So reportedly the Nets played a basketball game last night, I’m not so convinced they did. As a matter fact, I’m just going to operate as if they didn’t play. There, done, moving on.
The last time we saw the Nets in action Deron Williams was doing his best Michael Jordan impression scoring a career-high, season-high, Nets high, everything high 57 points, and just about single-handedly taking out the Charlotte Bobcats.
Well tonight’s opponent will be marginally tougher than the Bobcats as the Lob Angeles Clippers take their high-flying act to the low lights of Newark.
Here to engage me in a pre-game 1 on 1 is Charlie Widdoes from ClipperBlog. Charlie has been a Clippers fan all his life and grew up on the west coast but has spent his last few years in New York City, so he definitely has his pulse on the Nets as well as Clips.
Recently, Charlie contributed a piece to TrueHoop about Franchises in Transition, you should totally check that out. Also, you can follow Charlie on twitter – @charliewiddoes.
Ok let’s get to it. You know how this works, I ask Charlie three questions about the Clippers and he responds with three on the Nets. This should be fun.
Charlie on the Los Angeles Clippers
Justin: You’ve been frustrated with how the Clippers have been playing of late, but ultimately, what do you view their ceiling to be this season?
I still believe that if Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are healthy, they can win a championship this season. That’s the ceiling. For all the negative things you can say about Griffin of late (a disturbing lack of effort on the defensive end the first that jumps to mind), he is still a force that puts tremendous pressure on the opponent. With the injuries and the four point guards and no 2’s and the complete inability of the coach to institute an effective plan on either end, I’d say getting the to second round of the playoffs would have to be considered a success.
Justin: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin get most of the Clippers attention nationally, but who’s been the Clip that’s been playing well, but maybe not receiving as much attention for it?
Not to sound like a downer, but there really aren’t many feel-good stories of late. Mo Williams has had his moments where he’ll catch fire from deep, as will Randy Foye. Reggie Evans will have a stretch every game or so where he pulls down four rebounds in two minutes and Kenyon Martin will give you some tough D and a sometimes-effective midrange J. But I guess I’ll point to Eric Bledsoe, who is working his way back into the rotation after missing the first two months of the season with a knee injury. He hasn’t been spectacular, as he’s gotten more comfortable on the court, he’s provided tremendous energy and suffocating defense — which stand out on this team many nights.
Justin: Marquee point guard match-up tonight, so I have to go there: Who’s better – Chris Paul or Deron Williams?
I have long believed that they are nearly impossible to separate as the top point guards in the league. Paul clearly finds himself in a more favorable position, surrounded by terrific finishers, but I’m not ready to say that Deron wouldn’t be just as successful if the two were flipped. In fact, most Clipper fans would probably tell you they wouldn’t mind seeing Paul assert himself offensively, a la Deron. I’m afraid I’m going to be “that guy,” coming to your wonderful blog and not giving a firm answer either way. As a Brooklyn resident, I just hope Williams sticks around long enough to play some home games down the street from me.
Justin on the New Jersey Nets
Charlie: How is it that the Nets are worse defensively than the Clippers?
The short answer – lack of talent. The long answer, well it’s still lack of talent, but injuries and limited practice time hinders as well. To start the year the Nets were behind the eight ball in terms of continuity. They added lots of new players in the off-season and fitting that group to the system Avery Johnson employs without much of a training camp or practice time to do so has proved difficult. Making things worse has been the injuries that have piled up for the Nets this season and it has not allowed them to develop any type of chemistry whats so ever, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
Charlie: Word on the streets is that the Nets fan is quite high on rookie MarShon Brooks. Aside from a healthy amount of swag, what makes him such a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season?
I told you Charlie has his ear to the Brooklyn streets! MarShon has had an interesting season this year, but one thing he has certainly proven is that he can score the basketball at the NBA level. I’m still excited to see how he develops his overall game. In terms of him being a bright spot, I think a lot has to do with the fact that the Nets were just so devoid of talent that ANYBODY that came along and proved they are more than just a bench player in starter’s clothing would have caused the Nets fan to rejoice. Also, all fans love to scream STEAL! anytime they think they got one in the draft, so coupled with the lack of talent, MarShon’s late draft status certainly helped give Nets fans a reason to cheer.
Charlie: Deron Williams dropped 57 against the Bobcats, but with losses (like last night’s 30-point blowout to the Heat) mounting, how is it affecting him? He’s averaging a career-high 21 points a game, but should we expect to see him become even more of a scorer?
Deron has ultimately admitted that losing will make him “grouchy” and I don’t think he’s portrayed anything but that after losses. How it affects his overall view of the franchise is a different story. The Nets have made all indications that they want Deron to stay and they have allowed him to be involved in decisions regarding the team’s future. If nothing else, Deron is invested into this team as much as anyone and we’ve been told that he is on board with the vision of the team going forward. Nothing DWill has said so far this year would lead me to believe otherwise.
In terms of his scoring, 57 was an outlier sure, but I would expect DWill to be very aggressive from here on out and that’s more out of necessity than anything else.
Charlie: Looks like Brook Lopez will be out a couple more weeks. It obviously hurts their chances of trading for Dwight Howard, but how does it affect them on the court?
It’s really hard to say how the actually x’s and o’s of having Brook on the court will be affected simply because there is a small sample size of Brook playing with this unit together.
What I will say, however, is that Brook took a lot of pressure of Deron to be the primary scorer. Take the Dallas game for example: DWill had a horrible shooting night (3-15, 12 points) but because of Brook’s 38 points, the Nets won. Those types of nights from DWill sans Lopez and the result is…last night. Oops, I forgot, that didn’t happen!