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  1. “This Barclays Center sure is a nice place, eh, Dennis?” So, what did your team get by parting ways with Joe Johnson? Meeting tonight for the first time this season, both the Atlanta Hawks and the host Brooklyn Nets (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast and 92.9 FM in ATL, YES Network in NYC) have had their destinies significantly shaped, for better or worse, by the July 2012 trade featuring the plainest-named star in the NBA. Paying what was, then, a ginormous salary agreed to previously under the Atlanta regime, Brooklyn squeezed three-and-a-half seasons, and one Paul Pierce-fueled postseason series victory, out of the 7-time All-Star (just one All-Star appearance as a Net). Back in that fateful summer of 2012, Atlanta could not have conceived that the swap options Brooklyn offered would not only prove useful, but occasionally teeter toward a lottery pick. Brooklyn could not have foreseen that the season before they would buy Johnson out of his contract, it would be the Hawks, not the Nets, going eye-to-toe with LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals, dispatching Joe Cool and the Nets along the way. Neither of the Duke-alum general managers who agreed to the 2012 blockbuster deal would have predicted that, by 2017, they would each be distant memories in their respective NBA locales, largely for reasons that have nothing to do with this mega-deal. Here we stand, Hawks and Nets tipping off at the Barclays Center, and the man who defined these teams’ histories over the course of the past decade is coming off the bench in Salt Lake City. That leaves us fans to ponder: what is left in Joe Johnson’s wake? Who are Joe’s legacies? Well in Atlanta’s case, for starters, we got full seasons and playoff contributions from DeShawn Stevenson and Johan Petro. Anthony Morrow stuck around for a cup of tea, then was dealt for a late-season run by the Kobe-stopping Dahntay Jones. All of them, including Jordan Farmar and the troubled Jordan Williams, were off the roster before training camp preceding the the 2013-14 season. There was also some cap space engendered by the Joe trade, and signed into it were two shooters, Lou Williams, and Kyle Korver. There was also a 2013 first-rounder. Atlanta shipped that pick, Shane Larkin, as part of a three-team draft-day deal and received a haul that included China’s future statue, Jared Cunningham, along with picks that became Bebe Nogueira and Mike Muscala. For a couple months, Brooklyn teased the Hawks with the prospect of a 2014 swap for a lottery pick, before Joe resorted to All-Star mode and made the Nets look decent again. Before becoming a Sixth Man of the Year winner, Lou was sent to Toronto in the summer of 2014, along with Bebe, for the opportunity to waive John Salmons goodbye. In 2015, the Hawks nearly had the best of both worlds: a number-one conference seed, and a chance to secure a seat in the draft lottery. Alas, this time the Nets tantalized all the way until the final game of the season before their playoff berth was clinched. Receiving Atlanta’s spot, Brooklyn selected Chris McCullough. The Hawks swung yet another three-team, draft-day deal, using their selection of Kelly Oubre and converting it into the Knicks’ Tim Hardaway, Jr., plus a 2019 second-rounder from Washington. Last week, Korver begat the retiring Mo Williams, a dragged-kicking-and-screaming Mike Dunleavy, Jr., and a top-ten protected first round pick in 2019, all arriving from Cleveland. Including that plus two future recruits to Hawks University (a 2017 second-rounder from Brooklyn; the 2019 pick from the Wiz), Atlanta has two legacies to the Joe Johnson deal that remain on the floor tonight: Hardaway, and Muscala. For whatever their flaws, Hardaway and Muscala have become integral contributors. Timmy (last 4 games: 19.3 PPG, 59.4 FG%, 65.4 3FG%) even more so, now that the Hawks have sent Korver packing. With the departures of Korver and Ryan Kelly, Moose becomes Atlanta’s best bet at hitting the occasional shot from the 3-point arc (team-high 44.8 3FG%), at least until Dunleavy gets back up to speed. At the other end of the floor, what does Brooklyn have to show for itself, after buying out Joe last February? Quite a bit, at least numerically, if you count McCullough plus the cap space created from the buyout. That flexibility allowed the Nets to bring in Sean Kilpatrick and the since-jettisoned Henry Sims, undrafted free agents, in the back half of last season. The roster was also repopulated around centerpiece Brook Lopez, with free agents including Luis Scola, Justin Hamilton, Randy Foye, Joe Harris, and the since-dispatched trio of Greivis Vasquez, Yogi Ferrell and Anthony “Bustin’ Rebel” Bennett. With owner Mikhail Prokhorov looming above the franchise, the Nyets can’t possibly be the Nyets without spending a few extra rubles. The team swung-and-missed on offer mega-bucks sheets for Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe in the summer, and again in mid-season while making a play for Donatas Motiejunas. They also brought into the fold lunchpail forward Trevor Booker and hair-gel-aficionado Jeremy Lin to serve as starters during the Nets’ transition. Lin, however, has struggled with a hamstring strain, and he’ll miss his 25th game (7th in a row) tonight. Booker injured his hip during Brooklyn’s 105-95 Sunday matinee home loss to the 76ers, their 10th defeat in the past 11 games, and his status for tonight remains up in the air. To top off the teardown-and-rebuild, the Nets elected to follow the lead of Joe’s current employer, and pluck a Mike Budenholzer disciple off the Atlanta Hawks’ bench. After concluding his final playoff run with the Hawks, Huntington native Kenny Atkinson returned to the island he once geographically shared with NYC’s biggest borough. Joining forces with Brooklyn’s newest general manager, Spurs-Guy Sean Marks, Coach Kenny remains effusive in praise for his former boss. “Fantastic all-around coach,” Atkinson said of Coach Bud during his introductory presser, “really taught me about building a program and building a culture on and off the court.” As Hawks fans know, Atkinson is not in the mold of the freak-out, panic-button, antacid-swilling win-now taskmasters to whom the league once grew accustomed. Patience is literally Kenny’s virtue. After watching the products of Hawks U., Atkinson’s brass are willing to wait for Nets Community College to grow into something bigger under his and Marks’ watch. After years of being sold on champagne dreams with Riunite on Ice talents, Brooklynites these days know the deal. Still, Nets fans have seen enough to know which players they want to see more, and less, of on the court. They’ll hand you a Coney Island dog, with relish, if you would take Bojan Bogdanovic (35.8 3FG%) off their hands. Defensively, he and Kilpatrick formed the “Bad and Bojie” duo at the wing spots, a problem Atkinson is trying to ameliorate by replacing SKil with Harris (also 35.8 3FG%) in the starting unit. Rookie Caris LeVert is not your Casanova, but fans would prefer seeing more of Hardaway’s former Wolverine teammate, who was acquired in the dealing of Thaddeus Young to Indiana. There’s a little less desire to see 2015 draftee Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, whose jumper remains wayward as he also seems lost with respect to his defensive assignments. Lin’s perpetual absence has forced the Nets to go with youth at the point. New York City’s least absent point guard is Isaiah Whitehead, a Brooklyn native and a second-round rookie out of Seton Hall. As his team-high 2.9 APG shows, he’s still figuring this whole thing out. Third-year pro Spencer Dinwiddie got some D-League seasoning and, with his contract newly guaranteed, should expect to see more time bringing up the ball in Brooklyn. Like Paul Millsap in the first year of his Hawks tenure under Atkinson’s eye, Lopez just started seriously shooting the rock from outside this season. Already, B-Lo is Brooklyn’s most accurate perimeter shooter (36.4 3FG%), most recently going 3-for-7 for 9 of his 26 points against Embiidelphia. Brooklyn will simply hope that his newfound floor-spacing will distract Atlanta’s Dwight Howard and open things up for the Nets’ offense inside. Also getting the jump-shooting big-man tutorial is backup center Justin Hamilton (34.3 3FG%, 2-for-4 3FGs, 16 points off the bench vs. PHI). Lopez is a continual trade target, and if the Nets pull the trigger on a deal, it seems they’re content with letting Hamilton ride out the remainder of the season as a starter. Either Hamilton (shifting Lopez to the 4-spot) or the lightly-used Scola will start if Booker cannot go today, although Nets fans would like to see more of the young and lanky McCullough. Ivan Johnson doppelganger Quincy Acy was brought in on a ten-day today, replacing Bennett, and is available to play. Brooklyn may not be winning ballgames, but it’s not from a lack of trying. Much of their league-low 8-28 record is attributable to their woeful road mark, a league-worst 1-17 away from Barclays. Never mind that, you see, the way their future draft pick control is set up… Suffice to say, there is little benefit to tanking. Thanks to the deal the old regime made with Boston, the Celtics get the Nets’ lottery slot this spring. The Hawks (21-16), though, cannot afford to screw with the Celts’ lottery odds. They need a seventh-straight victory to keep Boston (23-14, in Toronto tonight) close in the standings and set up a semi-titanic clash back in Atlanta on Friday night. Atkinson, like Budenholzer, is imploring his team to push the tempo, and these Nets are running (NBA-high 104.1 possessions per-48), even if it’s full-speed into a brick wall on most nights (NBA-high 16.6 TO%). On the good side, they are listening when Atkinson, drawing from his Mike D’Antoni roots, warns them not to fall enamored with mid-range shots (7.6% of offense, 2nd-lowest in NBA behind Houston). Masterful ball control from Dennis Schröder (20.2 PPG, 40.0 3FG%, 6.0 APG, 3.0 TOs/game during win streak), and on-ball pressure defense without fouling the Nets (18.2% of offense from FTs, 7th in NBA), should be sufficient for Atlanta to set the tone early tonight. Stifling defense from Millsap (NBA-best 99.1 D-Rating, min. 20 games and 25 minutes/game) and Dwight Howard (100.5 D-Rating, 2nd to Rudy Gobert among starting centers w/ same criteria) should keep Lopez and the Nets out of the paint (45.1 PPG-in-the-paint, 7th in NBA), and more reliant on perimeter shots (31.4% of offense from 3FGs, 6th in NBA) contested by Atlanta’s wing defenders. Hawk opponents have hit on just 31.5% of their three-point attempts during this win streak. Neither team should expect the former star, Joe Johnson, to be watching from afar. He’s prepping for Korver, LeBron and visiting Cleveland tonight. Besides, he’s just striving to be the best guy named Joe coming off Utah’s bench these days. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  2. “Wait… who ate the last Patti LaBelle Pie???” Well, at least they’re losing better! Lionel Hollins’ Brookyn Nets return home to Barclays Center to host the Atlanta Hawks (7:30 PM Eastern, Fox Sports South, YES Network) after a four-game road swing. The Hawks (8-4) have been around to brighten the spirits of four at-or-below-.500 teams, and Hollins hopes his Nets (1-9) will be next in line for the gifting. Brooklyn finally got in the win column last Wednesday, blowing past the waffling Rockets in Houston on the strength of a 27-15 fourth quarter. Two nights later, the Nets could not stop DeMarcus Cousins from piling up 30 second-half points, falling by just two in Sacramento. The next night, Jarrett Jack (28 points, nine assists) and Thaddeus Young helped the Nets race to a 17-point first-half lead versus undefeated Golden State. 21 points later from Stephen Curry after the first half, Brooklyn found itself headed for an overtime loss. It’s part of a recurring theme that the Nets, virtually designed by management to be shallow and defensively challenged, needs to find enough gas to in the second halves to win ballgames. Two weeks ago, Brooklyn waltzed into their Philips Arena lockers with a 44-41 halftime lead, but couldn’t keep Atlanta from shooting 59% from the field and putting up 60 points in the second half. It’s not all deck-chair-rearranging for Hollins just yet, though. Sliding rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (3-for-6 FGs, season-high 13 rebounds @ GSW) up to the top line has paid dividends, while Jarrett Jack, Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic are playing with better consistency, at least on offense, limiting the necessity for woeful bench options Shane Larkin, Markel Brown, Wayne Ellington, Andrea Bargnani and Thomas Robinson to see much of the floor. Brooklyn will need a stronger performance out of their handsomely-paid small forward, however. Especially as Atlanta’s starter at the 3-spot (Kent Bazemore) gives his sprained ankle a rest. In his Nets’ last visit to Atlanta, Joe Johnson (10.8 PPG, 32.5 FG%, 19.4 3FG%; 3-for-12 FGs @ GSW) contributed a team-high six assists but shot just 1-for-10 from the field during the 101-87 loss. Aside from his passing (4.4 APG, 1.5 TOs/game), Joe’s presence on the floor has been largely ceremonial to this point. He passes Michael Jordan on the NBA all-time list with 1,073 games played tonight. ''That first half (versus Brooklyn on November 4), everybody missed open shots,'' Dennis Schröder said after filling into the starting lineup for a rested Kyle Korver and scoring 20 points (3-for-6 FGs). Returning to the site where he last started for Team World on All-Star Weekend, he’ll fill in at point guard this time around, as Jeff Teague continues to rest his own sprained ankle. ''In the second half, we picked up our intensity on defense. Played team defense and played with the same pace on offense.'' With Paul Millsap’s turnaround baseline shot rimming out on Sunday, Atlanta’s 97-96 loss to the Jazz ended a 30-game winning streak at Philips Arena when the Hawks held opponents under 100 points. But Utah’s failure to reach the century mark had more to do with their control of the game tempo (and the 50/50 balls) than Atlanta’s defensive approach. Mike Budenholzer gave his usual post-loss shpiel, that defensive rebounding “isn’t where it needs to be.” That’s largely because, more times than not, his most important defensive rebounder hasn’t been where he needs to be. EIGHT SECONDS LEFT… HAWKS DOWN 1, THEY NEED A BUCKET… DENNIS DRIVES, HE LAYS IT UP… NO GOOD! BUT HORFORD IS THERE AT THE RIM!! HE… DRIBBLES OUT TO THE THREE-POINT LINE AND SHOOTS… IT GOES IN! HAWKS WIN! HAWKS WIN!! Thus ends the dream sequence that Al Horford plays in his mind about his most momentous moment in an NBA jersey. It didn’t work out quite that way, six months ago. But the Hawks needed everything Al could give them to avoid going back to Washington down 3 games to 2. The 23 points, 18 of them on 9-for-17 shooting inside the perimter. The one… one… wide-open three-pointer he swished from the corner, late in the game. The five blocks. The ability to run circles around Marcin Gortat. Most importantly, the rebounds; 11 of them, six offensive and none more crucial than the last one of the game. When the Hawks needed to avoid going down 3-2 versus Brooklyn in the prior playoff series, Al came through with 20 points and 15 rebounds, including ten defensive boards. It’s the last time we’ve seen double-digit defensive rebounding from this All-Star in a game. Atlanta need not wait until springtime to see their Heroford bloom. But the pivot who needs to be Option A under the rim has double-digit rebounding performances just twice through 12 games at the early stage of this season, this after collecting ten or more 16 times in 76 appearances last season. His tallies in the last three games have dwindled from eight, to six, to five. The three D-Rebs in the loss to Utah matches his season low from the opener versus Detroit. Al’s current 18.0 D-Reb% is below, by my back-of-napkin count, that of at least 25 starting NBA centers (at par with the Nets’ Lopez) and such notables as Thabo Sefolosha, Rajon Rondo, Nemanja Bjelica, Ryan Anderson and Will Barton. It’s one thing to strive to become less of a center and more of a combo forward; it’s another thing to abdicate duties for Millsap (career-high 7.3 DRPG) and other non-center teammates to do on your behalf. In 2014-15, Atlanta was 17-5 when Horf’s D-Reb percentage fell BELOW 15%, and 16-9 when it exceeded 25%. So, to be fair, defensive rebounding from Horford, in and of itself, isn’t indicative of a likely victory. But one other factor seems to be at least correlated. Horford has also gone three full games without drawing a single shooting foul; he has maxed out at four foul shots in any game this season. Last season, Atlanta was a ridiculous 42-4 in games where Al had just ONE free throw ATTEMPT; a pedestrian 14-16 without one. As useful as he aims to become from the perimeter, Horford has to roll and cut to the basket more and mix things up inside. Between his interior play and Schröder’s drives, getting Lopez and Thaddeus Young in foul trouble could be beneficial in establishing the advantage in the fourth quarter. Thabo Sefolosha will work to properly D up Joe, but Atlanta’s defense must rotate well to compensate when Millsap comes over to help with Joe’s inexorable post-ups. Like the four teams that have vanquished the Hawks so far this season, Brooklyn’s shooting is far from top-tier (46.0 eFG%, 29th in NBA; 26.5 3FG%, last in NBA), despite taking a league-high 81.8% of their shots in two-point territory. But like the Pistons, Celtics, and Jazz, the Nets are sufficiently self-cognizant to crash the offensive glass (26.4 O-Reb%), especially versus the Hawks. Korver, Sefolosha, and/or Justin Holiday can provide help on Lopez and Young, so Horford can center ((cough)) his focus on securing defensive rebounds and sparking the Hawks’ transition plays. Horford should find little resistance in out-pacing B-Lo, who had another foot scare last week. But he and Tiago Splitter need to be the players initiating fastbreaks with their rebounds. With transition-play-leaders Teague and Bazemore both out, Sefolosha, Millsap and Holiday can help Atlanta push the pace on a team that would much rather be stationary (97.4 possessions per-48, 25th in pace). A pressed and frazzled Brooklyn defense should open up some Net-scorching looks from downtown for Korver, who’s shooting 55.0% on threes since sitting out the last Nets-Hawks meeting. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  3. How Much Would YOU Pay? Run into random Brooklyn Nets fans at Philips Arena, where their winless team is preparing to face the Atlanta Hawks (8:00 PM Eastern, Fox Sports Southeast, YES Network), and you’ll find they’re far more into it for the “BROOOOOOKLYN!” thing than the “Nets” stuff. If you manage to find some true-blue, bona fide “Nets” fans, you’ll know, because they possess a button, or a T-Shirt, that declares, “I WAS THERE FOR 0-18!” By now, it was supposed to be a point of pride, not irony. November 2009 was a rough time in the Meadowlands of New Jersey, notably for hoops fans just seven seasons removed from the last NBA Finals campaign at the Izod Center. Two seasons before, franchise face Jason Kidd was shipped to Dallas, in exchange for Devin Harris, fluff, and draft picks that would, one day, materialize as Ryan Anderson and Jordan Crawford. The 2009-2010 Nets were working to break their arena lease, vacate their swampy home of the prior 25-plus years, and relocate to sunny Newark. But it was becoming clear to those in the know that the Prudential Center would not be their final destination. A filthy-rich man-of-mystery was arriving from Russia, but not With Love for the Garden State. Meanwhile, the Nets rolled out the likes of Trenton Hassell, Josh Boone, Rafer Alston, Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian into their starting lineups, and the march to 12-70 futility commenced. At the hands of the Mavs’ Kidd, the Nets fell at home to 0-18, the worst start out of the blocks of any NBA team’s season in history. The latter-day Sixers genuinely try their darnedest to be this good of a flop. From the owner’s box to the stands and the sidelines, everyone affiliated with the Nets found themselves eagerly on the hunt for a new jersey. Speaking of new jerseys, you know, a lot of people like their sports uniforms the way they like their coffee. Change the look to Black, the thought in sports fashion circles go, and you instantly broaden your appeal. It worked, after all, in Los Angeles: you won’t get Nobody With Attitude to rock some yellow and purple hockey jersey, not unless it has LAKERS emblazoned on it. So, sure, things worked out swimmingly well for the L.A. Kings, in terms of merchandising and the results on the ice. But as coin collector Bruce McNall would advise, before you reach for the black yarn, it really, really helps to go get yourself a Gretzky first. On the hardwood, the NBA’s Nets moved to a grittier locale in New York City, dumped the goody-two-shoes tri-color scheme of New Jersey Americans yore, and projected to be decidedly in-the-black in the stands and on every balance sheet by now. But try as they might, Mikhail Prokhorov and his trusty general manager Billy King could not get themselves a Gretzky. And now that it’s clear the biggest name they could bring to the borough, seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson, isn’t even a Messier, things have gotten messier. With an announced crowd of 12,576 for Monday’s tilt with ex-coach Jason Kidd’s Bucks, there were more black seats than fans in black garb. Six of those seven mid-season appearances came for Joe in an Atlanta Hawks uniform. Now at age 34, Joe (9.3 PPG, 32.6 FG% through 4 games, team-high 32.8 minutes per game) has to find it a peculiar time. Barring some epic global catastrophe wiping out everyone not riding in a golden Ford F-650 limo truck, Joe is the second-highest-paid player in the National Basketball Association for the final time in his life. With the influx of new media-driven revenue to the league, Johnson’s near-$25 million hit to the payroll will soon go from “He’s Making What?” to “Oh, Sure, Sounds About Right!” among the next crop of lucky NBA free agents. He’ll be one of them, too, this summer, as his infamous Deal With the A$G Devil is set to expire. Knock a zero-digit off that annual salary, and he’ll be set to sign his retirement contract somewhere next summer. Maybe with a contender! Or, maybe back with Brooklyn. Unlike the baller above him in the Fortune 50000 rankings, Joe doesn’t need “mental-health days” off to gather his bearings. What he could really use is a hot-and-ready understudy waiting among the wings, and with all due respect, Bojan Bogdanovic (18.2 3FG%), Sergey Karasev, Markel Brown (33.3 FG%) and Wayne Ellington (21.4 FG%) aren’t cutting the deli mustard. After a promising offseason, playing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson more than the five minutes the rookie got in Wednesday’s home loss to – there’s that man again – Jason Kidd and the Bucks would help matters a lot. It is, indeed, a peculiar time for Joe. The man who rode in to Georgia on a white horse and traded him to Brooklyn, Danny Ferry now chills out in seats above him at Barclays Center, as an informal advisor sitting alongside his former trading partner at Nets games. Despite the losing, this particular King is making himself out to be more un-deposable as ever before, just yesterday bringing in Woodson/Drew-era Hawks assistant Bob Bender to join the scouting department alongside Danny’s pops. King is propping up his old associates (the Ferries, Bender, Randy “Throw Your Hands in the” Ayers, etc.) like soldier trees around the haunted house that has been his management regime. Brook Lopez was certainly there for 0-18. He was there for every unnerving minute of it, as a barely-drinking-aged second-year starting center, blessed with lofty expectations of a Drummondian scale back in 2009. BroLo has since survived the rug getting pulled out from under Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo, endured the bailout by Coach You Know Who, and suffered through an early season of dog-housing and public critique by current coach Lionel Hollins. So, naturally, in his long-awaited summer of 2015 unrestricted free agency, he chose to come back. Why the heck not? After all, the rubles are good. Where else can you find an NBA locale with a syllable matching your first name, or one with an endless supply of comic book stores to fuel your fetish? Additionally, Brook (18.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 53.1 FG%, team-highs of 18-and-9 in the loss to Milwaukee) gets to stick it to his twin brother, Robin, by being considered the best Lopez hooping anywhere in NYC proper. Sorry, Felipe. Now armed with a $20 million-per-year contract of his own, Lopez shares a mindset with Pizza Rat on the NYC Subway: things may seem less-than-ideal around Brooklyn, but at least it’s a stable environment. He also knows that his team, however flawed, isn’t 0-18 bad. After all, they backed into the playoffs for a third straight season in 2014-15, and put a scare into the top-seeded Hawks in the first round. With a career-best 21.3 D-Reb% early on, Brook is certainly trying from the jump to avoid being the target of Hollins’ acerbic wit. His usage rate is thus far the lowest since 2010, while his assist percentage is momentarily at its highest level since 2012. Lopez will spend this evening engaging his Atlanta counterparts, Al Horford and Tiago Splitter, with his usual array of mesmerizing post maneuvers, and daring Horford (60.7 FG% vs. Brooklyn last season, highest vs. any opponent with at least 4 games) to outscore him at the other end of the floor with shots anywhere outside the paint. Alas, Lopez has only so many lighthearted stories about cats, Clinton, and comics to share with New York’s ravenous postgame media. And things can start to go "Page Six"-sideways in a hurry if the Nets (0-4) don’t pull off a victory this week, either tonight at the Highlight Factory or back home on Friday with the Lakers in town. A six-game stretch of road games, one featuring a trip to Golden State on the back end of a back-to-back, is broken up only by a visit from the Hawks in two weeks. Games number 15 and 16 are in Oklahoma City and Cleveland, respectively. Come up short in all these contests, plus Games 17 and 18 versus Detroit and Phoenix, and by Game 19, Brook would be staring at his smirking twin-bro Robin in Madison Square Garden, trying not to break the record no one outside of Philly wants, and having to field questions about “What was it like?” just six years ago. Flanked by returnees Thaddeus Young and Jarrett Jack, and joined by Andrea Bargnani and Thomas Robinson, Hollins’ team is constructed to win games with high-volume offense. Yet, so far, the only guys who consistently get to Brooklyn Nine-Nine are Andy Samberg and Terry Crews. Their offensive rating of 93.7 points per 100 possession ranks 28th in the league, making their defensive rating rank of 110.7 (27th in NBA) look a shade better. While they’ve given up triple digits in all four contests to this point, they broke 100 points in the season opener versus Chicago and haven’t met that mark since. In the absence of shot accuracy (Brooklyn’s 46.0 eFG%, 21st in NBA), a high-volume offense needs lots of possessions via pace (95.6 possessions per-48, surpassed by Miami last night and now 29th in NBA), aggressive offensive rebounding (20.8 O-Reb%, just ahead of Atlanta’s 20.6, 22nd in NBA), productive shots (17.4% of FGAs from 3-point range, 29th in NBA), and the ability to occasionally force turnovers (5.8 team steals per game, 25th in NBA) and score in transition. The sample sizes are small, certainly, but aside from board-crashing, there’s nothing to indicate these Nets have those elements in their lineups. With the disappointing Deron Williams now a distant memory, Hollins is putting a lot of trust in Jack (14.0 PPG, 41.5 FG%, 6.7 APG, 3.0 TOs/game), a momentary playoff hero in last year’s conference quarterfinal versus Atlanta, to lead the charge. But he might be better off shifting away from the former Yellow Jacket, who is nursing a hamstring injury, in favor of third-year guard Shane Larkin. The score-first, score-second Jack, a ten-year veteran, has never been much of a facilitator. As evidenced versus once-winless Milwaukee, things go awry when opponents take away Plan A from the Nets offense and the ball is in his hands. But it was the diminutive Larkin who found shots for Bogdanovic and provided the fourth-quarter sparks to give Brooklyn a puncher’s chance. Jack, Larkin, and former Hawk Donald Sloan will have their work cut out for them going head-to-head with Jeff Teague (probable despite a sprained finger from Sunday's action) and Dennis Schröder. Teague (19.8 PPG, 49.2 2FG%, 88.9 FT%, 5.8 APG; career-high six rebounds versus the heat) is providing more than enough glimpses of the All-Star form that made Atlanta a bear to reckon with last season. Schröder has been off-target in his last two games (4-for-15 shooting; 4 TOs in 16 minutes at Miami last night), but always has the penetrative drive that throws defenses like the Nets off their game. As Dwyane Wade can attest after yesterday’s game, the Hawks’ rangy defense, like life, comes at you fast. Thabo Sefolosha is likely to tag-in for the rehabbing Kyle Korver, and hopes to be the distracting force for Joe tonight that his choice of fashion was yesterday for viewers in Miami. Continued hustle from the likes of newcomers Justin Holiday and Lamar Patterson should create the hurried shots that work in Atlanta’s favor and grant Kent Bazemore (61.5 3FG% in last 3 games) a well-deserved spell. Both Atlanta (8.0 3FGs per game, 2nd most in NBA) and Brooklyn (7.8 per game, 3rd in NBA) have been giving up lots of three-pointers above-the-arc. But the opponents of the Hawks (34.5 opponent 3FG%) need 4.4 more shots per game to sink them, compared to foes of the Nets (41.3 opponent 3FG%, 2nd-most in NBA). If Jack and the Nets guards are unable to contain Teague and Schröder, there should be an abundance of good perimeter looks for Hawk teammates when the Brooklyn defense collapses. Jack’s fellow Yellow Jacket alum, Young, along with big men Bargnani and Robinson, will get plenty of chances to join Lopez in filling up the right edge of the box score. But the versatile Paul Millsap (46.3 2FG%, 4-for-9 2FGs and 0-for-3 3FGs at Miami) should have little trouble raising his efficiency numbers against a Nets team whose opponents’ eFG% of 55.0% is the worst in the Association right now. Paul will also want to resurrect that free throw percentage (63.0 FT%, 4-for-8 FTs at Miami) when Brooklyn inevitably tires of giving up easy baskets in the paint and resorts to fouling to keep the clock from running out on them. It’s not all bad for the few true-blue Nets fans at Philips Arena tonight. If their team can’t pull it together tonight, or soon, they’ll be among the dwindling chorus of fans who could someday boastfully proclaim, “I WAS THERE!” when the Billy Kingdom finally collapsed. Let’s Go Hawks! ~lw3 View full record
  4. Maybe play with a little less money in your pockets, Joe? As NetsDaily notes, the Nets' next five games: Portland, at Atlanta, Toronto (twice), Clippers. That's after getting blown out in Utah on Saturday. ~lw3
  5. The hits just keep on coming for Billy King and Company. Sounds pretty serious for Mirza, though. Hope his recovery is quick and smooth. ~lw3
  6. http://www.netsdaily.com/2014/5/22/5742728/nets-announce-that-deron-williams-will-undergo-surgery-on-both-ankles ~lw3
  7. http://network.yardbarker.com/nba/article_external/deshawn_stevenson_calls_out_ex_nets_teammate_for_talking_crap/11922106 The gentleman who declared, "I play better on playoff teams" might do well to stifle on this one. ~lw3
  8. His baby mom Joe got paid 119Million and STILL wants more. I'm not mad at him lol
  9. And the first VetMin off the boards is... Looks like the Nets are even less shy about spending than we thought. ~lw3
  10. The lights go out on NBA basketball in Newark as the New Jersey Nets take their final bow in the Garden State. Dave D'Alessandro of the Star Ledger provides a pretty good eulogy of the Brooklyn-bound ballers, particularly the bullet points under "LET THE BLUNDERS BEGIN" of their eras of mostly haplessness, uphill climbs, and bad luck, between 1976 and 2004. http://www.nj.com/nets/index.ssf/2012/04/dalessandro_nets_are_leaving_a.html What are your favorite memories of Hawks-Nets games (T-Lue's buzzer-beater game did the trick for me), and of the New Jersey Nets years in general? I always cheered for them as NYC's metro-area's underdogs as a kid... until they upset my Sixers in the playoffs in '84! lol ~lw3