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Nets and Jazz begin 2017 in Brooklyn

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to 2017! After a particularly horrible 2016, everyone's looking to start over and put their best foot forward for the new year. For your Brooklyn Nets, they hope the new year reverses some troubling trends. They got smoked by the Wizards in DC on Friday night and have lost 13 straight games on the road.

Ringing in the new year with the Nets will be the Utah Jazz. After barely missing the playoffs last year, Utah has come out strong and are a sure bet to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2012. They beat the Suns at home on New Year's Eve to close out 2016. Tonight is their first game of 2017 as well as the first game of a five game road trip. After this, they'll head to: Boston (night two of a back-to-back), Toronto, Minnesota, and Memphis (night two of a back-to-back).

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV and WCBS 880 AM on radio. Tip off after 7:30. No information yet on whether the YES-FOX-Comcast deal reported yesterday will affect the Comcast blackout of Nets games. It began more than a year ago and denies 900,000 households, mostly in New Jersey, access to Nets games.


No Jeremy Lin for this one. Joe Harris is questionable, meaning he’s likely to miss this game as well.

George Hill left Saturday's game late in the first quarter after getting a concussion from an Alex Len elbow. He's out tonight. Dante Exum has missed the last five games due to left knee tendinitis and he will miss this game as well. Alec Burks is close to making his season debut as he is recovering from ankle surgery he underwent in November. He's officially listed as questionable.

The game

The NBA season is long, and it feels even longer when your team isn’t any good. Bad habits develop and frustration starts to build. Sean Kilpatrick said as much on Friday:

“As a team you’re not going to win — on the road especially — if you don’t come in together and try to play together. If everything is an argument almost every play that we go down, that’s what’s going to happen. Teams are going to pick that apart. And they saw that early in the game. They saw it very early.”

This is the danger zone for Brooklyn. When a team is frustrated like this, things can spiral out of control and the season will become lost in a hurry. It's up to the veterans on the team and the coaching staff to get everyone to play hard and together every night. Even though they won't be making the playoffs, there is still something to be gained from this season.

We're going to have a fun clashing of styles at Center tonight. Rudy Gobert has blossomed into the league's best defensive center as he holds opponents to only 46.5 percent shooting on shots inside of six feet, tied for first in blocks per game and is adept at guarding both parts of the pick and roll. Brook Lopez was already one of the league's best offensive centers and now that he's successfully incorporated the three pointer into his repertoire, he becomes even more valuable on offense. Lopez is having the best passing season ofhis career and the Nets hope he can draw Rudy away from the rim and make things easier for Brooklyn players driving to the rim. As usual, the Nets are going to need a huge game from Lopez if they want to win.

Assuming Hill is out, Shelvin Mack will handle the majority of minutes at the point. Mack has done a decent job running the offense and doesn't have to do too much for them. The duo of Isaiah Whitehead and Spencer Dinwiddie will be manning the point for Kenny Atkinson's bunch. Like the rest of the team, they could stand to take better care of the ball. Brooklyn is second in the league in turnover rate and the young PG duo lead the team in that dubious category. Fortunately for them, the Jazz are second to last in forcing turnovers, so maybe things will be a bit easier on that front tonight.

Still, Atkinson likes how far Whitehead has come.

“I’m thrilled with his progress, where that first week you were like, ‘Man this is going to be tough, is he going to be ready?’ ” Atkinson said. “Now it’s like, ‘Let’s throw him out there,’ and we’re comfortable with that.”

Player to watch: Gordon Hayward

Next to Gobert, Hayward is Utah's most important player. He's their leading scorer and the person they go to late in games when they need a basket. One of the most encouraging things about his game this season is the lack of turnovers. Hayward's turnover rate has decreased each of the past three seasons and is currently at a career low 9._ percent. For a player like him who lives at the free throw line and is a respectable three point shooter, making good use of your possessions makes you an even harder player to defend and gameplan for. He figures to get even better going forward and when he hits free agency this summer, teams will line up to offer him as much as they can.

Rondae Hollis Jefferson should see a good amount of time guarding Hayward. RHJ has been coming off the bench for the past couple of weeks and has done reasonably well in his new role. We should also see Caris Levert get some time against Hayward as well. Levert has been impressive in his time on the court and has crossed the 20 minutes threshold in three out of the last four games. His continued development might be the most important thing to keep an eye on for the Nets in 2017.

Highlight Package

Doesn’t get better than this...

From the Vault

This game is pretty important because it was the start of Kenyon Martin’s flagrant foul problems with the league office.

More reading: SLC Dunk

Long Island Nets

The Nets D-League affiliate will play the Delaware 87ers at 1:30 p.m. The game is not open to the public but is available on line, on Facebook Live. Mike Scott and Taureen Prince of the Hawks have been assigned to Long Island as part of the NBA’s flex assignment program. They’ll join Chris McCullough who remains with Long Island.