Pregame Open Thread: New Jersey Nets vs. New York Knicks

Ah, this match-up had so much more juice a few weeks ago. Still, the stumbling, bumbling Nets (24-54) are hoping their last Friday night game of the season ends on a high note as they face the surging New York Knicks (40-38), who have won 5 in a row after looking like a walking corpse when these two teams last met. The Nets list of injuries remains the same (Deron Williams, Kris Humphries, Anthony Morrow, Damion James, Sundiata Gaines, the Professor and Mary Ann), while the Knicks try to make things interesting by sitting Amare Stoudemire. Chauncy Billups is also banged-up and is a game-time decision.

A few bullet points here:

Could this team beat UConn? I say UConn’s Kemba Walker is arguably better than anyone on the Nets except Brook Lopez, though my guess is Walker would outrebound him. I bring this up because with all of their injuries, the Nets are not fielding an NBA team right now with the likes of Dan Gadzuric, Johan Petro, and Stephen Graham getting major minutes. Speaking of which, I recently read on the interwebs a response to my rant about Graham last week which went along the lines “for God’s sake who cares about Stephen Graham.” Besides missing the actual point of my rant and settling for the straw man response, obviously someone in the Nets’ FO does because despite being one of the worst players in the NBA all season he has kept a job on this team’s roster all year – a move that’s now coming home to roost because the Nets are forced to play a bunch of stiffs 20-30 minutes a game because no one had the foresight to build bench depth with NBA talent. My guess is a bulk of the guys getting major minutes for the Nets tonight will be out of the NBA next season. Tell me again why as a Nets fan I’m not supposed to care about that?

Don’t forget the Man in the Middle: Granted, I couldn’t watch Wednesday’s game because the team’s television contract with YES is about as solid as their starting five tonight, but while following the game on Twitter, I saw Brook Lopez hit 39 points with still a large chunk of the 4th quarter ahead of him. And then the Nets promptly forgot him, instead going for the jugular by heaving a bunch of jumpers courtesy of Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic. The Knicks notoriously have no interior defensive presence. The Nets need to ride Lopez in the post until he drops dead. The guy should easily have 30+ points tonight, and I could even see him sniff 50 if the Nets actually follow a game plan.

Don’t forget to check out for some insight from the other side of the river.