We’re here again. No, for real, we’re here again. After another absurd offseason, the Brooklyn Nets (pre)season starts today, with an away preseason game against the Washington Wizards.
They won’t be at full strength. Deron Williams is out as he continues to rest his ankle before the season starts. Jason Terry won’t play either. Even if those two were ready, they won’t play at full speed, and the starters probably won’t play more than 25 minutes. It’s a glorified practice against another team, like every preseason game.
But it’s still incredibly exciting. This is Jason Kidd’s unofficial coaching debut. It’s the first time Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce will share the floor against an opponent. It’s the first time these Brooklyn Nets will be on YES Network. It’s their first “real” competition as the new-look, championship-aspiring Nets.
First and foremost: you can’t take anything predictive, at least from a statistical standpoint, from preseason games. They’re just useless. Teams are trying out so many random offenses, player combinations, and just otherwise weird things in preseason basketball on both ends of the floor that it renders scanning a box score meaningless. I mean, it’d be cool if Joe Johnson goes like 13-13 from three-point range in a preseason game, but it’s not going to tell you much about how he’ll perform in-season.
But there are some things you can glean. Jason Kidd and the coaching staff will use this preseason game — and the rest of them — to gauge how certain lineups and players interact with each other, where they look strong and weak, and test out theories.
Here’s a few things I’ll be looking at in the team’s first game.
1) Some semblance of a system. I asked Jason Kidd at Monday’s practice what kind of offensive system he’s hoping the team can implement tomorrow, and he refused to tip his hand. (He’s getting better at coach-speak every day.) He did suggest that they do have an offensive system in place, but that we’d have to wait and see what it is and how successful it’d be.
More interesting than the offense is the defense, which the Nets spent the majority of training camp installing under Lawrence Frank’s watchful eye. There’s a few little decisions defensively that can make a huge difference. For one, keep an eye on what the Nets do inside when the opponent has the ball on the outside. Do they overplay the side with the ball? Do they stick specifically with their man? How do they crash the glass if they want to limit transition offense?
2) Kevin Garnett on offense. One thing I noticed at the end of one Duke practice: Kevin Garnett shooting threes. I only caught on near the end, but in the 13 attempts I did see, he made 10 of them — and that was swinging from the left wing into the right corner. Late in his career, Garnett has developed into one of the league’s best spot-up shooters from midrange, but hasn’t attempted more than 16 threes in a season since he joined the Boston Celtics. Even if he doesn’t shoot, keep an eye on where he spots up.
3) Brook Lopez. Dude is huge. Seriously, he’s enormous. He weighed in at 290 and it looks mostly like muscle. Watch him box out. He might kill someone.