Pregame Open Thread: New Jersey Nets @ Orlando Magic

The Nets (23-47) travel to Orlando tonight to take on one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams in the Magic (46-26).  The Nets haven’t beaten Orlando since April 2009 and haven’t won on the road there since December 2005, so they have their work cut out for them. Regardless here are some keys:

What’s the Point: We know that Sundiata Gaines and Deron Williams are definitely out. Ben Uzoh is back. Jordan Farmar is around and I guess Sasha Vujacic can also log some minutes at PG. Needless to say, the embarrassing wealth of depth the Nets had at this position is looking more or less just embarrassing as of late.

Brook vs. Dwight: It’s a classic match-up between two very good center (well one very good center, one superstar) and hey, it’s the first time these two teams have met since the Deron Williams trade when all sports pundits jumped to the conclusion that the Nets would go after Dwight hard before 2012. So let’s add some DRAMA here. What if Brook doesn’t perform (he’s scored 23 and 20 points in his last two games against the Magic)? What if Dwight continues to be a defensive menace who’s going to grab 15+ boards a game? Will Deron Williams be sending secret signals to Dwight from the Nets bench (blink once if you’ll come to Brooklyn, twice if you want me to relocate to Orlando)? The possibilities are endless.

Play for Something: After Wednesday’s 35 percent shooting performance against the lowly Cavs, there were some general concerns that maybe the Nets are past the point of caring – it’s all about looking ahead, seeing what guys like Gaines, Uzoh and Brandan Wright can do in their limited minutes, and evaluating free agents to be like Kris Humphries and Sasha Vujacic. But the Nets still have a realistic shot at winning 30 games, which while still 22 games under .500 is a remarkable improvement from a year ago and it would be nice to see the Nets get their house in order against one of the conference’s top teams against the road. Orlando is all about good defense, perimeter shooting, and of course, Dwight Howard. They’re absolutely beatable and even without DWill, I’d like to see the Nets catch them off-guard, especially since their position as the 4th seed in the East is essentially locked and loaded at this point.

For some views on how the other half lives, visit Magic Basketball.