Entering the game this evening between the Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies, you can see two teams currently on different trajectories despite having similar circumstances. Both Brooklyn and Memphis are without their best players, yet the Nets are knocking off talented squads like the Philadelphia 76ers while the Grizzlies are dropping games to the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers (who were also short-handed) at home. Memphis performed admirably without Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr against the mighty Lakers. The Cleveland game was a failure...and that effort can’t happen again if they hope to knock off a much better Nets team, even without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
To help us get ready for tonight, I reached out to former GBB Site Manager and friend of mine Tom Lorenzo, an Editor for the Brooklyn Nets SB Nation Site NetsDaily.
What’s it like actually watching Kyrie and KD together in motion?
It’s pretty surreal. And really the expectation is that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. KD and Kyrie have only played a handful of games together. Really, they haven’t even had a chance to get into a rhythm. So, yes, it’s been exciting and surreal, but it definitely has that new car smell to it.
How have the rest of the scrappy Bubble Nets adjusted to their new star-studded reality?
It’s been a mixed bag. They’ve been good - but when KD and Kyrie both sit Caris LeVert has played like an All-Star. And Jarrett Allen played his best ball these past two games (once with KD out and the other with both players out). Joe Harris and TLC played incredible ball with KD and Kyrie both out. So, you see where I’m going here. I would never say that the Nets are better without KD and Kyrie, but it’s been tough to assess the team as a whole because they haven’t really been whole that much this short season.
What are the early returns on Head Coach Steve Nash and his impressive staff?
Nash and company have for the most part been good. An incredible win over the 76ers, a really awesome close out against the Hawks and showing up on the defensive side of the ball, for the most part. He’s got some learning to do, and we’ll look past a few mistakes here or there but in all they’ve been more of a plus than a hindrance.
Who among the currently healthy Grizzlies most concerns you for the Nets?
I think it’s probably Jonas Valanciunas. If the Nets lack one thing it’s size - and coming out of a back to back where Allen and DeAndre Jordan played “big body minutes” against Joel Embiid just 24 hours earlier, I think they’ll have to put in some works against big ‘ol Jonas.
What matchup is the most important in tonight’s game?
I would say Caris LeVert vs. Dillon Brooks. As goes LeVert, so goes the Nets. Very much similar to Brooks, where you need him to show up and drop buckets. Both players have been the best player on the floor, and have been the third option on their respective team. Looking forward to seeing how they match up in a game where both teams might be dragging feet and looking for a spark.