This is former Wizard and current New Jersey Net assistant coach Popeye Jones. Enjoy him.
Make him feel at home.
[photo: K. Weidie - taken before the Wizards 2011-12 home opener vs. New Jersey]
The unknown Nene era kicks off in the swamplands of New Jersey tonight, where the unknown is even less known. And the basketball part of this draft lottery matchup between the 10-34 Washington Wizards and the 15-32 New Jersey Nets could also go in any number of unknown directions. Isn’t NBA basketball exciting? Tonight’s 3-on-3 takes a different direction in that it features all New Jersey Nets bloggers from the ESPN TrueHoop blog, Nets Are Scorching. Three questions, three answers with Justin DeFeo (@JustinDeFeo), Chris Hooker (@chrishooker9) and Devin Kharpertain (@uuords) starts now…
#1) Well, Dwight Howard is not coming to the Nets as a free agent this summer to timely coincide with Net free agent to-be Deron Williams in hopes of forming the next super team. The possibility of Williams bolting keeps New Jersey fans up at night. But hey, the franchise has a Russian (who can’t smell Putin in elections), Jay-Z, and Brooklyn…. Those count for something, right? On the scale of 1-to-10, how confident are you in New Jersey’s ability to keep the ship on an upward trend of high expectations having traded much of the crew for a top NBA point guard who might leave?
Justin DeFeo: 5. As a defense mechanism I’ve purposely been tempering expectations on the Nets throughout this whole two-year run of superstar chasin’. So I won’t allow myself to go much higher than a 5, but I do feel confident that Deron Williams likes his place within the Nets organization. He has a strong relationship with Nets GM Billy King, has made himself richer with endorsements and is sold on the vision of the franchise going forward, I hope. Then again Dallas IS his hometown…
Chris Hooker: I don’t think Deron Williams is in Brooklyn next year, and I’m starting to become oddly okay with it. The reason behind this is because I think if (when) he bolts, it will be the final message to Billy King that it is time to end this superstar chase and build a team the old fashioned way. As a Nets fan, we’ve waited long enough to build this dream team, and it hasn’t worked. I want to see a team of young picks and pieces, I want Brooklyn to build their own superstar. (I wrote about this a few days ago if you want me to elaborate.) I’m not confident at all that the Nets get their second superstar [to pair with Williams], so I’ll answer the scale part with a 2. However, do I think the Nets can be successful in the future? Of course. But, again, I think the only way they find success is by building through the draft. Locking down the No. 1 pick would be a fine start.
Devin Kharpertian: 7. I know, I know, when Dwight postponed the Dwight Sweepstakes (see you next year!) it supposedly signified the end for the D-Will-to-Brooklyn partnership. But he seems oddly invested in the franchise for someone out the door: he’s got endorsements in Brooklyn, he’s talking up the Barclays Center, and he’s involved in every — and I mean every — transaction decision. There’s still a big chance Williams bolts, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think it’s doomsday.
#2) Aside from the obvious John Wall-Deron Williams head-to-head, which starting lineup matchup will be most intriguing/key to the game?
[Note: the Wizards have been starting Wall, Jordan Crawford, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker, and Kevin Seraphin (Nene unlikely to start immediately) -- New Jersey has started Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, and Shelden Williams over the past three games, all losses.]
Justin DeFeo: The 2-guard match-up is pretty intriguing. Two guys (Brooks and Crawford) with scoring mentalities going at each other is always fun to watch. While Brooks’ game hasn’t quite recovered to the level he was at pre-injury, he still won’t stop attacking. Nor will Jordan Crawford, who’s been known to put up a shot or 20.
Chris Hooker: Nene versus Kris Humphries/Shelden Williams, definitely. I’m interested to see how Nene works into the Wizards’ lineup. I thought that was actually a good trade for Washington, despite some other analyst reports that I have read. He and Wall will play well together, and he won’t be a bonehead like McGee.
Devin Kharpertian: Jordan Crawford versus MarShon Brooks in the “who can take more shots in isolation” battle. I think Brooks wins, but it’s close.
#3) Right now the Nets are favored by 4.5 points. What stat decides this game and who influences that stat the most?
Justin DeFeo: In the Nets’ last two losses (versus New Orleans and Cleveland), they’ve gone into the fourth quarter either leading or in a position to win the game, only to be outplayed in the final 12 minutes. In the two games they were outscored 61-34 in the fourth, so how the Nets close out this game will be crucial. It’s the usual suspect who will dictate that stat for the Nets, Deron Williams. He’ll have the ball in his hands and will be expected to make plays down the stretch for the Nets to win.
Chris Hooker: Assists, and this has more so to do with the supporting cast of each of these teams rather than their point guards. Wall and Williams will find the open looks, but both Washington and New Jersey struggle with finishing. Hitting open looks and not forcing bad shots will decide this — and so much of it depends on how well D-Will and Wall are distributing and who they are distributing to.
Devin Kharpertian: Whichever team controls the glass, controls the game. The Nets gave up 21 offensive rebounds to Tristan Thompson and his band of bigs in Cleveland on Wednesday, and as Gerald Wallace says, you give up 21 offensive rebounds to anyone and you’re going to lose. Kris Humphries has to control the glass — and I mean do the “fighting for boards” thing, not just the “grab the boards in open space” thing — to ensure the Nets walk away with this one.