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It's Bojan vs. Bogdan as "bridge year" finally arrives


How weird is the confusion between the Nets' Bojan Bogdanovic and Fenerbahce Ulker's Bogdan Bogdanovic?

Let us count the ways... They're not related, BUT both shooting guards; both wear No. 7 on their national teams; Bojan for Croatia, Bogdan for Serbia; both used the same agent. When Bojan left Fener for the Nets, Bogdan replaced him. When the Suns selected Bogdan in the 2014 Draft, ESPN put up an image of Bojan and showed Bojan's, not Bogdan's, Euroleague highlights.  It got so bad, we had to run a quiz!

Wait, there's more!  Monday night, they will be going up against each other at Barclays Center in Brooklyn as the Nets finally get back on the floor in Preseason Game No. 1 vs. the pride of Istanbul ... and a Euroleague title contender.

Of course, the real story Monday won't be about individual players. It will be the first test of the "bridge year," between the free-spending, go-for-it-all Nets of yesteryear and the opening of the 2016 free agency. The coach is not about rebuilding. He wants to win. So does the team. Can they?

The Nets will field 18 players, with only Chris McCullough (knee) and Markel Brown (quad strain) in street clothes. Willie Reed (calf) may not play either. Don't expect the starters to play big minutes and don't be surprised by weird rotations. It's preseason, a time for experimentation.  But expect to see some of the schemes Lionel Hollins plans to use when the Nets take the court for real in 23 days vs. the Bulls. Big thing to watch? Who gets point guard minutes.

Fener has an interesting combination of NBA castoffs, some of whom may return to the league; NBA prospects and  Turkish players. Much of their strength is upfront. Here are the guys to watch.

--Bogdan Bogdanovic, at 6'6", is an explosive shooting guard who the Suns hope to bring over next season.  He's only 23.

--Pero Antic, who played 113 games for the Hawks the last two years, returns to Europe. Last time, Antic was in New York, he got involved in a fight outside a New York nightclub that resulted in stab wounds for Chris Copeland and a broken ankle and an arrest for Thabo Sefolosha. At 6'11" and with an accurate three pointer, he's a tough cover.

--Jan Vesely, the Czech seven-footer who the Wizards dumped, had a rebirth in Eurobasket, scorching Andrea Bargnani for 26 points and 12 rebounds in his best game.  There are some who believe his days in the NBA aren't done, but he'll be playing against Brook Lopez.

--Luigi Datome, Bargnani's 6'8" Italian teammate, played 21 games with the Celtics and Pistons last season. He can shoot.  He missed the last couple of games for Team Italy with an injury.

--Epke Udoh, who's played 270 NBA games --including 33 last season for the Clippers, was recently signed by Fener.

Where to Follow the Game?

There will be no TV, no radio in the U.S.  There will likely be highlights posted after the game.

Player to Watch: Brook Lopez

Everyone has been praising Lopez's work in informal scrimmages, then in practice. He will be going up against a team with a lot of bigs with NBA experience. He's been unstoppable when faced with the likes of Andrea Bargnani, Willie Reed and Thomas Robinson.  Will Vesely, Antic and Udoh present more of a challenge.

Nets fans will also want to see how rookie Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fares in his first game, depending on how many minutes he gets; and how Shane Larkin and Donald Sloan do backing up Jarrett Jack.

From the Vault

Here's some highlights from the last time Bojan went up against Bogdan. August 9, 2014. FIBA World Cup. Bojan Bogdanovic (#7, red jersey) vs Bogdan Bogdanovic (#7, white jersey) try to hit game-winners. One of them succeeds.

Hang tight, fans. The long road lies ahead.