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Nets look to do the impossible and beat the Spurs in Tony Brown debut

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On a day of change in the Nets organization, they look to stop two losing streaks (four overall and nine straight at home) against one of the favorites to make it to the NBA Finals. This is gonna be quite the challenge.

"We can be heroes, just for one day."
"We can be heroes, just for one day."
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, they still play games, these Nets. It's all about firings and reassignments and speculation about who will get whose job.  Problem, they have to play the next one against perhaps the hottest team in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs.

So at least for a moment, let's go back to basketball. It is a such a great sport. And let's also wish Tony Brown, the Nets interim coach, best of luck. He is, after all, a former Net.  Read about him here.

If you're looking for something positive, at least that wasn't the worst loss a team took on Saturday night. The Brooklyn Nets let their fourth straight game, this time at the hands of the Pistons in Detroit. Usually, coming home is a good thing, but the Nets have lost nine straight games at Barclays Center. Yes, it is that bad here.

Coming into Brooklyn will be the Southwest Division leading Spurs. If it weren't for the Golden State Warriors, we'd be talking more about how amazing the Spurs have been this year. The Spurs have the second best record in the NBA and appear to be the only team in the West that has enough to slow down the Dubs in the playoffs. They've won seven straight games, including a one point victory over the Knicks on Friday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV (if you haven't thrown yours into a deep abyss by now), WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip after 7:30.

Injuries

Tony Parker dealt with a hip injury last week, but he's fine now.

The game

Let's check it

2015-2016

Brooklyn

San Antonio

Record

10-27 32-6

Pace

97.36 95.76

Offensive Efficiency

97.7 108.3

Defensive Efficiency

104.5 93.6

Turnover Rate

15.4 14.5

Assist Rate

16.4 19.6

Offensive Rebounding Rate

24.6 23.8

Rebound Rate

50.2 53.8

Free Throw Rate

22.7 23

Effective Field Goal Percentage

47.4 53.4

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

51.6 46.3

The Spurs won the first meeting in late October.

I'm going to leave something I wrote early Sunday morning (around 5 AM) for this preview in as I feel it'll set up the major news of the past 24 hours...

Generally speaking, you never wanna see the big bosses when you're struggling at work. You're on edge and your continued miscues could negatively impact your job status. For the Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov and the rest of the Russian contingent will be in town for the week. There doesn't appear to be any inklings that changes will be made, but I'd be nervous as hell if I were in any of the Nets players or coaches' shoes.

As it so happens, the Nets fired Lionel Hollins and reassigned Billy King on Sunday. Tony Brown will serve as the interim coach and Frank Zanin is essentially the GM right now. There are a variety of people being mentioned as possible replacements for Hollins + King, and we'll keep an eye on all of it. Whoever comes in has a hell of a mess to clean up.

The Spurs have managed to reinvent themselves and go against the grain. They're third in the NBA in midrange shot attempts, and while those types of shots have been deemphasized, it hasn't hurt the Spurs as they've been the third best offense in the league this year. It also doesn't hurt to be second in the league in three point percentage (even though they've taken the fifth fewest threes per game). This created even more trouble for the Nets as they've only been able to keep their opponents under 100 points five times since December. Not to mention San Antonio is the best defensive team in the league. Yikes.

The Spurs possess the best big man rotation in the league. LaMarcus Aldridge has started to fit into the Spurs offense and while this is the least engaged he's been in his team's offense (by usage rate) since his days with Brandon Roy in Portland, he's been cleaning up on the offensive glass and his jumpers from the elbows are as reliable as ever. Tim Duncan is still excellent, David West has fit in nicely, Boris Diaw remains the most interesting man in the world, and Boban Marjonovic looks good as well. Brook Lopez and Thad Young are the only respectable players on the roster right now, and they'll have their hands full trying to score against this front line.

The Shane Larkin as starting point guard experiment hasn't gone well for the Nets. Larkin has started each game since the Jarrett Jack ACL injury, and the Nets have lost each game. If Larkin isn't able to start playing well soon, Tony Brown might replace him with Donald Sloan. At this point, anything is worth doing.

Jonathon Simmons will see some time tonight and he's a reminder of what happens when you fully invest in the D-League. He's a solid shooter and rotation player that will enable Gregg Popovich and the Spurs staff to rest their key wing players without seeing a dramatic dropoff. We've got plenty of time to criticize the Nets and their dealings, and the loss of their own Developmental League affiliate (at least until next season) is one that should come up often.

Player to watch: Kawhi Leonard

I don't have a ballot for MVP (but if somebody wants to offer me one, I'd be happy to take it!), but if I did, Kawhi Leonard would be in my Top Five along with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook. Leonard has been spectacular on both sides of the ball and will keep the Spurs in title contention for the foreseeable future. Patrick Redford of Deadspin wrote about Kawhi in late November and said:

What’s most remarkable about Kawhi Leonard’s improvement through the course of his five NBA seasons is how steady it’s been. He began his career as a defensive specialist who rarely shot, and only did so when it made sense within the flow of an offense built around Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili.

In every year since then, his usage, scoring, and efficiency have all gradually ticked up at nearly linear rates to the point that he’s now the Spurs most relied upon player. If it wasn’t for his obvious talent, it’d be surprising. For years, the Spurs have groomed him to become their next superstar, and they haven’t thrust it upon him as much as slowly bent the shape of their offense to accommodate Leonard as smoothly as possible.

He's only 24 years old and his numbers compare favorably to some of the greats in league history. As wild as it is to say, there's a chance he can become even better than he already is.

Leonard figures to be the person assigned to Joe Johnson. Johnson just hasn't been able to put a string of good games together and it's one of the reasons why Brooklyn is way down in the hole. Johnson hasn't been able to stretch the floor and provide space for Lopez inside and is rarely at the free throw line. Now he gets to try to put something good together against arguably the best defender in the league. Leonard is a fantastic individual defender and is just as good in the team context.

From the Vault

My first introduction to David Bowie actually came through the sample used in Puffy, Mase and Biggie's "Been Around the World." Take it back to 1983 and Let's Dance. Why not?  We have been dancing all weekend.

He had just released a new album, and here's what producer Tony Visconti had to say about the process leading up to Blackstar:

"We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar," says Visconti. "We wound up with nothing like that, but we loved the fact Kendrick was so open-minded and he didn't do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that's exactly what we wanted to do. The goal, in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll."

And with that, this is the last video David Bowie ever made (and my favorite track on the album so far).

More reading: Pounding The Rock