The preseason is finally over and the games that count are finally beginning! The Brooklyn Nets will open what they hope to be a championship season in Cleveland Wednesday night against Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers, who are hoping to make some noise in the eastern conference this season as well. Tonight, we will finally get to see Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett suit up for a real game while playing for the Nets. It should be a lot of fun.
A big storyline for Brooklyn is that Jason Kidd, who is suspended for the first two games this year, will not be coaching. Replacing him will likely be former Nets coach Lawrence Frank, who has been a head and assistant coach all over the league. Kidd made the trip with the team to Cleveland and will probably watch the game with some friends in town but he is not allowed to be in the arena.
The Cavs are definitely one of the more interesting teams this year. They are still extremely young, but in year 3, Kyrie Irving wants to make the playoffs for the first time, and this team has the talent to do it. Along with Irving in the starting lineup is two other former high picks, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, while the #1 pick in the 2013 draft, Anthony Bennett, should get a few minutes of playing time off the bench. The Cavs will also finally get Anderson Varejao back after he missed most of last season with a series of seriously scary injuries. However, Andrew Bynum is still out and there is no timetable for his return.
Injuries: Other than Bynum, the Cavs are healthy. For the Nets, Andrei Kirilenko is doubtful to play and Toko Shengelia is out still recovering from some summer injuries. Even if Kirilenko can go tonight, the Nets should give him the night off because they can probably win this game without him. His goal should be getting back to 100% before Friday’s game, when the Nets host Miami. They definitely will need him in that game.
Deron Williams vs. Kyrie Irving. Advantage: Irving
This is not to say that Deron Williams might not have a big night, but Kyrie Irving is one of the most talented and explosive players in the NBA right now. Additionally, Deron could still be recovering from his training camp injuries and might not quite be at 100%. Neither of these players will be able to stop each other.
Joe Johnson vs. Dion Waiters. Advantage: Johnson
Waiters will be looking for a much better season this year than his rookie season last year. But Joe Johnson is much bigger than Waiters, who is only 6’4. This should allow Joe to post up if he wants to, but his main weapon this year will probably be getting open in the corner to shoot 3′s. The Cavs have a very young team and probably won’t be very good on defense. Expect Joe to get plenty of open looks tonight.
Paul Pierce vs. Earl Clark. Advantage: Pierce
Clark is definitely a little bit overrated after playing a role on last season’s disastrous Lakers team. Luckily for him, that was a contract year, and Cleveland gave him a pretty nice deal. The key for Pierce tonight will be how comfortable he is. Last season against the Cavs, Pierce scored 40 in a game and nearly had a triple-double in another game. Don’t expect anything like that from Pierce tonight, but he should get his share of open looks.
Kevin Garnett vs. Tristan Thompson. Advantage: Garnett
If Thompson has improved from last season, he is the kind of player who could give the Nets some problems because he is young and athletic. But Kevin Garnett should be able to keep him off the boards and also create some good shots for himself on offense.
Brook Lopez vs. Anderson Varejao. Advantage: Lopez
Varejao has caused some major, major problems for Brook Lopez and the Nets in the past, but this will be his first real game after making his comeback. He will probably be a little bit rusty and may not play as many minutes as he will later on in the season. Still, Lopez needs to do a better job of preventing offensive rebounds and easy layups for Varejao.
Bold prediction: Joe Johnson will score 20 points. Joe has been the forgotten man on this team, but with all the focus on everybody else, he should get a ton of easy shots.
Score prediction: Nets 111, Cavaliers 98. The Nets will jump out to a big second quarter lead but the Cavs will hang around for most of the game and maybe get within 10 in the fourth quarter. But the Nets will still win pretty comfortably.