Time for the first second game of the season in Brooklyn Nets history! The Nets are set to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight at Barclays Center without their starting small forward, Gerald Wallace. The Timberwolves come in with a host of injuries — Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and now J.J. Barea will all sit out this evening.
Minnesota, like Brooklyn, has undergone an offseason facelift. Joining me to talk about tonight’s game is Zach Harper, Timberwolves blogger for A Wolf Among Wolves and CBS Sports’ Eye On Basketball blog. He also lives in your computer, so make sure to turn it off at night so he can sleep.
Like with James Herbert, Zach and I will go one-on-one: I ask him three questions about the Timberwolves, and he asks me three on the Nets.
Zach Harper on the Timberwolves:
Devin: The Wolves are without Kevin Love and without Ricky Rubio. Why should the Nets fear the Wolves?
Zach: The Nets should definitely fear the Wolves because Minnesota replaced all of their crappy players from last year with competent players for this season. Michael Beasley is out and Andrei Kirilenko is in. Wes Johnson is out and Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger are in. Darko Milicic is out and a half-eaten plate of day old nachos are in. Actually, Greg Stiemsma replaced him and he’s a pretty decent backup center. But if it happened to be the plate of nachos instead, it would still be an upgrade. It doesn’t mean the Wolves are better than Brooklyn, but it does show that this team is no longer an albatross without their two star players. Play solid defense and the Nets should win. Otherwise, the Wolves could definitely steal one.
Devin: The Wolves rolled deep in their first game — all ten guys got over 15 minutes of playing time. Is Adelman that comfortable with his bench, or was that necessitated by the game?
Zach: I think Adelman is comfortable with his bench, but also played guys out of necessity. Obviously when you add Rubio and Love back to the lineup, you’re not going to be playing 12 guys every night. Either Derrick Williams or Dante Cunningham will get their minutes cut, and I actually don’t think it’s an obvious choice. There were a few injuries in the preseason (outside of Love and Rubio) and I think Adelman is still trying to figure out which lineups work and which ones he should stay away from. If a guy isn’t making good decisions on both ends, Rick will pull them. That happened on offense a bit in the first game so he gave the Kings a lot of looks. I wouldn’t expect it to last more than a month.
Devin: What are you expecting or hoping for out of of Brandon Roy this season?
Zach: I think realistically I’m hoping for 15 games in which he has a huge impact on the team. If he can give the Wolves 15 games in which he’s making key plays at the end of a game or helping them put an opponent away in the third quarter then that’s a huge win for Minnesota. He can just be an average player outside of that. Nobody is expecting him to be an All-Star and I don’t think many Wolves fans are expecting him to be a complete bust. We know he’s a ticking time bomb in terms of health. I was a little worried that he played 30 minutes in Game 1. In the second game, that went down to 22 minutes but it’s probably because he kept turning the ball over.
Devin on the Nets
Zach: The Nets moved to Brooklyn this offseason. For those outside of the fan base, why is this a big deal?
Devin: Because the Nets matter now. Outside of those glorious successful mid-2000s seasons, teams rolled into New Jersey for 35 years under the assumption that they’d leave with a victory. They’ve been a laughingstock. The move to Brooklyn makes the team relevant from a brand standpoint, and while that inherently isn’t important to other fanbases, it made the team a more appealing destination. Deron Williams has said on record that he wouldn’t have re-signed if the team weren’t moving to Brooklyn. That alone altered the course of franchise history, and other teams have to adjust to that. Teams can’t play the Nets and have it feel like their own home game anymore. Players like playing at home here, and other teams have to adjust to a crowd that actually cares. As a Nets fan who lived in New Jersey during the Jersey days and lives in Brooklyn now, It’s a different world.
Zach: For a couple years, the Nets were supposed to be big free agency players. They missed out on signing LeBron James and trading for Carmelo Anthony. Did they make the Joe Johnson trade so they weren’t risking striking out on players moving forward?
Devin: I wouldn’t say that exactly. They made the Joe Johnson trade because the team was awful after those rebuffs, and the allure of Brooklyn would only last so long without a talented roster. Billy King had one goal this offseason: checks be damned, make the team good. That first meant Dwight Howard, but I’ve instructed a sniper to shoot me in the teeth if I talk any more about Dwight, so I’ll stop there. Without Dwight, King set his sights on Plan B. Joe Johnson was Plan B. Ideally, the Nets will be very good for four years, then move forward into the next era with that success as their blueprint. That’s when their first free agency test will be, but the Nets didn’t make that trade for fear of striking out later. They made it to be good now.
Zach: We’re not very far into the season, but how do you feel about the bench? Is this a strength or weakness for the Nets?
Devin: A tentative strength. C.J. Watson is good enough to be a starting point guard on a bad team, but he’s excelled as the backup on this one. He’s everything Sundiata Gaines was supposed to be but wasn’t: he takes smart shots and makes them, plays smart defense and forces turnovers. Reggie Evans is an enormous fireball of energy. He may not grab 13 rebounds every 16 minutes like he did Saturday night, but holy spark on a firecracker he goes after every loose ball and has a tentative grasp of Avery’s defense. Andray Blatche had a very good preseason and some encouraging moments on Saturday, but he’s also the slowest defender on a team with Brook Lopez. Jury’s out. And MarShon Brooks is the longest, leanest awesome there is in Backupshootingguardland.