The second half begins in Utah for Brooklyn

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Put aside those trade rumors! Welcome back to basketball!

When we last saw the Brooklyn Nets, they were on the receiving end of a beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Bulls (again) on national TV. This is the second night of their season long road trip and after this game, they'll be spending their Saturday night in Oakland against the Warriors. The trade winds are swirling around the team, and the roster might be different by the time the Nets return to Barclays Center.

Awaiting the Nets will be the Utah Jazz. After losing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the 2013 offseason, it was widely believed that the Jazz would enter into a rebuilding stage. Unsurprisingly, the Jazz have struggled this season as their 19-33 record has them near the bottom of the Western Conference.

This is the second matchup for the teams this season. The first one took place in early November and the Nets won big. The rosters will be different for this one as Trey Burke will be available for this game after missing the first one and Brook Lopez will not be here for Brooklyn after playing the November game.

The season so far

What's the story with these teams? Let's check it out:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Utah

Record

24-27 19-33

Pace

93.87 93.62

Offensive Efficiency

102.9 99.8

Defensive Efficiency

104.5 107.3

Offensive Rebounding percentage

22.4 25.4

Turnover rate

15.4 15.5

Assist rate

16.6 15.9

Rebound rate

47.9 49.1

Free throw rate

31.4 26.8

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.2 48

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 50.3

Usually, Deron Williams is the center of attention whenever the Nets play, but the spotlight will be on him just a little bit more as he returns to his old stomping grounds. He had a lot of great years and some playoff success with Utah, but left on a very ugly note. Each time he's played in Utah as a member of the Nets, Jazz fans have booed him relentlessly and that trend should continue in this one. He'll also look to assert himself more as he looks to improve on his mediocre (by his career standards) first half. Williams averaged only 13 points and six assists per game in the first half and is on pace for his worst season since his rookie year in Utah.

Along with Williams, Andrei Kirilenko will be making his return to his former home. You can make a pretty good case for Kirilenko being the MVP of the team, and they're gonna need him to help improve their situation on the glass. The Nets have been one of the league's worst rebounding teams this season and the Jazz duo of Favors and Enes Kanter are pretty solid on the glass. Kevin Garnett has been the team's best rebounder this season, and with the extended break and three days off before the next game on this trip, he should be well rested and ready to control the glass for Brooklyn.

The Nets will get a chance to say hello to some old friends. Derrick Favors has been having another solid season in Utah, picking up 13 points and nine rebounds in a career high 30 minutes a game. The Jazz have usually been better defensively with the former Net, but this season Utah's allowing 109 points per 100 possessions with him on the court compared to 105 without him. Favors has also been a solid rim protector throughout his career, but has allowed teams to shoot 51 percent on the nine attempts at the rim a game against him.  He's been dealing with a bad hip recently and is questionable for this game.

13 years in, Richard Jefferson is still in the league. He isn't the player he once was when he was teamed with Jason Kidd, but he is hitting on 42 percent of his three pointers and has started every game for Utah this season. Jefferson isn't as active on offense these days, and that's where Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks step in. Burks & Hayward are most successful driving to the basket and each average almost five free throws a game. Hayward has been a quality three point shooter in his career, but is shooting a career low 30 percent from three point range this season. Hayward had an amazing game against Oklahoma City but has struggled since coming back from his hip flexor injury.

Player to Watch: Trey Burke

Burke is coming off an appearance in All Star Weekend's Rising Stars Challenge and had a decent showing for himself. With the Jazz, he's been pretty respectable, picking up 12.5 points and 5.5 assists a game. He's also looking pretty damn good compared to the lot of Jazz point guards post John Stockton. Burke didn't make his debut until November 20 because he fractured his right index finger. He has a reputation of being really quick, but he doesn't get to the basket very often. He's only taken 80 field goal attempts inside the restricted area and has made only 46 percent of those attempts. Most of his attempts have come from 24 feet and beyond, and he's made 34 percent of those shots.

The point guard of Utah's future will get a chance to match up against the point guard of Utah's past. He missed the first meeting with Williams, but he'll get his chance to face him on Wednesday night. On any night, a (presumably) healthy Williams will be a big challenge for a rookie like Burke. But with Deron needing to shake off his first half struggles, really poor game against Chicago, and a feisty (aimed at Williams) crowd, Burke is gonna have his hands full.

From the Vault

Game 7, 2007 First Round Playoffs. The Jazz lead the Houston Rockets by 1. Here's the finish:


More reading: SLC Dunk

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