P.J. Carlesimo goes back to San Antonio on a mission

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

P.J. returns to San Antonio to match wits with his old boss, Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich must be of two minds on the Nets personnel moves last week. He publicly excoriated ownership for being impatient with Avery Johnson, but he must be happy that P.J. Carlesimo is likely to get a chance to coach the Nets for the rest of the season. After all, Carlesimo worked as an assistant with the Spurs for five years, winning three rings in the process.

It's also a New Year's Eve homecoming for two other Nets assistants: Mario Elie won a title with the Spurs in 1999 and Patrick Spurgin, the Nets player development coach, was a video coordinator for Pop for three years. Then there's the Nets' new assistant trainer, Nixon Dorvelien, who worked for the Spurs for five years, including their last championship season.

Despite the old home week feel for the Nets, they want to show Pop that they are not just students of his game. It won't be easy. The Spurs are 24-8 (fourth best in the NBA,, have won five straight in convincing fashion, including a blowout win over Dallas Sunday and are 12-2 at home. Tim Duncan, is putting up numbers like he was 30 (six years ago), averaging 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, all in 30 minutes per. His running mates, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili aren't slackers either. Parker is averaging 19.2, 7.3 and shooting 50/40/83. Ginobili, one of the great sixth men in NBA history, has come off the bench in every game he's played and is averaging a very typical 12.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Ho hum.

As a team, they are first in points per game and assists, second in shooting and first quarter points, third in defensive rebounds and average margin of victory. And on and on, it goes.

For Brook Lopez, he of the 27.3/10.7 three-game hot streak, it will be another chance to measure himself against his boyhood hero, Duncan. It will also be another test for Brooklyn's Backcourt as well. Kris Humphries is still out with his abdominal strain, which was supposed to be "mild." Everyone else is healthy.

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