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Good morning! Usually your bleary eyes aren't accustomed to eyeballing anything but Nets basketball at this time of day, which unfortunately never happens this early on a weekday morning. But today, you're in luck! That means you, Brook Lopez!

Yuichi Masuda, Kikuo Ibe, Brook Lopez, Shigenori Itoh

He's happy. (AP)

Yes, the Nets are in Beijing taking on the Sacramento Kings as part of the NBA's Global Games Initiative, and in the interest of making the game palatable to local fans, it's airing at 7:30 A.M. Eastern Standard Time.

So while you stumble to your coffee pot and try not to trip over that wire right there (no, not that one — that other one), here's three things to watch in this morning's game:
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Lionel Hollins faces low odds to win Coach of the Year. (AP)

Lionel Hollins faces low odds to win Coach of the Year. (AP)

After two lavish seasons of spending and expectations, the Nets enter their third year with tempered expectations, both in the organization and around the league, and recently released odds reflect it.
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AP

AP

Preseason officially kicked off this past week, with the Nets winning each of their first two exhibitions against Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Sacramento Kings. They've got four more games and under three weeks until the start of the regular season.

They've undergone an exhausting journey since Wednesday, flying from New Jersey to Shanghai to Beijing as a part of the NBA's Global Games initiative. They've got plans to go sightseeing tomorrow, but the trip has left some players wanting to spend their time recuperating. "Man, I'm gonna be honest with you, I'm probably going to be sleeping," Joe Johnson joked about the trip.

But for some, the journey isn't about promoting the NBA's global brand: it's just about sticking around at all.
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AP

AP

Reigning NBA MVP and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot and will require surgery, the Thunder announced today. The Thunder did not give a specific timetable for Durant's return, citing a typical recovery time of six to eight weeks.

The injury will rule Durant out of the Brooklyn Nets home opener on November 3rd, and barring a speedy recovery, also likely means he won't play against the Nets on November 22nd, the only two games the two teams play this year.

Durant has led the NBA in scoring for five consecutive seasons, averaging 29.3 points per game in that span and a career-high 32 points per game last season.

 

In a tightly contested game, the Nets struck final blood thanks to a big late shot by Mirza Teletovic, beating the Sacramento Kings 97-95 in Shanghai Mercedes-Benz Arena in the first of two preseason NBA Global Games in China.

With the lead waffling back and forth, Mirza Teletovic hit a three-pointer with 56.2 seconds left, putting them up for good. Four Nets scored in double figures, led by Brook Lopez, who finished with 18 points on 6-13 shooting in 25 minutes.

Assistant Paul Westphal coached in place of Lionel Hollins, who sat out with an undisclosed illness.

Preseason is never an indicator of future success in any statistical sense. Teams are too busy tinkering with different lineups and looks. Players spend the time re-acclimating to NBA speed, particularly players coming back from injury. But while little of what you'll see in the box score is reflective of what you'll see in the regular season, it can sometimes be an indicator of different playing styles and comfort levels.

Some notes on the night:
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Posted on: October 10th, 2014 by Devin Kharpertian Comments

 

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eqAOzPW
Height: 6'13"11"
Weight: 250 lbs.
Date of Birth: May 19, 1976
Years Pro: 19
Before NBA: Farragut Academy High School (Illinois)
Drafted:
Nickname: The Big Ticket, KG

- Full Stats -

No longer just the great communicator on the court in the final stage of his career, Kevin Garnett has evolved into the NBA's sage luminary, weaving verbal mosaics about the importance of hard work and communication with stories from his 19 years as a professional athlete. Impossible to predict, difficult to decipher, and magnetic in elocution, Garnett speaks in clouded metaphors, likening milk-chugging to ball-handling and Joe Johnson to Jesus Christ, while peppering in meaningful anecdotes about any one of his hundreds of teammates and former coaches.

He screams at teammates and opponents with reckless abandon, curses himself in practice, and once he's gathered himself to speak with the press, conveys a thoughtfulness equally revealing and distancing. He even makes comparing his jump shot to a booty call sound like modern philosophy. He's back to live and die by every possession for one more year.

Though he hasn't committed to anything beyond this season, it's most likely Garnett's farewell tour, with $12 million left on his NBA contract and close to 55,000 minutes on his career odometer (including playoffs). He mulled retirement after the 2012-13 season before agreeing to play one more year in Brooklyn, then decide to stick it out for the rest of the season.

"I prepared myself this offseason, like I (always) have," Garnett mused early in training camp. "Not last year, because I was indecisive about what I wanted to do...this year I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I did that throughout the whole summer. So I'm in better spirits because I know what I'm here to do this year."

"I'm here to enjoy this. You never know when it's going to be your last."

There's nothing about Kevin Garnett's on-court game that hasn't been chronicled in a thousand places. He's got one of the best mid-range jumpers in the league and a keen eye for floor space on the offensive end. You won't see him put the ball on the floor, but he'll set screens, hit turnaround jumpers, and throw down the occasional open dunk.

While he goes out of his way to say he's not a "primary" option on the team, that's only on the offensive side of the floor; the Nets played at an elite level defensively with him manning the middle, and posted a defensive rating better than any NBA team with him on the floor in the calendar year 2014, thanks to his still-nimble feet inside, his constant barking at teammates, and opponents' aversion to attacking the basket with him in the lane.

By name alone, Garnett's earned the right from Nets coach Lionel Hollins to be the team's starting power forward, despite playing more effectively at center last season. Though Jason Kidd only played Garnett 20.5 minutes per game last season and often no longer than five-minute spurts, Hollins says he plans to play Garnett much longer than that.

He came through on that promise early, sending Garnett out for a stretch of 7:15 to open up the first preseason game against Maccabi Tel Aviv. It won't be the last time he plays that long this season... though it might be the last time he plays at all.

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Posted on: October 10th, 2014 by Devin Kharpertian Comments

 

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Brook Lopez, Tony Wroten, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes

AP


Height: 7'1"
Weight: 275 lbs.
Date of Birth: April 1, 1988
Years Pro: 6
Before NBA: Stanford University
Drafted: 10th overall, 2008 NBA Draft
Nickname: B-Lo, Brookie Monster
- Full Stats -

He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack.

It’s been a long and weird offseason for the gargantuan Lopez, who played in just 17 games last season before succumbing to a season-ending foot injury smack in the team’s throes of December despair. But after multiple surgeries and months of unshaven boredom, the doctors have cleared Lopez for contact, and he’s entered training camp without the 15 pounds he gained before last season.

Foot injuries are often a death knell for big men, and the jury’s out on if Lopez is an exception. Here’s what we do know: Lopez has twice broken the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, which connects the heel to the outermost (pinky) toe,once in 2011 and once last season. He’s had three surgeries on that foot, including one that repaired a screw inserted during the initial surgery that had bent. Lopez also underwent left ankle surgery to tighten the ankle ligaments and repair a torn tendon this past March, following two in-season ankle injuries prior to his foot injury.

Lopez walks a bit bowlegged by nature, which adds more pressure to those outer bones. Nets team doctors performed a special surgery that realigned the bone, designed to balance Lopez and lessen the weight on that bone and reduce the chances of further injury. There’s no guarantees, but it’s a start. Slimming back down to 275 doesn't hurt either.

That’s an awful lot of medical talk before we even get to Lopez the player, who when healthy (there it is again) established himself as the league's premier post scorer, an improving rim protector, and an average-at-best rebounder. The Nets were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better with Lopez on the floor than off in his 17 games last year, bested only by Deron Williams and Paul Pierce in the same timeframe.

The book on Lopez starts on the block. He's an extraordinarily gifted scorer, often acting as a release valve for the Nets offense when out of options. He's not a great passer, even for a big man, but makes up for it with his ability to score inside and out, with range out to 20 feet and a soft touch. Even as the Nets fell apart last season, he was headed for numerous career highs, including field goal percentage, offensive rating, PER, and true shooting percentage.

But his offense is well-documented. In The Art of a Beautiful Game, 7'4" human and former NBA center Mark Eaton tells author Chris Ballard about his eureka moment as a defender:

…while playing a pickup game at UCLA, Eaton had an epiphany, spurred by some unsolicited advice from a retired Wilt Chamberlain, who was then in his 40s but still running the floor against men half his age. "We had a guy on our team named Rocket Rod Foster, to this day the fastest guy I've ever seen," says Eaton. "He'd get to the basket about the same time that I got to the top of the key. So I was standing there, huffing and puffing, and I felt a large hand on my shoulder. It was Wilt. He said, 'You're never going to catch that man, first of all. Second, it's not your job to catch him. Your job is to guard the basket, then cruise up to half-court to see what's going on. Because if a quick shot goes up, you have to go back." Eaton pauses. "That day, a lightbulb went on. I figured out my niche in basketball. This is my house, the paint. This is where I live."

Lopez comes from the Eaton school of slow big men, evolving into a surprisingly ace on-ball defender and rim protector by employing the same methods. He knows his opponents want into his real estate, and plants himself in the way, daring them to go above or through him. His biggest assets are his wide body and incredible length — he officially measures as an even seven feet tall, which begs the question how tall he'd measure if he stood up — and once he's got a player in his zone he knows to stay close to the basket and let them force a bad shot over his extended arms.

In his 17 games before injury, opponents shot 39.7 percent on shots at the rim on 9.2 attempts per game against Lopez, which would have led the league among similar players had he kept that up throughout the season. (For a comparable player, Roy Hibbert allowed opponents to shoot 41.1 percent on 9.8 attempts per game, the best in the league among qualifying players.)

Even more staggering was Lopez's post defense. In his limited sample of 44 possessions, Lopez only allowed his man to score just six (6!) times, and committed only two fouls, according to mySynergySports's tracking data. That's right: guys trying to post up against Lopez either missed their shot or committed a turnover upwards of 80 percent of the time, ranking him comically ahead of the rest of the NBA. It's a small sample size, and there's no way Lopez could stay that effective for a full season, but it's also a testament to how good he can be…

…on the ball. Because once he's got to move, Lopez has the lateral speed of an alligator; if he's pushed beyond that precious 12-foot radius around the basket to try to cut off guards, the Nets have already lost. And opponents know that too. Most of that has to do with his slow foot speed, which isn't getting much faster after multiple surgeries. In today's athletically evolving NBA, the big man who can't defend block-to-block is rapidly facing extinction, relegating the 26-year-old Lopez a relic to a past generation.

That makes Lopez the biggest test of Lionel Hollins's coaching acumen. How do you integrate Lopez, who seems straight out of 1994 right down to his pre-internet love of comic books, into today's fast-paced league?

He'll bring 20 points a night with his eyes closed.

But can he stop them, too?

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Posted on: October 9th, 2014 by Devin Kharpertian Comments

 

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AP

AP


Bojan Bogdanovic on Twitter
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 215 lbs.
Date of Birth: April 18th, 1989
Years Pro: 0
Before NBA: Fenerbahçe Ülker, Turkey
Drafted: 31st overall, 2011 NBA Draft
Nickname: Bogie
- Full Stats -

He's no longer a distant mirage, visible only in grainy YouTube footage. After three years of waiting, the Nets finally pulled the trigger on Bogdanovic, and have hitched their wagon on his success coming sometime in the next three years to justify their investment in a youth movement.

The numbers don't lie: Bogdanovic can flat-out score. In Europe, he was capable of creating an open look for himself anywhere on the court, whether it was in isolation, cutting to the basket, or out of the pick-and-roll. He's a deadeye shooter inside and out, is comfortable posting up other guards or spotting up around the perimeter.

He has the shooter's conscience, which is to say he has no conscience, and on a good night can quickly pile up the points against anyone. Just ask Kevin Durant.

Despite his young age, Bogdanovic has played professional basketball in Europe for a decade, opening his career for hometown youth club Zrinjski Mostar at 15 years old. He eventually joined Euroleague for one game in the 2007-2008 season for Real Madrid, before playing two seasons for Cibona Zagreb and three Fenerbahce Ulker, routinely ranking among the league's best in scoring.

That's not to say he's coming out of the gate like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. I mean, only an idiot would say that.

He'll have some adjustments to make to the NBA game. The basketball is different here, right down to the leather and seams. The three-point line is further -- just ask Mirza Teletovic, who took a full year and a rotation spot from Jason Kidd to get accustomed to the 23'9" NBA line. The stakes are higher in the NBA, and even assimilating to the culture of New York City might take some adjustment for Bogdanovic.

His biggest adjustment won't be on the offensive end. Scoring is his bread-and-butter, but if he wants to stick in a starting lineup featuring three primary scorers, Bogdanovic will have to prove he can bring the energy on the defensive end. Coach Lionel Hollins has said repeatedly that defense will be a priority for Bogdanovic, who wasn't known for his defensive acumen in Euroleague and now faces bigger, stronger, and more athletic challenges each night in the NBA.

Bogdanovic struggled with double-teams in Euroleague, which might actually benefit him in the starting lineup. If he's running with lesser offensive players, he'll see more double-teams, which will lead to turnovers. If he's playing off the ball with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, no one's going to leave their man to double-team the fourth option.

The Nets want Bogdanovic to develop, if only to prove that re-signing Paul Pierce would've been a luxury and not a necessity. Though Pierce is primarily a power forward in his older age, there are strong similarities between his and Bogdanovic's offensive game, and Bogdanovic has a real chance at taking Pierce's shot in the team's original starting lineup last year. If he can hold onto it, he'll be one of the few crown jewels in Brooklyn that's worth more than the price tag.

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A Brooklyn Jewish community leader says he was attacked by Pro-Palestine protestors outside of Barclays Center after the Maccabi Tel Aviv-Brooklyn Nets game Tuesday night, breaking his nose and requiring stitches.

From The Forward:

Leonard Petlakh, 42, director of the Kings Bay Y, said protestors shouting “Free Palestine” and “Your people are murderers,” accosted him as he left the game in downtown Brooklyn. One of them struck Petlakh in the face, he said.

“It’s ridiculous,” Petlakh told The Forward. “It’s not about the Middle East, it’s about sports.
Petlakh suffered a broken nose and a cut that required eight stitches after the attack, which he said was being investigated by police as an anti-Semitic hate crime.

Petlakh said he hoped, “vile anti-Semitic hooligans masquerading as anti-Zionists will be caught soon.”

The Daily News reported that the dispute started inside the arena when protesters unfurled a Palestinian flag near Petlakh, who was with his family and friends. The argument continued outside when one member of Petlakh’s group tried to grab the flag, police told the News.

More: The Forward -- Jewish Leader Attacked at Brooklyn Nets Game After Palestinian Flag-Grab Incident

 

AP

AP

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- A largely Pro-Maccabi Tel Aviv crowd witnessed the first 2014-2015 preseason win for the Brooklyn Nets, as the Nets crushed the Israeli team 111-94 at Barclays Center.

Brooklyn went out to an early 10-2 run and never trailed, holding off one quick second-quarter spurt by Tel Aviv, who threatened the Nets' second unit with transition points and quick cuts but fell to the talented Nets starters.

The crowd cheered heartily for Tel Aviv all night, with "TEL A-VIV" the most common refrain heard in the arena, and even created some controversy, with one group pulling out a "We Are Brooklyn" banner with the words crossed out. Security quickly removed the banner.

Six Nets scored in double figures, led by Brook Lopez, who scored 20 points on 8-12 shooting in 23 minutes in his first action against a professional team since breaking his foot last December. Lopez looked like his dominant offensive self early, scoring six quick points inside with a spin move in the post, a foul drawn, and a face-up jumper, and continued to score with his brute strength & length alone. He also played deep into the fourth quarter, perhaps a bit deeper than expected.

Deron Williams, who famously struggled with balky ankles last season, also looked fully healthy and quick against Tel Aviv's guards, finishing with 17 points on 7-11 shooting in 28 minutes, hitting his last four shots. Williams looked comfortable dribbling the ball but didn't appear to be playing at full speed, hitting a few mid-range jumpers and only attacking the lane when it was wide open.

Before the game, Lionel Hollins said he'd play his starters more in this first game than in the rest of preseason, and he was true to his word: he didn't make a single substitution until 3:45 had passed in the first quarter. Last year, Kevin Garnett usually didn't play beyond the first four minutes, six at the most. Garnett finished with just over 19 minutes in the game, below his season average last year but above what you'd expect from a preseason game.

Alan Anderson, who played for Maccabi Tel-Aviv in 2009-2010, did not play with a sore abdominal muscle, while non-guaranteed players Jorge Gutierrez, Jerome Jordan, and Willie Reed all did not play.

 

Billy King (AP)

Billy King (AP)

It looks like the Nets will stay in Mikhail Prokhorov's control, for now.
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AP

AP

The Brooklyn Nets preseason slate kicks off today with an exhibition game against Maccabi Tel Aviv, and there's only one way to experience the action:... MORE →