Pregame Open Thread: New Jersey Nets @ San Antonio Spurs

Tonight, the post-All-Star break Nets take on the San Antonio Spurs. While it was a far way off, this is actually the second time the Nets will be facing San Antonio in their past three games. Three of the starters are definite tonight: Brook Lopez at center, Kris Humphries at power forward, and Deron Williams at point guard. Sasha Vujacic is expected to start over Anthony Morrow (though that’s not definite); and Damion James is expected to play tonight, but I’d assume that Travis Outlaw will be starting again at the 3 spot.

Here are a few things to think about for tonight’s game:

Keep things in perspective. The Nets may look different in one major way, but they’re still on the road & well behind San Antonio in terms of overall talent. If the Nets can’t pull this one out, no one should be calling for the head of Avery, D-Will, Brook, or anyone else. If they win this one, it’ll be a shocker, but they should compete more than in the listless 102-85 drubbing two weeks ago.

The change in offense. Substituting Devin Harris for Deron Williams is a huge upgrade – Deron’s quicker, stronger, more reliable on both sides of the floor, a better distributor, and a better outside shooter. Having him on the floor is going to make the entire team look different – from Brook in the pick & roll to Morrow getting a plethora of open looks. Watch out for what kind of sets Avery runs for this team – I’ll bet he lets Deron do his “quarterback on the floor” thing and runs fewer sets and more open pick & rolls with multiple options.

Stop the inside. The Nets lost a bit of frontcourt depth this weekend, as they traded away starting power forward and blue-chip prospect Derrick Favors. The Nets don’t have a lot of great defenders inside and the Spurs are a team that likes to attack the basket. If the Nets can hold down the slashing skills of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, while still keeping Tim Duncan in check, they’ve got a shot. But it’s easier said than done.

For more news & analysis on the San Antonio Spurs, check out TrueHoop affiliate 48 Minutes of Hell.