The 2010-11 season is right around the corner. No, it is like literally right around the corner. Training camps open in a few weeks and we can finally stop conjecturing and start making sense of this summer of upheaval. The new season will be much different than the old. So let's start thinking 2011 and all the hope and promise that comes with it.
Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog.com has organized the NBA Blog Preview, consisting of all the best basketball blogs across the Internet, to help everyone get ready. The Magic will be coming up sooner rather than later and the season will be around the corner. I will be trying to keep up and give a Magic-centered look at each team being previewed.
New Jersey Nets
Last Year: 12-70, Missed Playoffs
Last Year vs. Magic: Won 95-85 in New Jersey (10/30); Won 88-72 in Orlando (11/13); Won 97-87 in New Jersey (3/5)
This Year vs. Magic: Nov. 5 in Orlando (7 p.m.); Nov. 13 in New Jersey (7 p.m.); Dec. 27 in New Jersey (7 p.m.); March 25 in Orlando (7 p.m.)
Magic Connection: Assistant Coach Larry Krystkowiak (player, 1994)
New Jersey gained the eye of the league not for its success on the court, but its futility. The Nets started the season on a record pace for bad teams despite having some very talented players -- Devin Harris and Brook Lopez come to mind. But for whatever reason this team could not pull together any wins. Blame youth or bad luck with injuries (Chris Douglas-Roberts contracted swine flu and Courtney Lee was fighting off injuries throughout the early part of the season) but the Nets were pretty bad.
Not that they were expected to be any good. And they are not expected to be much better this year.
But there is reason to be excited in the Garden State. New Jersey made some splashy offseason moves to try and excite the fan base for the team's (eventual) move to Brooklyn.
Mikhail Prokhorov is obviously front and center. The Russian billionaire has not been afraid to spend money and is patiently waiting for the right time to pounce on a big-name star before the (eventual) move.
He quickly established his team's new ethos in hiring Avery Johnson as his head coach. Johnson had a fairly successful run as the head coach of the Mavericks, leading them to their first NBA Finals appearance in 2006. Of course, his tenure was more famous for blowing a 2-0 series lead in the 2006 Finals and then accumulating the best record in the league only to lose to the upstart Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.
But Johnson will bring a tough-minded defensive approach to his team.
What the Nets are probably most excited about is getting the chance to REALLY be New Jersey's team (until the eventual move).
The Nets are out of the Izod Center in the Meadowlands and moving into the Prudential Center in Newark. This should make it a little easier for fans to get to the games and also give them an arena they may actually want to go to.
And who knows, the Nets could be a surprise team to compete for the playoffs. Devin Harris is only two years removed from being an All Star. Most would agree Brook Lopez is one of the best centers in the Eastern Conference. And a lot of people can agree rookie Derrick Favors looks like a young Dwight Howard. Throw in acquisitions like Troy Murphy and Jordan Farmar and maybe New Jersey has a decent team. Certainly an improved one.
Still plenty of questions in New Jersey.
How the Nets will beat the Magic: The only way I can see the Nets beating the Magic is if Favors comes along really quickly and they really take to Johnson's defensive scheme.
The one advantage New Jersey has perhaps over Orlando is plenty of bodies to throw at Dwight Howard. The Nets really struggled covering Howard last year as he averaged 19.0 points and 16.7 rebounds per game.
Suffice to say, having more bodies to throw at him would be a good thing. Adding Murphy too gives New Jersey someone who could potentially keep up with Rashard Lewis on the wing.
Orlando has admitted that Lewis will see more time at the three, but one thing New Jersey should try to do in these matchups is force Orlando to go conventional and use its size to throw Howard off his game.
How the Magic will beat the Nets: Typically Orlando's offense is initiated from the wings by a guy like Jameer Nelson. Nelson though has a tough assignment with the long and lanky Devin Harris likely assigned to him. I am sure Johnson will want Harris to use his size and athleticism against most point guards to keep them from penetrating and flood their field of vision. That is, if Johnson elects to have Harris play the point.
That puts the onus on Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis to initiate the offense from the wings. Oh, and Dwight Howard. But that is always assumed.
Carter had his struggles throughout the season, but it is easy to forget that Carter was in for a big game in the second game of the year back in October before he sprained his ankle and was forced out of the game. Carter scored 16 points and had four assists in 15 minutes. Carter never really got to showcase himself to his old fans in New Jersey. He will need to do that to help support Howard inside.