One day after the NBA fined coach Jason Kidd roughly the median family income for spilled soda, the 4-11 Brooklyn Nets land in Texas to take on the 11-5 Houston Rockets, led by one man that the Nets desperately tried to acquire two seasons ago.
The Rockets have a few injuries to their starting lineup (sound familiar?) but they’re still led by former Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, who famously bolted from the Los Angeles Lakers and signed a maximum contract with Houston in the offseason. But long before the Rockets, we had the Dwightmare: the Nets, for the better part of a season, desperately tried to acquire Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic, offering Brook Lopez, flotsam, and multiple first-round picks to acquire the all-world center before he hit the free agent market. But the Magic refused to deal Howard to the Nets, his preferred destination, fielding multiple offers before settling on one that sent Howard to the Lakers and allowed the Magic to tank for draft position. Ain’t life grand?
The Nets don’t seem too upset. Howard struggled with back issues and the media circus in Los Angeles, bolting the Lakers after one tumultuous season. He’s now averaging 17.3 points and 12.9 rebounds in 34 minutes per game, and though he’s shooting 56.6 percent from the field, he’s dealing with a disappearing post game. Though it doesn’t seem like good timing now due to his sprained ankle, the Nets have gotten top-flight production out of Lopez, the center they wanted to deal away for Howard.
The Rockets were built to contend around Dwight, and though they have their question marks, they’ve done well in the early going. At 11-5, they sit behind only the reigning Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest Division, despite injuries that have limited their best players. James Harden has averaged 24.3 points per game in his 12 games played, and former New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, whose Linsanity binge began and ended against the New Jersey Nets, has played well despite shuffling in and out of the starting lineup. Chandler Parsons, who was selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft, is shooting better on two-pointers than Howard. Omer Asik is a defensive force, Terrence Jones has put up impressive per-minute numbers… You get the point. There’s a lot of two-way depth on this team. They’re like if the entire Nets roster was five years younger.
(For the record, both Harden and Lin are questionable to play tonight as Harden nurses a left foot injury and Lin a right knee. The Nets did not hold shootaround, so the status of their injured players is unclear as of Friday morning.)
For the past week, the Nets have gotten more notoriety for their coach’s antics than the team’s play, which might be a blessing in disguise, as the Nets haven’t played particularly well all season. Whether it’s Kidd’s reaction to a win or cup strategy in a loss, it seems like distractions have done their job. But the Nets still look lost in transition, their half-court offense fluctuates from one mess to the next, and with nearly half their starting lineup out, they’re headed on the road to take on a tough Houston team that’s top-10 in the league in running and top-3 in offense. This one could be brutal if the Nets can’t find a way to solve their early-season problems.
Tipoff at 8 P.M.