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Brooklyn Nets vs. Charlotte Hornets preview: Cam Thomas is back as Nets go for four straight

Cam Thomas is back after nine games and (almost) all is well in NetsWorld.

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Three wins in a row. Not bad. And the Toronto Raptors win was against an Eastern Conference team that was basically healthy — healthier than the Brooklyn Nets for certain. The Nets are now 9-8 despite one of the toughest opening schedules and a spate of injuries that have seen four members of the rotation miss at least seven games.

On the opposite side of the court, the Hornets are in a bad place. LaMelo Ball, having his best season yet, is out for a significant number of games with a badly sprained ankle and No. 2 draft pick Brandon Miller, who’s been providing some solid scoring, is questionable, also with a knee injury. Now 5-11 after loss, the Hornets biggest threat is Miles Bridges, coming off a suspension for domestic abuse. He was booed every time he touched the ball on Tuesday. Sounds like a plan.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30 p.m. ET.

Injuries

Ben Simmons is the only player out for the Nets as they slowly get back to full strength. Cam Thomas is fully expected to return from his ankle injury after missing nine games. Thomas will be on a minutes restriction, per Brian Lewis. Dennis Smith Jr. (back) is questionable as of Thursday morning.

As noted above, LaMelo Ball has a serious right ankle sprain suffered in a 130-117 loss to the Orlando Magic Sunday. The rest of the Hornets injury report is a litany of players out, or questionable. Miller is questionable, Nic Richards (concussion), Frank Ntilikina (leg) and Cody Martin (knee) are all out.

The game

A win at Barclays Center would have a lot of advantages for the Nets. Brooklyn would be two games above .500 for the first time this season and the schedule beyond Tuesday night is daunting. They face the Orlando Magic, one of the NBA’s hottest teams at home on Saturday. Then, after a game in Atlanta vs. the Hawks, they come back to Barclays for the Wizards before heading out on their first West Coast swing facing in order the Kings, Suns, Nuggets, Warriors and Jazz. They then return home to face the Knicks in Brooklyn. All that in the next three weeks. Grueling and a big test.

The return of Cam Thomas, even on a minutes restriction, presents a big boost for the offense. Remember, other than Opening Night, Cam Thomas and Cam Johnson haven’t played together this season. Same with he and Nic Claxton. Re-integrating the 27-ppg guard should prove interesting.

Sam Vecencie gave it his best shot on Wednesday, recording an hour and 22 minute film study!

That is above and beyond the call of duty!

Despite missing CT, the Nets are 5-4 over the last nine. One big reason: they are currently the top rebounding team in the NBA. What? you say! Yes, it’s true...

Indeed, vs. the Raptors, all five Nets starters grabbed at least eight boards. Gang rebounding has worked. That’s a credit to Jacque Vaughn and his coaching staff. Then, there’s Spencer Dinwiddie’s ability to fill in for the injured Ben Simmons.

The Hornets on the other hand are currently in survival mode waiting for a timeframe on LaMelo Ball’s return while wondering if Miles Bridges can withstand the daily onslaught of fans’ righteous disgust.

Player to Watch

With LaMelo Ball out and Brandon Miller questionable, it’s unfortunate but true: Miles Bridges is the player to watch. Since returning from a league suspension, the 6’7” small forward has averaged 19.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals in six games.

On Tuesday, he put up 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting in 32 minutes. However, Charlotte was outscored by 22 points with him on the floor. Bridges claimed that he’s still not in tiptop shape, complaining, “I didn’t get my wind back [yet]. I’m still getting adjusted to everything. No excuses. I’ll be fine.”

Whether his former girlfriend and their two children will be fine remains an open question. If you’re unfamiliar with Bridges history, CBS Sports recently laid things out in a timeline. It is decidedly ugly.

From the Vault

If you love New York, this never ever gets tired. Never.

More reading: AtTheHive, SB Nation NBA