Nets look to end the losing streak against the post-Boogie Sacramento Kings

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Brooklyn Nets vs Sacramento Kings

Time: 10:30 PM EST
Location: Golden 1 Center
Watch: YES Network
Listen: WFAN 660AM/101.9FM

After spending three days off in California, the Brooklyn Nets will continue their eight-game circus road trip on Wednesday, facing the Sacramento Kings. It will be the Nets’ only trip to Sacramento this season, their first look at the brand new, shiny, high-tech Golden 1 Center. The Nets and Kings are two teams facing uphill battles after the All-Star Break.

If you haven’t heard, the Kings traded away superstar DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Cousins must have been traded for a huge return, right?

Um…that’s, um yeah. That’s yet to be determined

The Cousins trade was the biggest mid-season trade since the Nets traded for Deron Williams and the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony in 2011. The decision to trade Cousins to the Pelicans altered the trajectory of the entire trade deadline and may have a ripple effect on this year’s playoffs. So far, the Kings are 1-2 post-trade.

On the other side, the Brooklyn Nets continue to struggle in 2017, amidst their longest losing streak since the pre-Deron Williams era. They lost their sixteenth straight game on Saturday against the Warriors.

Wednesday will be the fourth game post-Cousins trade for the Kings. They are 25-35 on the season. In his place, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos have filled in, doing a decent job of filling the void. Last Thursday, Cauley-Stein had the best game of his career, scoring 29 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in a win against the Denver Nuggets. Willie Trill followed that performance up by scoring 2 points against the Hornets, with no field goals made.

For the Nets, they’re coming off of a game against their alternate universe selves (in more than just record), the Golden State Warriors. In a game the Nets had no business competing in, they fought valiantly. They held the lead at points in the second quarter before the Warriors stepped on a Super Mario Star and went on a 10-0 run in the final two minutes of the second. The Nets were able to give the Warriors a scare in the fourth, cutting the lead to single digits. But as expected, the Nets were no match against the league’s best team, even without Kevin Durant.

This will also be the first Nets game in a post-Luis Scola landscape. While I may have been the only person clamoring for more minutes for the former Gold Medalist, 7-time MVP (in Spain and in FIBA), international legend, and an all around great guy, his presence, and veteran know-how will be missed. Seriously, Scola’s consistency over the years and his dedication are severely underrated. Here’s hoping he lands on a team that will make use of his timeless skills (AKA San Antonio.) As of this writing, the Nets have yet to fill their newly opened roster spot.

The Kings will be led by a group of young veterans that have seen better days, and prospects looking to make an impact. Tyreke Evans, Darren Collison, and Ty Lawson would be a deadly trio if this were 2012. But even though those players may no longer be at their peak, they still pose a serious threat for the Nets. Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere, Ben McLemore, and the aforementioned Willie Cauley-Stein are still looking for their place in the league. With Cousins gone, the Kings will now be shifting to monitoring their progress.

Also of note. The Nets will have a fully healthy roster for the first time all season. It’s been a long road, with all kinds of injuries throughout the season

This may be the Nets’ biggest chance to notch double digit wins.

Things to Watch

  1. Boogie Buddy  Wonderland

Rookie Buddy Hield was a key return piece for the Kings in the Cousins trade. The sharpshooter was a key reason the Kings did not pursue other trade partners, as Owner Vivek Ranadive reportedly is a big supporter of his. Inexplicably, Hield may always be linked to the Cousins trade. The pressure may be on him to produce, given the expectations placed upon him by management. So far, he has played decently, scoring the ball well in his three games after the trade. The Nets are prone to having undervalued shooters have a field day against them. Will the Nets see a breakout game from Buddy Buckets?

  1. Tracking Jeremy Lin’s minutes

After returning from a 25-game absence, Jeremy Lin has played 15 minutes in his two return games. After three days of rest after a back-to-back, Lin’s minutes may increase. The Nets will need Lin to exploit smaller defenders Darren Collison and Ty Lawson on offense. Lin will also be responsible for containing the two speedy point guards as well. Although Collison and Lawson are not at their peak, they have the potential to wreak havoc on the Nets’ defense. Lin’s defensive matchup may not be as big as guarding Stephen Curry, but Collison and Lawson are two of the Kings’ best players post-Boogie deal. If Lin sees more minutes, maybe we’ll finally see Brook-Lin fully unleashed.

  1. Battle of the new guys?

On their three-day break, the Nets went through “training camp-style practices,” according to coach Kenny Atkinson. With the Nets desperate for a win, the practices were likely competitive, with teammates pushing each other. The three days of practice also allowed newest Nets, Andrew Nicholson and K.J. McDaniels to become acclimated and learn the offensive and defensive schemes. The game against the Kings may feature these two getting solid minutes. For the Kings, Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, and the reacquired Tyreke Evans are trying to learn their role within Coach Dave Joerger’s offense as well. Even rookies Skal Labissiere and Georgios Papagiannis are essentially new acquisitions, with both playing less than 10 games for the Kings this season. Players will be tested in their new roles for both the Nets and Kings.

Key Matchup

Caris LeVert vs Tyreke Evans

Caris LeVert will likely start at small forward after missing the last game against the Warriors. LeVert will be tasked to guard and play against Tyreke Evans. Evans, in his return to Sacramento, is likely the second option for Dave Joerger’s offense. Both of these players are long, athletic players that excel at getting to the rim and finding open teammates all over the court. Should the versatile Evans be a player LeVert emulates (minus Evans’ shooting?)

Final Note

The Kings’ new arena, the Golden 1 Center, might just be the coolest new home venue in all sports. The new home of the Sacramento Kings is high tech, with great views both inside and out. Check out its features here.