Preseason Homecoming

Andrei Kirilenko, Josh Smith
Andrei Kirilenko (left) may check Josh Smith in new surroundings tonight. (AP)
Andrei Kirilenko, Josh Smith
Andrei Kirilenko (left) may check Josh Smith in new surroundings tonight. (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets opened their preseason with an overtime victory over the Washington Wizards, led by Tyshawn Taylor, Mason Plumlee, Jorge Gutierrez, and Mirza Teletovic. You should enjoy that sentence now, because should you ever see it again, you’ve either accidentally stumbled onto the Springfield Armor website in February or MRSA has crept out of Tampa Bay and infected the Brooklyn Nets rotation players.

Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets play act two of their We Talkin’ Bout Preseason Tour, coming home to Brooklyn to play against an NBA opponent for the first time since losing Game 7 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Chicago Bulls on May 4th. They’ll take on the Detroit Pistons, possibly the only team in the Eastern Conference to undergo as much of a transformation as Brooklyn this offseason.

After two seasons with Brandon Knight at the helm, the Pistons cut ties with him this offseason, trading him to the Milwaukee Bucks with Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov for erratic Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings. They signed similarly erratic power forward Josh Smith to a four-year deal worth $54 million to play small forward next to Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

Unfortunately, these things to watch won’t help you much; unless you’re at the arena, there isn’t a way to watch tonight’s game in Brooklyn. YES Network will not be covering the game live. We, as usual, will provide our live Twitter updates, as will the Brooklyn Nets twitter account.

Here’s three things I’ll be watching out for in tonight’s game.

1) Stretching the rotation. Head coach Jason Kidd said before Tuesday’s contest that he’d limit the starters to roughly 12 minutes, and he stayed true to his word — Brooklyn’s core four (Deron Williams excluded due to injury) played exactly 12:29 of game time, all in the first half. That didn’t keep them from engaging with the game throughout the contest, though. Now that we’ve got one game in the books, maybe Kidd will give his starters a bit more time. That’s fine with me — the more we see Kevin Garnett on the floor, the better.

2) Shaun Livingston. Livingston was the team’s only starter that played more than that 12:29, finishing with nearly 19 minutes played, and he looked sharp with the starters and reserves. Brook Lopez glowed about Livingston before the team’s first preseason game, calling him a true point guard and breaking down just how well Livingston does at getting the big the ball in the spots he likes. Livingston racked up five assists in his time, one of them a particularly nice behind-the-back pass to a cutting Lopez for a dunk. If he continues to look this good… This is the team’s backup.

3) Andrei “MVP” Kirilenko. We ranked Kirilenko as our team MVP after game one for his all-around effort on both ends of the floor, and I’d expect another great outing out of him. He, after all, is a starter in reserve’s clothing, and the opportunity to feast on lesser players is one Kirilenko may get a lot this year. He sees defensive moves and open offensive spots a split second ahead of most players.

One thing to keep an eye on: if he plays against Pistons starters at all, he’ll have his hands full with Josh Smith, a power forward playing the 3 next to the behemoth Detroit frontline of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Kirilenko’s a player often praised for his ability to guard any position on the floor — against the Pistons, we may actually get to see him do it.