After sitting out the Brooklyn Nets’ first two games of the season, Jason Kidd will finally make his professional coaching debut Sunday night, when the Nets (1-1) head to Florida to take on the Orlando Magic (1-2). Both teams are coming off impressive home opener wins on Friday; the Nets held on to beat Miami by a point while Orlando surprisingly blew out an improved New Orleans team. Despite their two losses this year, the Magic have been competitive in every game they’ve played.
Jason Kidd will surely be excited to get his coaching career underway and luckily for him, it will be a very winnable game for Brooklyn. One note is that he will be coaching against his former backup with the New Jersey Nets, Jacque Vaughn. Even though he has definitely had some say in player rotations over the first two games of the season, it will be interesting to see how he handles things on the sidelines for the first time.
The Magic are definitely a rebuilding team, but they definitely have some good building blocks for the future, starting with rookie Victor Oladipo, who will come off the bench, at least until Jameer Nelson is traded. Other nice pieces are Nik Vucevic and Mo Harkless. Vucevic had a couple of 20-rebound games last year and Harkless is averaging 12 ppg so far this year.
The Nets have already lost one game they should have won this year, when they lost in Cleveland. If they want to win a championship, they will likely need to get a pretty good seed in the eastern conference playoffs, and the only way to do that is to win games like this, games that you may have looked past. Opposing teams are going to circle the Brooklyn game on their calendar because they want a piece of some of the legends on this roster. The Nets need to be ready for the bad teams and not only show up for the big games.
Injuries: The Nets should be pretty healthy. Deron Williams is no longer on a minutes restriction, but hopefully he will be able to get some rest if the Nets can blow out Orlando. Andrei Kirilenko will likely still be a bit limited, but hopefully he can go more than the 12 minutes he played on Friday. For Orlando, a couple of pieces will be missing in Glen Davis and Tobias Harris, who had a surprisingly good second half last year after a trade from Milwaukee. Solomon Jones is also out with a knee injury.
Deron Williams vs. Jameer Nelson. Advantage: Williams
Nelson is a former all-star, but his days as an above point guard are over, at least while playing for this young team. It is pretty hard to believe he is still here, after all the Dwight Howard mess, but the team is reportedly looking to trade him to any takers for a relatively cheap price. Deron Williams is still developing chemistry with his Nets teammates. Orlando does not have a good defense at all, so this could be a game for him to shine.
Joe Johnson vs. Aaron Afflalo. Advantage: Johnson
Afflalo has had a good start to the season, averaging over 20 ppg. He is a very good 3-point shooter, so the Nets need to be careful not to leave him open. Joe Johnson is coming off a very good 4th quarter against Miami on Friday. The key for him is consistency from game to game. He needs to at least make his presence felt every night.
Paul Pierce vs. Mo Harkless. Advantage: Pierce
Pierce was simply great on Friday and will hopefully be able to get a little bit of a rest tonight. Harkless is developing into a pretty dependable small forward for the Magic, but he still has a ways to go. Paul should be able to draw some easy fouls with shot fakes on Harkless.
Kevin Garnett vs. Jason Maxiell. Advantage: Garnett
Maxiell has been starting for Orlando this year, but playing only around 20 minutes a night. It is puzzling why the Magic signed him as a free agent in the offseason. He isn’t young and isn’t especially good either, which doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding team. Anyway, Kevin Garnett should be able to have his way with a very thin Orlando front line tonight. Hopefully he will score more than the 6 points he had on Friday.
Brook Lopez vs. Nikola Vucevic. Advantage: Lopez
Vucevic is the type of player who can really hurt the Nets with offensive rebounding. Brook Lopez needs to avoid getting into foul trouble and not let Vucevic, a double-double machine have his way in the paint. Along with Aaron Afflalo, the only way the Nets can lose tonight is if Vucevic goes off.
Bold prediction: The Nets will shoot 55% from the field. If the Nets play as well on offense tonight as they did on Friday night, Orlando won’t have any chance at stopping them.
Score prediction: Nets 108, Magic 94. The Nets will jump out to a big lead in the third quarter. The bottom of the bench will play in the fourth and let Orlando climb back into the game a little bit, but Brooklyn will easily hold on.