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Nets schedule will provide early challenges

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Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Digging deeper in the NBA schedule might make you a little queasy about the Nets start. Over the course of the first 20 games of the NBA schedule, the Nets play only eight games at Barclays Center. That is the worst home/away number in the East, second worst in the NBA, per John Schuhmann of Brooklyn also have five back-to-backs in that stretch, second only to Detroit in the league.

Moreover, the Nets have the least rest days advantage in those first 20 games through the Nets game vs. the Pacers on November 25. Of those first 20 games, 11 are against playoff teams from last season plus the Lakers and Clippers, expected to be among the most improved teams in the NBA. In fact, the Nets have a brutal five games in seven days — including two back-to-backs — on the road stretch from October 29 to November 4. This is what happens when you 1) disappoint the previous year and 2) when schedule-makers think your best players may not be around. You get dissed.

Now, Alex Schiffer of The Athletic lays out six early games — five in those first 20 — where the Nets’ mettle and chemistry will be tested. As he notes, the “given the schedule, the NBA world will learn a lot about the Nets in the opening weeks of the season.”

Here are some thumbnail descriptions of those five games from Schiffer:

Monday, Oct. 24 at Memphis

This will be the Nets’ first test against a consensus contender, one that has depth. It’s only the third game of the season, but it provides a good early test for their own new rotation.

Wednesday, Oct. 26 at Milwaukee

Though both teams will still be finding their footing, this game is another early indicator to see how the Nets stack up against the East’s established powers.

Saturday, Nov. 12 at Los Angeles Clippers

Much like the Nets’, the Clippers have been in situations that haven’t always been rosy since Paul George and Kawhi Leonard came to town. But both are back this season after injuries derailed them a year ago, and Ty Lue’s squad might have the deepest team in the NBA.

Sunday, Nov. 13 at Los Angeles Lakers

Will the universe finally deliver the first Durant vs. LeBron James matchup since 2018? The stars continue to miss each other because of injuries, quarantines and bad luck since Durant came to the Nets.

Do the Nets go all in trying to win one game against an L.A. team over the other? Do they stagger their stars?

Tuesday, Nov. 22 at Philadelphia 76ers

Like the Nets, it’s hard to gauge Philly’s title odds before seeing the Sixers on the court. Does Harden look like the player the Nets saw shortly after trading for him, or is he closer to what he was last season. If it’s the former, the 76ers could go far. Given all the ties between the two organizations in recent years, this should be a fun one.

Schiffer, looking a little further into the schedule, notes that Brooklyn will face Boston on December 4 at Barclays Center, the first time the Nets will face the Celtics since the Celts sweep in the first round of the playoffs.

The Nets do have some advantages, as Schiffer notes. They go into training camp healthy. while a lot of the teams the Nets will face have injury issues: Khris Middleton of the Bucks is still recovering from a knee injury and Danilo Gallinari of the Celtics is out for the season after suffering an ACL injury in Europe. Several Nets are recovering from injury or surgery but all have been working out at HSS Training Center and are expected to be ready for camp. Unlike last season, the Nets have more continuity. Putting aside Ben Simmons who didn’t play at all last year, there are only six new Nets on the roster, down from 10 last season.

Of course, we are assuming that the Nets off-season issues — Durant asking for a trade, demanding his coach and GM be fired; Irving’s nasty contract talks — have been resolved for the better. We’ll know that too early on.