-twos kill me!). However, just like last season, there is a reason to be a Blatche apologist and think/hope he'll stay within the game plan and not go all over the place - Kevin Garnett. Garnett's leadership and influence on teammates is near-legend, if not totally so, and if there is one player that can keep Dray focused, it's KG. And, let's be serious here, if Blatche really wants to realize his talents, he better listen to whatever Garnett says. Because the team seems so focused on winning a title, I think that happens for Dray at least this season.
2. The Nets have been criticized a bit for spending money like mad men but it's really working out, at least in the short-term. Are you concerned at all about the team's long-term outlook? How many years can this group play at a high enough level to contend for a title?
This is a great question and thanks for asking it. Basically, it comes down to - Mikhail Prokhorov is a multi-billionaire and he's made this money by being smart. I think there's a certain degree of caution in regards to investment for Prokhorov, but his initial investment on the Nets, Barclays Center and the Atlantic Yards Project has already netted him a profit, an excellent rate of return, on his initial money put in.
This offseason was about making the product stronger, which it should be every season, but for the Nets, in particular, after such a strong response to the re-branding of the Nets with their move to Brooklyn last season and the black-and-white color scheme, the organization needed to ride that wave and get bigger. How do you do that? You put yourself in a position to win the whole shebang, as soon as possible. I think the Nets did that by bringing in KG, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.
Being honest, the only real worry I have, other than health (but every team has that worry), is the head coach situation with Jason Kidd. Part of me thinks that it was a surface sort of move - you bring back your best player ever (during the NBA years; shoutout to Dr. J and the ABA) that led your team to back-to-back NBA Finals and BOOM, it's another great marketing point. However, I then think deeply and say, "Who am I kidding? Jason Kidd was one of the best point guards and leaders that ever played the game. He was a head coach on the floor and he was amazing. Kidd has a ring." So, I make myself feel better, but objectively asking, how good of a head coach, on the bench, will Kidd be? This will be the base answer to your questions. If I had to concretely guess though, the window is this season and next if they re-sign Pierce.
3. The Nets are two or three deep with great players at every position. Is there anything this team is missing?
The ubiquitous chemistry. At this early season point anyway. What I'm probably most concerned about though is the 4 position. Yes, I'm not worried about KG at all, including his numbers. His play has gone above individual statistics. I wonder who will fill-in while he's sitting out significant minutes, and even games, during the regular season. Both will be limited and there will be opportunities for guys like Blatche, who will also slide in at the 5, Andrei Kirilenko if the Nets play small and a limited Reggie Evans, who gives minuscule contributions offensively outside of O boards. I'm really hoping that Mirza Teletovic can become "that guy" who comes in and is the epitome/paragon of a stretch-4, who can actually do other things besides just hit threes! He's been a huge disappointment thus far, but I'm still crossing fingers. I bet every fan wishes they could worry about the 5th man off the bench. I feel so spoiled.
4. Have KG and Pierce changed the team culture? How are the other guys different this year versus last year?
No question. The mood is, not lighter per se, but the burden of having to lead on Deron Williams and Joe Johnson is off them to some degree. Last year, there wasn't a clear leader that was not only doing it on the hardwood, but being vocal about what needs to be done to get that W as well. Garnett does that now. Pierce does that now. D-Will and Johnson are more lead by example types, which is great, but a team needs that player or two who forces their will upon his teammates and yells in their faces, "Let's go!" Thank you, Danny Ainge.
5. What the most surprising thing about this team?
Well, at this point, I can't tell you. We all know that the Nets have an All-Star starting five, so everyone knows what they bring to the table. Jason Terry was a former NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Kirilenko might be the best Russian basketball player ever (seriously, look at his international/overseas production; Hall of Fame consideration-worthy), Evans boards, Dray is Dray and it's really just a small sample size to look at at this point. If the Nets were undefeated, it wouldn't have been surprising. They're 2-2, but that's not surprising either since we can all chalk it up to chemistry still needing to be built. But, if I had to choose - how seamless Shaun Livingston has performed. What an excellent signing for the Nets. S Dot has been great and I think he's going to make a big difference as the season moves on, backing up D-Will and sometimes, even playing with him.
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