We will get our first look at the Brooklyn Nets when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers tonight in Atlantic City.
Since media day, Avery Johnson has talked about instilling a defensive mentality in his team.
Tonight, we'll get to see if the Nets have made strides in that area...
"The first Nets gameday of the season is finally here. So, with that said, here are three things to watch for in Saturday night’s game in Atlantic City against the Nets.
1. Brook Lopez – We’ve waited and waited to see a healthy Brook Lopez, really dating back to the beginning of last season. But that obviously never materialized, as Lopez wound up playing just five games last year thanks to a pair of foot injuries.
2. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson – How will Brooklyn’s backcourt mesh? That’s been one of the big questions leading into the season. I don’t think it’ll be an issue at all, personally, but it’s something that will take time to settle out as these guys get used to playing together.
3. Defense – This team is going to score, and score a lot, unless something crazy happens. The entire Nets season – and how far this team goes in the postseason – will come down to how much defense this team plays. Avery Johnson has made defense his clear focus throughout training camp and listed off several defensive metrics he’ll be looking for in Saturday’s game following Friday’s practice (in order): points in the paint, rebounds, defensive field goal percentage, transition defense."
Of these three things to watch, I’m definitely most focused on seeing how the defense plays in this game. I agree with Bontemps in that the Nets should have no trouble putting the ball in the hoop. Between Deron Williams and Joe Johnson knocking down outside shots and Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries down low, the Nets can be an offensive juggernaut.
However, if the defense doesn’t show up, the Nets will struggle to win games. This is where Gerald Wallace comes in to play. After acquiring Wallace late last season, the Nets found themselves with a defensive specialist on their roster.
“Crash” earned a spot on the 2010 NBA All-Defensive First Team while with the Charlotte Bobcats, and the Nets will be hoping to get a similar defensive output from their small forward.
Of course though, defense in the NBA is not a one-man game. Both Humphries and Lopez will have to contest shots in the paint and pull down defensive boards, while Johnson and Williams will work to come up with steals.
This team has the speed and athleticism to score fast-break points generated off of defensive turnovers. Though it’s just the first preseason game, we’ll find out tonight if the Nets have what it takes to play a complete game with an offensive and defensive balance.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.