After five days of rest for Joe Johnson and four for his compatriots, the 38-27 Brooklyn Nets finally do the thing they allegedly get paid to do: play professional basketball against another professional basketball team.
Tonight is the fourth and final matchup between Brooklyn and Johnson's former stomping jersey Atlanta Hawks; the Nets have taken two of three from the Hawks so far this year, but Johnson has made a tempered impact in all three games.
Joining me to talk about today's matchup is Lang Greene, NBA reporter for HOOPSWORLD, a division of USA Today Sports. Lang is one of my favorite reporters for his balanced, respectable approach to the game, and he knows his stuff.
And, as always: The BK Game Streak is up. Log in above and get to playin'.
Devin: Al Horford's cruising to yet another solid, All-Star caliber, but not spectacular season. Do you think we're seeing Horford's ceiling? Is that a good thing?
Lang: No, I don't think we've seen the best Al Horford to come just yet. I'm talking offensively. There are some things with Horford you have to understand. First, the guy is unselfish to a fault. It's in his foundation. Go back and look at those championship teams he was a part of at the University of Florida. Horford was the best player on those squads but routinely ranked third, fourth or even fifth on most nights in regards to shot attempts. Next, he's playing a bit out of position at center. At power forward, full-time, I think he'd be in a better place mentally to be more assertive.
Think about this, Horford is averaging 17 and 10 and most believe he is in cruise control. I think he's capable of a few 22/11 type seasons at some point in his career, but he's going to need to be pushed there - by coaches and teammates.
Devin: How would you say Hawks coach Larry Drew's style meshes with this team? Is he the right man for the job?
Lang: I've been very impressed with Larry Drew since he took over head coaching duties.He wasn't the flashy hire, but has proven to be the right hire throughout his tenure running the show. Drew has won at a high level and has done so with a variety of personnel. Last season the Hawks went veteran with guys like Stackhouse, T-Mac and Erick Dampier. This past offseason, they trade Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, two long-time starters, and become a smallish (on the wing) guard oriented group ... and the wins keep coming. I don't know what the future holds for Drew once his contracts ends after the season, but he has proved himself in my eyes.
Devin: If the playoffs began today, the Brooklyn Nets (4th) and Atlanta Hawks (tied for 5th) could face off in the first round. Which team would you give the advantage to, and why?
Lang: This is a tough call to make because I can truly see a series between these two teams going either way. I'm giving a slight edge to Brooklyn though. Here's why. The Brooklyn Nets are just a physically bigger team on the interior and the wing. Throw in the fact Brooklyn has two former All-Stars in the backcourt in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and they might be a bit too much for Atlanta to overcome. The NBA is a stars league and the Nets have four guys (playing major minutes) who have reached All-Star status in their careers.
I wouldn't rule out an upset though. The Hawks are a live dog and capable of beating a few teams in the first round if those opponents decide to sleepwalk.