Toronto Raptors New Jersey Nets December 17, 2010

Now this is a game that I’m feeling good about. Even though the Nets are tied for last in the East, they are only two games behind the Raptors (and could make up half that ground with a win tonight). 5 games is all that separates 7th and 15th in the East, and since it looks like you don’t have to be .500 to grab a playoff spot, making the playoffs has lost a bit of its cache in the East; for me anyways.

Finally spoke to a blogger who didn’t stiff me over the last week or so; Mark Ginocchio from the Nets are Scorching stopped in and answered a few questions I had about the Nets:

Avery Johnson was an interesting choice for such a young team (likes to control the entire game), but I always respected what he did
in Dallas, how is he working out?
The whole Avery Johnson situation is very interesting as a Nets fan. The front office and owner clearly loves him (in fact, many believe Avery is the de facto GM of this team, not Billy King). As a coach, he’s got this bunch playing better defense, though they’re prone to lapses. The offense still isn’t clicking, though it doesn’t help when Travis Outlaw is awful and Anthony Morrow is hurt. The thing that worries me about Avery is he essentially handpicked this entire roster and only 4 guys from last year carried over, and I’m already getting a sense that he’s losing patience and drawing lines in the sand between guys who play “his” way, or some other way. That’s, in large part why Terrence Williams was shipped out, and that’s why Troy Murphy is rotting on the bench (more on that). And while I know this is going to make me sound extremely paranoid, there’s something about Avery Johnson’s behavior that reminds of John Calipari’s stay in New Jersey,
and I don’t think I ever want to relive that fiasco again. Again, I’m more than happy to be wrong about that. In fact, I’m hoping I’m wrong.

Why does Johnson hate Troy Murphy so much?
The whisperings around Troy Murphy centered around him arriving in camp out of shape, which led to early-season back injury, which I think irked Avery Johnson off. Factor in that Kris Humphries has actually been a solid starting PF this year, a young Derrick Favors who NEEDS minutes right now, and there’s just no place for Murphy on this team right now, except as an expiring contract to use in a trade.

Looks like the Nets are going to make another run at Carmelo after stockpiling so many picks (5 in the next two drafts); this is a three part question: 1) How likely do you think a Carmelo trade is? 2) Are there enough pieces to put a good enough team around Anthony so he resigns? 3) Will the Nets trade for him if he doesn’t guarantee to resign?
I respect your three parts, but I’m just going to provide you one long rambling answer here to “As the ‘Melo turns.” Yes, I do think the Nets have the pieces to make a ‘Melo trade happen. They have tons of draft picks, a big fat expiring in Troy Murphy and a potential stud in Derrick Favors. If Denver can’t find a match here, then they were never going to trade Denver in the first place. As for whether or not a trade will happen – this is all about whether or not ‘Melo signs on the dotted line for NJ, and I sense a big game of chicken leading to the trade deadline. He’s not going to leave that money on the table with a new CBA coming up but if you trust the media, even the non-Chris Sheridan media, they think he won’t extend in New Jersey. He wants to play for the Knicks, meanwhile, the Nets ownership/FO seems obsessed in besting the Knicks any way they can.

Long story short, if I’m a betting man, I think the Nets are going to overpay handsomely, get Carmelo, and then exist as the 5th-6th seed in the East for the next few years. Don’t really think I’m a fan of it, but that seems to be the MO of those in charge.

How do the Nets match-up with the Raptors? What will be the gameplan heading into tonight?
The Nets are desperate for some offense lately, and even though Toronto is one of the worst defensive teams in the league, I don’t feel good about any match-up lately. I can envision Bargnani getting Lopez out of the post on both ends of the court, which doesn’t behoove anyway. Meanwhile, after starting out the season in great fashion
defensively, Devin Harris has lost a step or two with some injuries piling up. I don’t sense a blow-out, but unless something changes fast, I see the Raptors winning comfortably.

Injuries

Toronto
Reggie Evans – Out
Peja Stojakovic – Out
Jose Calderon – Game time decision
Andrea Bargnani – Game time decision

New Jersey
Anthony Morrow – Out
Devin Harris – Hurting, but will play

Match-ups

Point Guard
I like Devin Harris a lot; shame he’s playing for the Nets, or I’d be a huge advocate for him. As it stands, he’s having a solid, injury-free, season. He’s another perfect storm type point guard against the Raptors with quickness off the dribble and an improving jumper off the bounce. Harris will always look to score first, but has good court awareness and makes good passes. He turns the ball over a bit, but he more than makes up for it by seemingly getting to the line at will (#3 amongst PGs). With Farmar backing him up, the Nets have a solid 1-2 punch at the point. With Calderon questionable for tonight, a lot of pressure will be on Bayless to maintain the solid play he’s displayed over the last couple weeks. Barbosa’s speed and aggressiveness will be huge off the bench, but only to counter what Harris/Farmar bring to the table, and not as an advantage for the Raptors. Wednesday against the Wizards, Harris went to the line 17 times, converting 14. Can’t have him attack Amir and Ed every time he makes up his mind or it will be a long night. Actually, it will be a long night at the point match-up anyways; but it should be fun to watch.
Edge: New Jersey

Shooting Guard
With Morrow out, Farmar has moved into the shooting guard role, and he should suffer against DeRozan’s size and athleticism, but that depends on what kind of mood DeRozan is in. While he has some hops of his own, he’s giving up 4″ and 40lbs to DeMar…you see where I’m going right? If DeMar is in the game, he should be able to do whatever he wants; I have nothing else to add here.
Edge: Toronto

Small Forward
Ross gets the nod at the small forward, and I know little about the guy. Hollinger has this to say about him:

  1. Quick, pesky defender with wiry build. Moves feet and rarely gambles.
  2. Can hit midrange jumper but otherwise useless offensively. Awful rebounder.

The Nets are pretty deep with under-performing small forwards (Travis Outlaw and Stephen Graham; always trips me out to see Stephen), but they match-up well with the Raptors under achieving 3s of Weems and Kleiza.
Edge: Even

Power Forward
I always liked Kris Humphries the guy, never the player who took far too many liberties offensively and shot the ball more than I would have liked. I also had a thing for his sister :)…something about big girls…I dunno…

So while he’s not a skilled offensive player, Kris works works hard and does a lot of things fans/teams appreciate: crashes the boards, hustles on defense (not a great defender but at least he tries his best *cough*), makes garbage plays around the rim. If there’s one way to exploit him, is to let him shoot the ball from the elbow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him pass the ball when he gets it in the paint, and he’s not a great finisher; you can do the math. However, he’s having a career season averaging 8pts 9rebs 1blk a game; highlighted with a 17 rebound performance against the Wizards on Wednesday. I like Amir in this match-up with his size and athleticism. Kris isn’t a crafty offensive player, so he will have some trouble drawing fouls on the young one.
Edge: Even

Something to consider would be Triano doing some work, and putting Davis on Humphries, and matching Amir up with Lopez. That would be a better match-up for the Raptors overall IMHO.

Center
With Bargnani out, Ed Davis is in for a long night. This is going to be a serious trial by fire for the rookie, where he will have to deal with Humphries’ hustle, and Lopez’s…Lopez; I got nothing witty to say about him. Frankly, Amir has the best shot at covering Lopez, and should get the call for most of the time Brook sees the floor. Fortunately for Johnson, Lopez has tree-trunk legs and wont be able to keep up with him, or Ed frankly, on the break in an up-tempo game. Amir will have a big advantage on the glass, and should be able to get free enough on offense to counter whatever Lopez does offensively.
Edge: Even

With the Lakers in town on Sunday, and that ugly loss to Chicago on Wednesday, the Raptors need this one. The gamblers haven’t decided the line for this one due to the injuries, which in other words means they’re not trusting the Raptors to win this game without Bargnani.

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Tonight is also Raptor Fan Fridays at the SCC.

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