Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Barclays Center
Watch: YES Network, FOX Sports GO
Listen: WFAN 101.9, 660 AM
The Jahlil Okafor era has begun. The 21-year-old big man is set to make his Brooklyn Nets debut Tuesday night against the Washington Wizards, along with former lottery pick Nik Stauskas.
The Nets are coming off of a two-game stint in Mexico City, the most recent performance resulting in a 102-89 loss to the Miami Heat. The Nets had no answer for Miami’s bench, as they were outscored 46-27. Tyler Johnson led the way with 20 points and Justice Winslow added 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
The Nets were missing Joe Harris, who was out due to an illness. There were reports that multiple players were feeling under the weather, and it showed in the fourth quarter against the Heat. The offense stagnated, players weren’t cutting and were going under screens. It was not pretty.
Brooklyn gets a pass since it fought hard in some tough conditions, but it is going to want to bounce back against a Washington Wizards team led by the scorching hot Bradley Beal.
Washington will look to spoil the debut of Okafor and Stauskas. The Wizards will be without their superstar point guard John Wall who is still sidelined with a wrist injury. They have held their own with some strong performances by All-Star hopeful Bradley Beal, who dropped a career-high 51 points on Dec. 5 against the Portland Trailblazers and followed that game with 34 points against the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 7.
He will be a handful for the Nets, but with the added confidence of the Nets acquiring some new young talent, the matchup has the potential to be a good one.
Three things to watch for
Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas
How could this not be at the top of the list of things to watch for? Sean Marks has turned a seemingly impossible situation into a core the Nets can look forward to for years to come. The Nets now have the No. 2 and 3 picks of the 2015 NBA Draft to go along with players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert.
Some question Okafor’s fit with the Brooklyn Nets because of his back-to-the-basket style of play on a team with the third fastest pace in the NBA, but people forget that he is not going to be the same player by the end of the season. If he is able to work on his conditioning and develop a consistent jumper, the Nets have themselves a player.
Another thing to point out is that Okafor has played just 36 minutes this season, so do not expect him to come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. There is going to be some rust and an adjustment period for a brand new offense, so fans should not overreact if he struggles in his first few games.
Let’s also not forget that Brooklyn also got Stauskas in the trade, a former lottery pick who has not worked out in other organizations. If the Nets have proved anything under the Marks regime, it is that players are going to get a fair shot in Brooklyn. The Nets are a team that runs, shoots and has a deep rotation (without injuries). Stauskas definitely checks off the first two boxes, and with Sean Kilpatrick no longer on the team, there are definitely some minutes available to show “Sauce Castillo” belongs in this league.
Beal has looked unstoppable this past week. In his last three games, he’s averaging 36.7 points on 53 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from three. The Nets have started to improve their early season troubles of neutralizing the opposing teams’ best player, but improvement cannot save a team if Beal starts heating up. With the Nets’ fast-paced style of play, Beal will get more possessions, which means more shots for the five-year guard.
New players mean new nicknames for Ian Eagle
If you’re a Nets fan, you know one of the bright spots of every season is YES Network play-by-play man and national treasure Ian Eagle. When the Nets make a trade or acquire a free agent, some people think of how the player fits and how he will affect the chemistry of the team. Those thoughts are sometimes quickly followed up with, “I wonder what Ian Eagle will do with his name.”
We’ve heard “The Hyphen” for Hollis-Jefferson, “LeVertical” whenever Caris LeVert dunks or “The Cyclone” for Isaiah Whitehead. If Okafor starts shooting threes, some possible names could be “Jahlil Oka for three” or “Man of steel Jahlil.” (There’s a reason Ian gets paid the big bucks and I don’t).
I’m not 100 percent sure if Eagle is calling this game, but if he does, watch out for the clever ways he will incorporate Okafor and Stauskas’ names into the telecast.