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A new day: Nets begin their new era against Warriors

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Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Hello hello! It’s good to be back covering the Brooklyn Nets and we here at NetsDaily will be with you every step of the way as the team embarks on a new era. For the foreseeable future, fans won’t be in Barclays Center due to COVID-19, so it promises to be another unique season of NBA ball across the board. The Nets figure to be really exciting, and we’re excited to be here with you.

The opponent tonight will be the Golden State Warriors. The former three-time champs are hoping to get back into the swing of things following an injury-filled 2019-2020 season. They’re also looking a bit differently these days, which we’ll get to in a few.

Where to follow the game

TNT on TV, WFAN 101.9 FM on radio, and YES Network with pre and post game only. Party’s officially getting started at 7 PM.

Injuries

Only Nicolas Claxton is out for the Nets with tendinopathy of the knee. No word on when he’ll return.

Klay Thompson is out for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon while recovering from his knee injury in 2019. Draymond Green has a muscle strain in his right foot and is out for this one.

The game

We’re finally here. When we last saw the team, they were finishing up a weird 2019-2020 season with a sweep in the bubble against the Toronto Raptors. Since then, the coaching staff was overhauled as Steve Nash was hired with interim coach Jacque Vaughn and former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni headlining a star studded staff. Will it be “Seven Seconds or Less,” Eastern edition? Probably not, but will be the Nets be one of the more dynamic offenses in the league this season? That seems like a reasonable bet to make.

Kyrie Irving will be tasked with keeping everything running this year. His debut season in Brooklyn wasn’t bad, but injuries and the pandemic threw everything off. The pandemic is still here, but he’s physically healthy and the roster is much improved. Irving had a good preseason and his ability to break defenders down off the dribble, finish in heavy traffic, and score in bunches at a moment’s notice will help buoy Brooklyn’s attack when the games slow down and become a halfcourt affair. He’s seeing an old foe of his, which we’ll talk about in a bit.

Maybe this is the year Andrew Wiggins puts it all together? Since he was taken first overall in 2014, it seems like the best thing we can say about Wiggins is that he’s incredibly durable. He’s solid for 30 plus minutes a night every game and rarely sits out due to injury. Moving from an organization that was as chaotic as the Timberwolves to one as stable and top notch as the Warriors should do wonders for him. Also, he’s still only 25 years old so he’s got time to really figure it out.

The center matchup should be interesting. I think it’s safe to assume DeAndre Jordan will start with the first team and Jarrett Allen will serve as the backup. Both bigs will have to anchor the interior of the Nets defense and considering that the Nets defense is expected to be a weak spot, they have a lot of responsibilities on their shoulders.

On the other side, number two pick James Wiseman will be making his NBA debut and has earned rave reviews from Steve Kerr and the Warriors organization. They’re going to take it slow with him to start, so we’ll see a healthy amount of Marquese Chriss and Kevon Looney tonight. Wiseman figures to break into the starting five soon, and when Green gets back, the Warriors will be much improved.

Players to watch: Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant

On one side, we have a top 20 player of all time coming back from an injury filled season. We didn’t get to see Steph Curry running wild last year after he suffered a freak hand injury caused him to only play five games. He’s back and looked pretty great in the Warriors’ three preseason games. Nekias Duncan of Basketball News has more on the joy of having Steph back:

If we can set aside the narrative stuff for a moment — where he ranks among point guards, his place on an All-Time list, the “can he carry a bleh roster” storyline that will be exhausted all season — let’s just acknowledge how filthy this dude is when he’s healthy.

We’ve never seen a player break defenses in the way that Curry does. He legitimately strikes fear in opponents the second he crosses half-court. He can pull from anywhere, at any time, from any angle. You have to actively try to be less efficient when sharing the court with Curry.

Having him back on our television screens is a blessing that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

He’s good enough to make the Warriors one of the more entertaining teams to watch in the league and now that he’s on a solo mission, it’s gonna be fascinating to watch what he does.

On the other side, we have another top 20 player of all time coming back from an injury. When we last saw Kevin Durant in a game of consequence, it was the 2019 NBA Finals. He had been missed the last third of the Conference Semifinals against Houston, the Western Conference Finals against the Trailblazers, and the first four games of the Finals against the Raptors. He was back and looked like his usual self. All was going well until disaster struck and his Achilles gave out. Since then, it’s been a journey to get back to this point. About 560 days later, he’s truly back.

KD looked pretty good in his two preseason games, and Nash thinks he’s at 90 percent of where he was at his peak. Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult to recover from, but one of KD’s friends and future Hall of Fame peers came back from a similar injury and is almost as good as new. In early November, Mike Prada make a really interesting comparison between KD and the Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart:

But the important point is that she still felt like Breanna Stewart to her opponents, both in terms of production and reputation. She still was an above-average marks(wo)man from each zone, and opponents treated her as such. I see no reason why an 85-90 percent version of Kevin Durant will feel like something other than Kevin Durant to his opponents, even if he’s not making quite as many of those shots. As long as he still has those occasional barrages, his image will persist and his opponents will defend his reputational strengths in such a way that’ll open up the rest of his game.

Stewie finished second team All Defense, first team all WNBA, second in the MVP, and won Finals MVP. If Durant can pull off something similar, then we’ll be in business.

So what can we expect? The two Steve’s are optimistic. Steve Nash, his current coach, says he may not be 100 percent yet, but he’s definitely in the 90’s, maybe 90 or maybe 99. Steve Kerr is even more certain KD is back, saying he watched the Nets play the Celtics on Sunday night and that Durant looked “exactly the same.”

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