Without Brook Lopez, the Brooklyn Nets struggled against the Detroit Pistons’ two-headed monster duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe and lost their three-game winning streak. Tonight, still without Lopez, they look to get on track against the Philadelphia 76ers — a team that has, after a fast start, fully committed to tanking.
Their best player, Michael Carter-Williams, was the unanimous leader for this year’s Rookie of the Year Award before getting mysteriously shelved with a right knee injury. Which leaves Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes to try and defend their homecourt against the suddenly rising Nets.
Who will come out on top?
These are the three most important things going into tonight’s game against Philadelphia.
1. Is last year’s Deron Williams back for good?
Ben Nadeau: We can hope, right? Since Deron Williams’ return, the Nets suddenly stagnant offense has begun to breathe again. As long they triple-knot and double check his ankles before the games, his revival is one of the biggest keys to saving this Brooklyn season. After his spin-cycle against Chris Paul, it’s hard not to look upon Williams with unbridled optimism– he didn’t even have to get an injection yet!
Devin Kharpertian: If he doesn’t land on someone else’s foot, it looks like it. Williams’s creative abilities change the game in numerous ways, most notably his ability to create easy shots for himself and others. Consider this: with Williams on the floor this season, the team as a whole shoots 42.4 percent from three-point range. With him off the floor? 32 percent flat. As he rounds into form, the offense comes with him, and it’s made a huge difference thus far. Now the only question: when’s Brook Lopez returning?
Will Rausch: Is last year’s injury-riddled but at-times-brilliant Deron Williams back for good? Yes. Unfortunately with chronic ankle injuries, you are back for good until you aren’t. It will take a lot more than four straight games played for me to fall in love with D-Will and his balky ankles again. I’ve been hurt one too many times.
2. Do the Nets need to trade for Kyle Lowry?
Ben Nadeau: In a word, no. But in another word, yes…? I’m torn. There must be something we don’t know going on with Shaun Livingston, right? Or is this classic overcompensation/overreaction by Billy King? As long as they don’t give up Mason Plumlee or another first, I guess it’s fine. I think. The real question is whether or not getting Kyle Lowry makes them title contenders– and I don’t think it does so why further hedge the future?
Devin Kharpertian: He’d be like adding bulletproof tinted windows to a Hummer. You already have the Hummer, but you’ve already thrown all your money into this incredibly flashy, bulky vehicle that no one else on the road likes. Might as well just go for broke, right?
Will Rausch: The only thing that I’ve been hurt more by than Deron’s ankles are Billy King’s “win-now” decisions, so no, the Nets don’t need Lowry. Will getting a rich man’s Shaun Livingston really save this season? That’s not to say the Nets shouldn’t be open to getting a solid player like Lowry, but the price would have to be right. What’s the right price? I don’t know, anymore. I’ve been burned one too many times by Nets trades. Will I ever love again?
3. Should Paul Pierce be a permanent fixture off the bench?
Ben Nadeau: Yes! If his ego allows it, then by all means, it’s totally the best thing going forward. So far, he’s acted like a distributor off the bench, filling in pretty effectively for Shaun Livingston’s ineffectiveness. I know he’s not shooting well, but it also allows for a little more perimeter punch with the second unit because Alan Anderson wasn’t cutting it before. Pierce says he’s OK with it for now so there’s absolutely no reason not to ride this out.
Devin Kharpertian: Sure, for now. It’s worked so far, and Alan Anderson likes his job as the fifth option, hanging out around the wings while everyone else goes to work. We originally brought up this idea on YES Network’s #BKConnect, and we’re going to talk about it more Wednesday. Tune in. /plug
Will Rausch: 60% of the time he should come off the bench 100% of the time. While the 15-year NBA veteran has started 1,114 of the 1,120 regular season games he’s played in the NBA, he provided a much higher level play in the first 1,099 starts in Celtic green than the last 15 in a Nets uniform. Early returns show the Pierce bench experiment working, and the 9-15 Nets are in no position to balk at any potential solutions. That’s not to say that the ten time All-Star shouldn’t start down the round when he and the team are healthier, but for now the Truth should take his talents to the south end of the bench.
Ben Nadeau: Nets 98, Sixers 89
Devin Kharpertian: Nets 99, Sixers 91
Will Rausch: Nets 104, Sixers 99