That could have gone better. After winning two straight games, the Brooklyn Nets hosted the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. Things never got going for Brooklyn and they ended up losing 98-75. It doesn't get any easier after this game. Brooklyn will head to Chicago and try to avenge the 102-84 loss they suffered on November 30.
This is what we've been waiting for. The opponent for this affair will be the red hot Cleveland Cavaliers. After a bumpy start, it appears that the Cavs have turned things around. They've won six straight games, including Friday night's game in Toronto. This is also the first night of a back to back for the Cavs. They return home to play the Raptors on Tuesday night.
But in the minds of many in New York, the game will be secondary because of who will be in the crowd. Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka William and Kate, will be on hand as will someone who fancies himself as "King James." The question is whether the British royals will meet the hip-hop royals, Jay-Z and Queen Bey.
"They’re not due to meet," Nick Loughran, a spokesman for the royal couple, told the New York Times coyly. "But who knows what will happen?"
William and Kate are attending the game as part of a new partnership between the league and the Royal Foundation. The new project will unite NBA players and England's royalty to stress global wildlife conservation, develop a new generation of conservation leaders and boost the sport of basketball. Hear, hear!
Where to follow the game
On the television side of things, tune in to the YES Network. For the radio, WFAN 101.9 FM has got you covered. Tip off is scheduled for a bit after 7:30.
For the Nets, Brook Lopez missed practice on Sunday with a back injury while Joe Johnson sat out due to a stomach virus. Lopez will be out for at least a week while Johnson is likely to play. Andrei Kirilenko may or may not be active. He missed Sunday's practice to be with his pregnant wife.
For Cleveland, Mike Miller will probably sit this one out due to the concussion he suffered on Thursday against the Knicks.
Any time you play a high profile team like the Cavaliers, there's going to be a lot of famous people in the house. Prince William and Princess Kate are in the States and will be attending this game. In addition to the Nets game, Prince William will meet with President Obama in Washington DC earlier Monday and Duchess Kate will meet with NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray and visit the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem. After that's done, the British royal couple will travel to the game. (No word on if the REAL king and queen of New York, Papoose and Remy Ma, will be in attendance.)
What's the story with these two teams? Since we're asking...
Offensive Rebounding Rate
Free Throw Rate
Effective Field Goal Percentage
Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage
With Lopez out and Andrei Kirilenko unavailable, this represents a great opportunity for Mason Plumlee to gain some favor with Lionel Hollins. Although he was officially demoted by Hollins, he has seen steady minutes over the last two weeks. Having an athletic player like Plumlee will do wonders for the Nets on the glass against the Cavaliers duo of Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. If he can impress, he can take the lead in the quest to fill in for Brook Lopez. Stay tuned.
The matchup at point guard should be fun. It's hard to tell, but Kyrie Irving has actually been having the best season of his young career. The former Blue Devil has been shooting 48.9 percent from the field overall and a sparkling 42.2 percent from three point range. The narrative surrounding Irving has largely centered on his lack of assists, but that may be the wrong way to look at his game. Irving is one of the league's brightest scorers and is more than capable of taking a game over when the rest of his team isn't finding their shot. Just ask the Knicks. On the other side, Deron Williams will be the focal point of the offense with Lopez out for the week.
The Cavs defense has begun to round into form in recent weeks. They were one of the worst defenses in the Association to begin the year, but they've improved to league average, allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions. They have the potential to become even better once they fully get healthy and in sync, but there are definitely some encouraging trends.
It's taken a while, but it looks as if Kevin Love is rounding back into form. Naturally, when you've been the lead option on offense for years, it's tough to quickly adjust to being the third option. For Love, his shooting percentages have begun to climb as the season has gone on. He's taken fewer three pointers per game (naturally when you're the third option), but as it relates to the percentage of shots he's taken, they are 37 percent of what he attempts. With Lopez out of the way, look for Mirza Teletovic to get a lot of minutes. He's sorta similar to Love in the sense that he can stretch the floor and do good work on the glass. He and Kevin Garnett will have to chase him off the line at all costs.
Player to watch: LeBron James
Quite simply, LeBron is one of the most intriguing players in the NBA ... ever. He's been the undisputed best player for so long it's an automatic that he'll finish Top Five in the MVP voting no matter what he does. The big story with James coming into the season was his return to Cleveland after winning two Championships and appearing in the Finals four times as a member of the Miami Heat. Bron returning to Cleveland has changed the paradigm once again in the NBA and although the Cavs started off slow, they are still one of the favorites to reach the NBA Championship.
He's having a pretty good season, but when you're a first ballot Hall of Famer still in his prime, "pretty good" can raise a few red flags. He's currently averaging 24.6 points (fourth in the league), 5.8 rebounds, and 7.9 assists (fifth best in the NBA) while shooting 46.9 percent from the field in 38 minutes a game. Pretty good right? Not if you're Bron. Over at the mothership, Mike Prada took a look at what James has been up to, and he noticed something problematic. He writes:
James has been just as poor with his closeouts and even defending scorers in isolation situations, and that's with the Cavaliers increasingly shifting higher-demand assignments onto Shawn Marion. The lateral quickness that made him such a defensive terror isn't there anymore. Combine that with the lack of effort you see on display with these clips, and James can be just as much of a sieve as Irving or Love. That's a big problem considering James needs to be at least a good stopper for Cleveland to have even a competent defense.
It increasingly appears that last year's poor defensive showing wasn't just a one-year blip due to James' higher-than-expected workload with Dwyane Wade in and out of the lineup. The days of James being a high-level defender may just be over.
One of the consistent things you notice when watching Cavs games or highlights is Bron falling asleep on defense. For a player as in control as he is, it's a bit shocking that he can be caught so flat footed sometimes on defense. When you look at the numbers, it's a bit heretical to criticize LeBron when the Cavaliers are 8.3 points per 100 possessions better on defense when he's in the game, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Joe Johnson gets the assignment of matching up with James. When last these two matched up, Joe was taking it to Bron in Miami but it didn't matter as LeBron and the Heat put an end to Brooklyn's season in five games. Johnson started off incredibly hot, but has cooled off in recent weeks. There have been stretches where he has been completely absent on offense and others when he can't find his shot. Without Lopez, Johnson automatically becomes the second option on offense. James hasn't been a great defender in a while, and it's up to Johnson to go at him at every single opportunity. If he doesn't get in foul trouble or worse, Johnson ought to have at least 20 field goal attempts.
James of course thinks the royals is about him. "It’s a huge honor," James said. "The stuff that you read about, people like them are only in books growing up. And to hear that they’re coming to town to see me play and they want to see me do what I do best, it’s a huge honor." James called it a "pretty big deal."
And in a very odd move, James sat courtside Sunday night at the Knicks game, where he watched New York's other team go down to its 18th defeat in 22 games, putting them only one game ahead of the woeful 76ers.
Read more at: http://nesn.com/2014/12/lebron-james-honored-to-play-before-prince-william-kate-middleton/
On a different note, with the worldwide discussion sparked by the killing of Eric Garner and other Black people at the hands of police in the United States, look for LeBron to make a statement. He has spoken up on issues such as the killing of Trayvon Martin, the killing of Michael Brown, and the racism of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. He has mentioned that he was wowed by Derrick Rose wearing an "I Can't Breathe" shirt during warmups on Saturday night and is looking into doing something similar. With some major figures in attendance and worldwide attention on this game, this is the perfect time to do something big. Watch this space.
When should you get there if you have tickets ... considering the massive security? It's probably too late already! Doors open an hour and a half before game time.
From the Vault
We're about two weeks away from Christmas, and with that in mind, let's take a trip back to 2003 and watch LeBron's Christmas Day debut against Tracy McGrady and the Orlando Magic.
More reading: Fear The Sword
- Brooklyn Nets: Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Cleveland Cavalier Game Notes - Cleveland Cavaliers
- Cavaliers-Nets Preview - Jordan Garretson - STATS LLC
- Barclays Center to get a little more regal with William and Kate - Fred Kerber - New York Post
- Nets’ Lopez out again, this time with strained lower back - Fred Kerber - New York Post
- LeBron James honored to play before royal family - Dave McMenamin - ESPN
- King James is the royal in focus for Nets - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- With Lopez out, Nets need to experiment - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York
- Brook Lopez sidelined at least a week with lower-back strain - Rod Boone - Newsday
- LeBron James may protest Eric Garner decision in Brooklyn - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- Brook Lopez out at least 4 games for Nets with back strain - Stefan Bondy - New York Daily News
- LeBron James sits courtside, watches Knicks lose to Blazers - Mitch Abramson - New York Daily News
- A royal platform for ‘King’ on Monday vs. Nets - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Back strain sidelines Nets' Lopez this week - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- LeBron James says he could wear Eric Garner protest shirt vs. Nets - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Brook Lopez to miss time with back strain - Ryan Carbain - The Brooklyn Game
- Brook Lopez out at least a week with lower back strain - Sean Highkin - NBC Sports
- Dribbles: Cavs' rise shows they're getting message - Sam Amico - FOX Sports
- Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Arrive, and New York City Checks Its Tie - Matt Flegenheimer - New York Times
- Royal Foundation, NBA announce partnership - NBA.com