Dependent on your thoughts regarding the arena ribbon-cutting, the Jay-Z concert(s), media day, the day shops opened, the day security took down the metal detectors for the Streisand audience, and November 1st, last night marked at least the third of many opening nights for Barclays Center a.k.a. The Black House a.k.a. the House that Hov Built. This particular opening night commemorated the first official-unofficial game in Brooklyn Nets history in Brooklyn, as they took on Andray Blatche’s former organization of employment, the Washington Wizards.
Avery Johnson felt no need to risk the embarrassment of losing the first official-unofficial home game in Brooklyn Nets history. 38 minutes on Joe Johnson’s legs later, and the Wizards did not play spoiler, losing by ten points in relatively underwhelming fashion. After a discordant first half in which the Nets seamlessly fluctuated from ball movement to player stagnant, the Nets found a pulse in the third quarter, finally owning the lead for good with just under nine minutes remaining, earning it for good on a shot by none other than Blatche to take a 77-76 lead.
As he was the player that inspired the most scorn from this blogger, it is Blatche, naturally, who has been the most startling revelation of the Brooklyn Nets preseason. It appears Voldemort is dead; the former problem child has thus far proven his rave reviewers true, impressing on both ends of the floor (though particularly offensively) in both preseason games.
Perhaps no Brooklyn Nets player elicited more cheers from the crowd of 14,000 than Blatche, who finished the game with his once-empty now-efficient averages of 16 points and 8 rebounds. For those Nets fans who have suffered with this team longer than a half-decade, it is no stretch to expect adulation that no backup center has received from this franchise’s backers since chants of “MI-KKI! MI-KKI!” rained from Izod rafters in 2006-07.
If you refuse to take my word, just ask the 7-footer ahead of Blatche on the depth chart.
“(He’s) been killing me every day in practice, so to see him out there playing well against other bigs too, that’s a relief for me,” Brook Lopez said of Blatche after the game. “He’s going to do big things for us.
“I sit there sometimes, I’m like, ‘that’s our backup center. That’s crazy.'”
That 7-footer may be the only player on either end that impressed more than Blatche. Lopez, often decried for his rebounding deficiencies, has now grabbed 20 rebounds in roughly 51 preseason minutes, a fair share for a solid center. His efficient, impressive point totals are notable, but expected; it’s the sudden uptick in glass-crashing that forces pause. This is reflective, not predictive or indicative, but had Lopez snared three rebounds in each game the general “we” would discuss his dearth. It’s preferable to the alternative.
The game ebbed and flowed as one dominated by experimental lineups might. The Nets mostly kept at least one starter on the floor in the second half, finishing the game with three starters (Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace) flanking the two notable, healthy reserves (C.J. Watson, Andray Blatche). This concoction posits a symbiotic synergy in a position-arbitrary lineup; the Nets closed a mostly meaningless game with four players in creative or interchanging floor spots.
The victorious end was only marred by an uncouth exchange between Williams and Wizards backup backup A.J. Price, as Price fouled Williams on a fast break and began awkwardly mouthing off about his residence. The barbaric brickbats continued postgame as Williams called “scoreboard!” in the game of life. In all fairness, Williams is winning that one more handily than the Nets did tonight.
Brooklyn travels to Boston tomorrow, in a game that I’d expect means significantly less to its coach. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams will not play above 30 minutes in this one, but other than that knowledge, questions trump answers. Will Brook Lopez continue his backboard assault? Will Tornike Shengelia a.k.a. Toko Loco get his first official-unofficial minutes in a Brooklyn uniform? Will Blatche continue to impress, stepping further from surprise and closer to the burden of expectation?
Oh, there is one more certainty: it’ll be televised, on NBATV. Following the telecast comes the debut episode of The Association, the NBA show that covers a professional basketball team “behind the scenes.” I bet you can guess what team they’re covering.