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Nets open preseason at home vs. Knicks

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NBA: Orlando Magic at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The highly eventful off-season is over and the pre-season is finally upon us. The Nets open their four-game preseason set Wednesday night at Barclays Center ... their only home game of the four.

Half the team that finished the 2017-18 season won’t be back and eight new players will make their debuts in black-and-white. Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, Kenneth Faried, Jared Dudley and Treveon Graham are the new vets. Rookies Dzanan Musa and Rodion Kurucs will get their first taste of NBA action ... as will two-way Theo Pinson. Alan Williams, a three year vet fills out the list of new guys. He, like Pinson, is a two-way.

Tonight’s opponents are the rebuilding New York Knicks, who will be without Kristaps Porzingis for months. Instead of Porzingis, Knicks fans (expect a lot of them ... it’s their first preseason game in New York ... will be watching Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson, their highly touted rookies.

Where to follow the game

MSG Network has you covered tonight. Tip off is after 7:30. No YES tonight. Of the four preseason games, YES will carry two, the Raptors game in Montreal a week from Wednesday and the last preseason game, also vs. the Knicks, on October 12. The Pistons preseason game in Detroit on October 8 will not be broadcast locally.

Injuries

No final word yet, but it looks like Napier (hamstring) won’t be available. Same with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who as of Monday, hadn’t practiced yet. Dzanan Musa had his first practice Monday and called himself 100 percent after injuring his ankle last month in a FIBA World Cup qualifier. No word on Alan Williams who twisted his ankle a few practices back.

For the Knicks, the big loss is Porzingis. Courtney Lee (neck) didn’t play Monday night in the Knicks overtime win vs. the Wizards. And of course, Joakim Noah remains in limbo and his agents and the Knicks try to work a buyout of the $37.8 million he’s owed over the next two.

The game

Expect a lot of line-ups as Kenny Atkinson takes advantage of his new bench strength. Last season, there was no one like Davis or Faried or even Williams, first class rebounders coming off the bench. And with new or improved backcourt possibilities, there will be a lot of mixing and matching.

Atkinson, in fact, said Monday that fans should expect everything from big powerful line-ups to four-guard sets.

”I think we’ll be able to play big, powerful. You could play Ed and Jarrett together. You could go small with DeMarre at the 4 and I think Kurucs at the 5 today. And you watch in the games, the exhibition games right now. You just see a lot of guards out there. That was part of the thinking of tweaking the offense a little bit where it fits a four-guard system. I still like having that big guy out there, that one, Jarrett or Ed, just for rebounding and that rim-roller. But I definitely think we could see some more four-guard lineups.”

Fans will be looking to see what all the fuss is about with Caris LeVert. He’s been called “un-guardable” and “fantastic” in practices. With greater lower body strength, experience and confidence, there’s lot of reason to be optimistic. Where will he play? The 2, the 3?

And of course, D’Angelo Russell will be a big focus of attention. There hasn’t been much said about DLo since Media Day, but before that, his teammates and coaches were raving about him as well. Maybe they just want to surprise us. Russell too has added strength over the summer. Moreover, he seems ready to lead in this his contract year.

Any guesses on who will start? Greg Logan gave it a shot...

Atkinson declined to name a starting lineup but said he has stuck with two separate units in training camp. With starting forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson limited by injury, scrimmage starters have been D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, Caris LeVert, DeMarre Carroll and Jarrett Allen. The second unit has been Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Treveon Graham, Jared Dudley and Ed Davis.

For the Knicks, it’s all about the kids: Kevin Knox, the 6’9” combo forward out of Kentucky (who’s one of only six NBA players younger than Musa); Mitchell Robinson, the 7’1” center the Knicks took a chance on in the second round and Frank Ntilikina, who’s reportedly grown from 6’5” to 6’7” over the summer. They and Porzingis are the Knicks future.

Knox in particular looked good in the Knicks win over the Wizards finishing with a double-double.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see some announcement very soon on Noah’s situation. He’s not with the team and both sides reportedly want to get everything out of the way by Opening Night. It’s looking kinda ugly.

You can catch up on the Knicks over at our SB Nation sister site, Posting and Toasting.