1. Gerald Wallace returning
The Nets have been hampered by injuries all year. If you look at that team as currently constructed, the potential starting five forms a very good team, with a couple of good reserves as well. Although Deron Williams and Brook Lopez will miss the game, Gerald Wallace will not. He provides all of the stuff that makes an opposing team look lazy. He hustles, draws charges, and gets on the floor as a religion. Really, he reminds me of a less skilled, bigger Allen Iverson. I know the comparison is lofty, given A.I. is a hall of fame guard and all, but Wallace elicits that comparison from me because of his desire to do whatever it takes to succeed.
Andre Iguodala has, historically, had more trouble guarding Wallace than most of his opponents, simply due to his size. The hope is that Iguodala can force Wallace to become a shooter, not a slasher, by giving him a hard time any time he decides to step into the lane. Wallace may also play the “4″, which would likely mean a match up with Thaddeus Young.
2. No Deron Williams
I mentioned it above, but Deron Williams will more than likely miss this game with a calf injury. Deron carried the Nets to the first victory over the Sixers in what was the first true “letdown” game of the year. Doug Collins put Iguodala on Deron to try and curtail his advances in the last game. It worked, it’s just that the wings Iggy didn’t guard, namely MarShon Brooks and Gerald Green killed our defenders (namely Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams).
Also, notice I’m using Deron instead of the last name, because the Nets have three Williams-es. They had 4 but trade Shawne to the Blazers in the Wallace deal.
Without Deron, Sundiata Gaines will get the start. Gaines is most famous for being a D-League call-up who hit a game winning three for the Utah Jazz against the Heat last year. While slotted as the third string point guard, he has played more than expected due to the injuries for Deron and backup Jordan Farmar.
3. Last Game in New Jersey
Tonight’s game is the aloha to the Prudential Center in Newark, which has been home to the Nets for, well, a couple of years. Previously they inhabited the Izod Center in East Rutherford. But for the people in New Jersey who regularly host teams from New York, this will be their last basketball game in the near future. They’ll be in Brooklyn next year. The players, who aren’t tanking because they gave up their pick for Wallace and are hoping to win enough to entice Deron to stay, could play inspired basketball, even more than normal. I expect there will be a lot of people in the arena to watch.
How they ended up in New Jersey is an interesting story, one that’s too long and complicated for a game preview and one I’m sure I still need to learn more about. To summarize: the Knicks wanted money for allowing the Nets into their market, so in order to afford the expansion fee imposed on them they sold Julius Erving to the Sixers to help make the payment. And besides for their appearance in the finals for two years in the early 2000′s (without a title), the Nets have had a rather unremarkable history. That Dr. J trade started it all.
Anyway, the Sixers can clinch a playoff spot tonight with a win or Milwaukee loss. Maybe we can send them off to Brooklyn with a chorus of boos.