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Nets ring in the New Year against the Magic

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Verizon Slam Dunk Contest 2017 Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Happy New Year! 2017 sucked for a lot of us so hopefully 2018 will be a lot better all around. For the Brooklyn Nets, they spent the past year finding out what players fit with their vision and who they will build around going forward. Although they ended the year with a loss to the Boston Celtics, they have some things to look forward to, starting with the return, hopefully within the next two weeks, of Jahlil Okafor and D’Angelo Russell.

The first opponent this year will be the Orlando Magic. It’s been a disastrous year for Orlando and they will wind up missing the postseason for the sixth straight season. They’ve lost 10 out of their last 11 games, including Saturday night’s contest against the Miami Heat.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.

Injuries

Nothing official on D'Angelo Russell, but he might be back pretty soon. Isaiah Whitehead is, as of Monday morning, still assigned to Long Island and and Milton Doyle is with Brooklyn.

Nikola Vucevic underwent surgery to fix a left hand fracture and he will be out indefinitely. Terrence Ross is out due to a right knee injury. Jonathan Isaac is out indefinitely.

The game

The Nets won the first matchup while Orlando took the second. Both games were played in late October.

Mario Hezonja had gotten himself back into the rotation, but it appears he's heading right back out of the rotation. After playing a season-high 35:49 against Washington (although it should be noted the game was a blowout) his minutes have decreased in three straight games. He hasn't lived up to expectations since he was taken fifth overall in 2015, so maybe a change of scenery might do him some good.

Caris Levert has taken on a bigger role since Russell's injury, and it's paying dividends for Kenny Atkinson. He's been averaging close to five assists and shooting around 50 percent from the field since November 14. He and Russell will make a solid duo soon.

Player to watch: Aaron Gordon

It appears that this is the year Aaron puts it all together. He's always been an explosive finisher, but he's expanded his range. Gordon is taking a lot more three pointers and is shooting a career best 41.3 percent from deep. Not to be outdone, he's shooting an astounding 80 percent from inside of three feet. It pays to play a guy at his natural position.

Rondae Hollis Jefferson will be assigned to Gordon. His continued development was a Brooklyn bright spot in 2017 and his growth will determine how the Nets approach the future. He's been handling the ball a lot more this year, and he's responded by posting the lowest turnover rate of his career.

From the Vault

There are two great things about New Year’s Day: soup joumou and college football. And while you’re eating soup, treat yourself to a rematch of last year’s National Championship game between Clemson and Alabama.

More reading: Orlando Pinstriped Post