It’s a brand new season, folks.
After the most high-profile offseason in NBA history, where we learned that Travis Outlaw decided to take his talents to Cory Booker’s backyard, yup, we’re finally here. The New Jersey Nets – emphasis on “New” – are finally hitting the professional floor for the first time together. While Troy Murphy is still out with injury, the Nets are essentially ready to go. Co-captain Devin Harris will be the starting point guard, flocked by Anthony Morrow & Travis Outlaw. Kris Humphries will likely start in lieu of Murphy*, and, of course, the other co-captain Brook Lopez will be manning the middle. Jordan Farmar & Terrence Williams will probably be the first players off the bench, but no guarantees. That’s up to Avery Johnson, joining the team before new GM Billy King, but after new owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
An early jump would be a huge boost for this team, too. From now until the end of November, I can count 10-11 winnable games. While there are some tough matchups in there – playing Miami twice in the first six games and Orlando twice in the first 9 isn’t a smooth start to any team’s year – there’s no doubt that the Nets should be able to compete early on, and hopefully use a good start to the season as a springboard into the rest of the year.
Don’t get me wrong. When given the choice of O/U 32 wins, I chose the under. I still think this team will hit a lot of frustrating bumps in the road as they gel and develop together. So when watching the games this season, unless the Nets surprise all of us (and they might), I urge you to pay less attention to the end result and more to how it came to be. For a developing team, it’s about the process, not the outcome. Is Harris finding Morrow for open looks? Is Murphy boxing out every play? How is Farmar running the offense in his backup role? Is Williams distributing well & taking good shots in the rhythm of the offense? Is Favors dunking on someone yet? And please, for God’s sake, can Brook Lopez get the most touches?
But it all starts tonight. The Nets are set to take on the Detroit Pistons, a truly beatable team. While we shouldn’t overestimate the first game – remember, it’s a long season – last year’s season opener (a loss to the god-awful Timberwolves on a Damien Wilkins buzzer-beater) was certainly a frightening omen of things to come. If the Nets start off on the right foot this time, it would certainly be a weight off their shoulders. 1-0 is prettier than 0-18. They’ve certainly got a legit chance. I’d be willing to say that this Nets team, even without Murphy, is flat-out a better team than Detroit. Now’s the time to prove that those demons from 2009-2010 are as real as the Red Sox curse was to Curt Schilling.
Welcome to the 2010-2011 NBA season. Even if (when?) it ends up as another lottery-bound season, it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
See you at 7.
*-After the time this article was published, Avery Johnson confirmed that it would be Joe Smith, not Kris Humphries, to start opening night.