The Scouting Report: Brooklyn Nets
Projected starting line-up: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Pierce, Mason Plumlee (maybe Kevin Garnett?)
After a very rough start to the season which saw drinks spilled and lead assistant coaches reassigned, the Brooklyn Nets have turned a corner of respectability.
With the Knicks struggling both on and off the court more than they have since they’ve gotten Carmelo Anthony, Brooklyn right now is New York’s only bastion of NBA respectability.
Andrei Kirilenko came back from injury on December 31st and as soon as the calendar turned to 2014, the Nets have been a very good team, going 16-7 since January 1st
Kirilenko brought the Nets much needed, length, athleticism and off-ball cutting to a unit that lacked anytype of variance on both ends.
Deron Williams has been battling ankle issues all season and for the Nets to be successful, he has to be the best player on the court. Joe Johnson made his seventh All-Star game, even though there were a great many more candidates in the East that had a better case than Iso-Joe.
However, Johnson has had his big moments including a vintage Iso-Joe game-winner against the Thunder in Oklahoma City in January.
Jason Kidd has shown belief in veteran guard Shaun Livingston all season, especially while Deron Williams missed significant time at the start of the season.
They haven’t been as hot in February as they were in January when Jason Kidd won Eastern Conference Coach of the Month, as they’ve gone 6-4 and they come to Portland after beating a lowly Lakers team.
Obviously, the biggest story about this game isn’t about the match-up itself. The Nets signed veteran big man Jason Collins to a 10-day contract, making him the first openly gay player to play in an NBA game.
It will be Jason Collins’ second game as a Net but it will be his first wearing the number 98, in honor of Matthew Shepard, a student who was killed in an Anti-Gay hate crime in 1998.
Garnett didn’t play in the previous game but there was no news about him playing so it was perhaps in order to rest him on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Blazers bench will have more on their plate than usual as Brooklyn’s bench has been one of their strengths all season. Andray Blatche has been solid all season, averaging 12 points and nearly six rebounds a game off the bench.
In addition to Blatche, Mirza Teletovic had a 34-point game earlier this year and Livingston has produced both as a starter and reserve. Also, recently acquired bench-gunner Marcus Thornton should be available to go tonight according to Jason Kidd.
Portland’s depth will be tested again tonight, especially if Aldridge and Thomas Robinson both cannot play and the Nets are probably their toughest opponent they face between now and their next road trip.