The Brooklyn Nets (14-14) have had a crazy last 48 hours. Now, they will have to quickly return home to face the slumping Charlotte Bobcats (7-21). Yesterday, the Nets fired their head coach of 2+ years, Avery Johnson, after losing 10 of their past 13 games. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov was not satisfied with a .500 record after spending so much money in the offseason. Replacing Avery for the short-term is P.J. Carlesimo, who has been an NBA coach of the Blazers, Warriors, and Sonics/Thunder before. The team is still looking for a replacement for Avery and sources are saying that Phil Jackson is at the top of their list.
Even with all these rumors swirling, the NBA schedule continues. Luckily for the Nets, they will be welcoming in the Charlotte Bobcats into Brooklyn. Charlotte has lost 16 straight games and hasn’t won a game in November. They are also 2-10 on the road. During this losing streak, the Bobcats have only given up fewer than 100 points once, and that was in November. Meanwhile, the Nets have not scored over 100 points since beating Detroit in double overtime on December 14th. They have not scored 100+ points in a regulation win since November, so something has to give tonight.
Charlotte is led by its young core of Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Both players are having good seasons, especially Walker who is coming off of a disappointing rookie year.
Injuries: For Brooklyn, Kris Humphries is still out with abdominal pain. He was expected to play tonight, but is still out. Additionally, Toko Shengelia will miss this game with flu-like symptoms. Deron Williams is a game-time decision but he has said that he is “planning to play” tonight according to the Nets. Expect to see him on the court. For Charlotte, Tyrus Thomas has been out since November with a calf strain. Ben Gordon has missed the last 3 games with a knee injury and is a game time decision tonight. Byron Mullens, who has maybe been the Bobcats’ best player the last few years, is out with a sprained ankle.
Deron Williams vs. Kemba Walker. Advantage: Walker
I expect Deron Williams to play tonight, but if he cannot, C.J. Watson will get the start. Deron didn’t play in the Nets’ last game in Milwaukee and his wrist is clearly still bothering him. Expect him to grab his wrist a couple of times throughout the game. Kemba Walker has been having a great season for Charlotte in his second year in the NBA. He is averaging 19 ppg and 6 apg and he has had some very impressive games this year. Expect him, along with Ramon Sessions, to kill the Nets’ point guards tonight because the Nets pg’s haven’t been able to stop anybody this year.
Joe Johnson vs. Gerald Henderson. Advantage: Johnson
Henderson is a solid player for Charlotte, but he is nowhere close to being an all-star. He is averaging 14 points and 4 rebounds this year. Johnson is coming off of a couple of bad games against Boston and Milwaukee and hopefully he will play better tonight.
Keith Bogans vs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Advantage: Kidd-Gilchrist
We really don’t know who will be starting for the Nets at the small forward tonight. P.J. Carlesimo has said that he doesn’t want to change up the lineups too much or make any drastic changes, so Bogans might start this game. He has been able to knock down his 3’s recently, but not do much else. Kidd-Gilchrist has had a pretty good rookie year, averaging 11 ppg and 6 rpg while shooting at nearly 50%. He is definitely a future NBA star, but is not quite a star yet.
Gerald Wallace vs. Hakim Warrick. Advantage: Wallace
Warrick was acquired in a trade early on in the season for Charlotte and has only started the Bobcats’ most recent game against Miami because of the Byron Mullens injury. He played well in that game with 18 points and 9 rebounds, but is only averaging 5 ppg and 2 rpg this season in limited minutes. He will get more minutes in this game and he will definitely do some damage. The Nets struggle to guard athletic power forwards. After the Milwaukee game, Gerald Wallace was clearly very upset about how the team has been playing so it will be interesting to see if he plays better tonight.
Brook Lopez vs. Bismack Biyombo. Advantage: Lopez
Biyombo is an above average defender, but is extremely limited offensively. He is averaging 5 points and 7 rebounds this year. He will not take a shot outside of the paint and most of his points will be scored via dunks or layups. He is a 50% foul shooter. Brook Lopez has been in a bit of a slump since returning from his injury and hopefully he will come out of that slump for this game.
Prediction: Nets 108, Bobcats 81.
The Nets can look at this game in two different ways. They can be sad that Avery Johnson was fired and give up and help the Bobcats snap their 16-game losing streak. Or they can get angry, show up to this game, and crush a very bad team. I think they will do the latter. The Bobcats have a terrible defense, which may be just the thing to get the Nets’ offense back on track. I think that they will win this game easily.