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Brooklyn Nets Season Preview: A New Look

The Nets made a lot of noise this offseason, trading for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

As training camp is soon to begin, the start of the 2013 – ’14 NBA season will be underway shortly. There are a lot of new faces on new teams this year, and the Brooklyn Nets are no exception to those new faces. Let’s take a look at their offseason moves and how their season will play out.

Key Player Changes:

While the Nets lost quite a few talented players who played significant roles on last year’s playoff team, Brooklyn certainly got a lot better. On draft night in late June, the Nets made one of the biggest moves of the offseason. They traded away Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph and three first-round picks to the Boston Celtics in exchange for future hall of famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, to go along with sharpshooter Jason Terry. They also picked up Andrei Kirilenko, who will play a decisive reserve role throughout the season.

Questions For The Season:

Can the veterans such as Pierce and KG stay healthy? Garnett, 37, and Pierce, 35 are two of the most important pieces in making this season successful for their new team, but getting through all 82 games could be an issue. Rookie head coach Jason Kidd realizes this, and has already stated that Garnett will “probably” not play in back-to-back games. Not only can this help prevent injuries, but it will keep him fresh as well come playoff time.

Brooklyn needs Deron Williams to lead them. Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Can Deron Williams be the star the Nets need him to be? Williams is coming off a great season, averaging 18.9 PPG, 7.7 APG while shooting over 45% from the field. While he has more talent around him than he has ever had before, the offense will still run through the 29-year-old point guard. Brooklyn is not getting any younger, and if they want to win, now is the time. Winning, however, begins with D-Will.

Can Jason Kidd Coach? With a proven, star-studded roster already intact, it will be interesting to see how Kidd, who competed against the Nets as a point guard just one season ago, will coach his new team. It will help having Lawrence Frank, who has served as head coach of the New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons as well as an assistant under Doc Rivers in Boston, right by his side throughout the season.

Season Prediction: 55-27, two seed in the Eastern Conference.

I do not foresee the Nets challenging the Mighty Miami Heat for the one seed in the conference, but Brooklyn is certainly capable of claiming the two seed. The competition, however, will be tough. Derrick Rose will be back on the court with the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers will only continue to get better and the New York Knicks will also be in contention.

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Euroleague Opener: CSKA Moscow vs Zalgiris Kaunas

Time: October 12, 20:45 CET or 2:45 ET

The new Zalgirio Arena doesn’t just get the honor of hosting the medal rounds of 2011 Eurobasket, but it’s also hosting the opening game of Eurobasket. It’s a strong opener between the Lithuanian League champs, Zalgiris Kaunas, and Russian League champs, CSKA Moscow. Both teams are expected to advance to the round of 16. Continue Reading

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Early Reaction: NBA Draft Lottery

After some drama (and by ‘drama’ I mean that I found myself shouting at the television when they announced that the Utah Jazz had a top three pick but then cut to commercial: “Seriously?!? Who do you think you are? Dancing with the Stars?!? You’re not Dancing with the Stars! TELL ME THE DRAFT ORDER!!)

We now have the official draft order for the upcoming NBA Draft:

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Minnesota Timberwolves
  3. Utah Jazz
  4. Continue Reading

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D-League Report: Cousin, McNeal, Alabi and Temple

Another week of heavy activity for the D-League this week as teams try to grab the assets they need to fill holes due to injury, or attempt to shake things up for the stretch. Here are some highlights:

Marcus Cousin Ready for Jazz, His Uniform… Not So Much

Marcus Cousin signed a ten-day deal to join the Utah Jazz on Tuesday and were excited to get him involved quickly. He joined the team in Toronto as the Jazz began a four game road trip with a number of players (Paul Milsap, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Price, Francisco Elson, Kyrylo Fesenko and Mehmet Okur) injured.

Unfortunately, things happened so quickly, that the Jazz failed to make up a new uniform for Cousin in time for his first game, so he had to wear a number 0 jersey with no name on the back.

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Jazz defense falters as Lakers take Game 1

Kobe Bryant made the Jazz defense look like Golden State's in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Game 1.

It takes a nearly perfect effort to beat the Lakers. And if that effort isn’t quite perfect, it’s best not to let those slight imperfections manifest themselves at the end of the fourth quarter.

But that is what Utah did Sunday, surrendering a very winnable Game 1 to the defending champions 104-99 in which it had a lead with as little as 3:16 left to play in the final period.

Despite permitting the Lakers to shoot 53 percent from the field for the game, the Jazz played admirable defense. Los Angeles shot just 2-16 from three-point range, and Utah allowed the Lakers to score only one point in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter as the Jazz crawled their way to a lead from an eight-point deficit.

Then, at the 3:16 mark, it all went downhill. Coach Jerry Sloan assigned small forward C.J. Miles to guard Kobe Bryant one-on-one, and the Lakers isolated the entire left side of the court for Kobe to take Miles on his own.

Kobe began to back him down, and as he forced him back to the left elbow, Miles reacted to a push by flopping over in an attempt to take a charge. As a result, Kobe had an open lane for a jump shot, and the late rotation for the contest resulted in Kobe’s and-one conversion.

Thereafter, Sloan elected to have the stronger Wesley Matthews take Kobe on defense. With about 55 seconds left in the game and the Lakers up one, Matthews successfully defended Bryant and forced him into a fall-away turnaround jumper from 14 feet. The shot missed, but Carlos Boozer failed to block out Lamar Odom, who corralled the offensive board and put it back up for the easy layup.

Lastly, with about 24 seconds left to play, Matthews was guarding Kobe one-on-one by the logo; the other four Jazz players were standing near the four corners of the lane. Kobe drove, and Matthews went for the strip — so he was beat. Then, in a display of some of the most regrettable defense of all time, Kobe sliced directly down the middle of the lane, without so much as a glance from one of the Jazz players, for an easy layup.

It was one of the easiest dagger shots I’ve ever seen in an NBA game, as it put the Lakers up five with minimal time on the clock.

Utah will have to give a fuller effort in the next several games if it hopes to knock off LA. Forgetting to box out and trying for a strip on Kobe when he’s running at full speed from center court are incredibly unwise decisions.

By the way, C.J. Miles, a referee will never call that offensive foul on Kobe, regardless of how much of a foul it was, at that juncture of the game. And it’s just not smart to flop like that with no one to help on defense behind you.

Hopefully when Andrei Kirilenko returns to the Jazz (supposedly in Game 3), these defensive miscues will fade away.

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Denver’s Hopes Lie in Stopping D-Will

Deron Williams has his Jazz on the verge of advancing to the second round.

The Utah Jazz narrowly missed out on the third seed in the West in this playoffs, but they faltered at the end of the regular campaign, condemning themselves to sixth place.

Instead of facing a Portland team ravaged by injury, Utah would have to face the Denver Nuggets. And that’s no picnic.

Denver is regarded as one of the toughest teams in the league. The Nuggets feature Chauncey Billups, one of the best postseason players in recent NBA history, and Carmelo Anthony, one of the league’s best players overall. The Jazz knew they would also be down Andrei Kirilenko, their multitalented small forward who would have been responsible for containing Melo.

Then, another blow came in Game 1. Mehmet Okur, the team’s starting center, went down, hampering an already overmatched front court.

So the Nuggets took a decidedly uncompetitive Game 1, and many wrote off the Jazz as dead meat.

Then, something happened.

Something reminded the Jazz that they have one of the best point guard–power forward pairings in all of basketball today. Something reminded the Jazz than Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer can actually play this game.

In a nailbiting Game 2, the Jazz emerged victorious 114-111. The stars? You guessed it. Williams put up 33 points and 14 assists while Boozer posted 20 points and 15 boards. Williams has held on to the reins ever since.

In a less stressful Game 3, Williams backed his effort with a 24-and-10 double-double. In the next win, 24 and 13.

So the Nuggets are the ones panicking now. After nearly knocking off the eventual-champion Lakers last year, Denver is on the cusp of first-round elimination, thanks to D-Will.

And after only three solid postseason games, Williams has many thinking he has trumped Chris Paul is the league’s best floor general. To be truthful, the debate is more reasonable now than ever.

Williams’ postseason averages thus far of 26.8 points and 12 assists a contest are unmatched by a Jazz point guard since one of the greatest ever — John Stockton — put up 27.3 and 13.7 when he was 26 in 1989. That’s some good company.

Considering Utah’s immense success so far in spite of a depleted roster, it goes to show how helpful it is to have a good 1-guard running the show.

Let it be a lesson to the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks. Rajon Rondo and Jason Kidd need to be in charge of your offenses. Sure, the Celtics advanced against a weak Miami team. But the Mavericks are also on the brink of summer leisure as a result of their poorly executed offense. Let Kidd do the work; Dirk Nowitzki’s not alone out there.

For the Nuggets, it is critical to slow Williams down in tonight’s Game 5. Dantley just announced that he’s going to have Billups match up against Utah’s wonder tonight. Maybe a little championship seasoning can help Billups do what Deron’s other defensive assignments were useless in doing: exploiting the weaknesses of team’s wing positions rather than letting Williams and Boozer do the talking.

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