The play on the floor has been sub-par, the chatter surrounding the team is a black cloud, between Joe Johnson’s “selfish” comments and yesterday’s ESPN report that their highest-paid players are on the trading block, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for the Nets (8-11).
All the drama aside, the season is still salvageable, as the Nets fly into Chicago today to face the Bulls (12-8) minus the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah.
Despite playing 33 minutes with a right ankle injury Saturday, Noah will sit out tonight’s game as a precaution as he relayed to the media after practice yesterday.
“My ankle is still bothering me a little bit, so I have to be smart,” Noah said. “You know it’s a long season, and I’m taking it day by day.” Noah had 10 rebounds in the last meeting versus the Nets, a 102-84 thrashing on November 30th.
The Nets will be also be shorthanded with Joe Johnson (illness) and Brook Lopez (lower back strain) missing their second straight game. In Monday’s night loss to the Cavaliers, Deron Williams had a rough night shooting (3-14) while dishing out 11 assists in 35 minutes, but the onus will be on him once again tonight to get the Nets offense going. Jerome Jordan’s playing time spiked up the most in Lopez’s absence playing 23 minutes tallying 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
The Nets did well forcing turnovers (20), and defending the three-point shot (7-24) in their first meeting with the Bulls, but failed on the glass, outrebounded 50-34, led by Pau Gasol’s 13. Despite Noah’s absence, the Nets frontcourt will have to account for Gasol, who’s coming off a 22-point, 20-rebound game against the Golden State Warriors, Jimmy Butler, whose ability to get an open shot from any spot on the floor gave the Nets problems, and Taj Gibson, who missed the previous game in Brooklyn. And that’s not even getting into former MVP Derrick Rose, who has struggled with various injuries this season but is still one of the league’s superstars.
The Bulls are an elite team the Nets would prefer not to see being so shorthanded. With so many distractions hovering around the team, Lionel Hollins needs answers quick before this season gets away from him and his players.