Ed. note – WARR welcomes Brandon Robinson to the site as our first contributing writer. A young, but veteran, journalist based out of NYC, Brandon offers the view of a long-time observer of the Nets and of NBA basketball in general. Catch him on Regal programming throughout the Bulls/Nets series.
The Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls tipped-off tonight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in what is expected to be a grind-out matchup between the number 4 and 5 teams in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls won three of the four games that the two ball clubs played against each other in the regular season, with the most recent win coming on April 2nd in Brooklyn.
There is much parody between the two teams, who both rely heavily on interior play—Carlos Boozer has added a consistent near double-double for the Bulls this season with 16.2 points and 9.8 per contest. Chicago has benefited from his numbers while missing Joakim Noah for most of the second half of the season.
Brooklyn benefited from all-star numbers from first-time all-star Brook Lopez. Lopez posted 19.4 points per game and added 6.9 rebounds. “Aint nobody stopping him,” his teammate Reggie Evans said in practice this week.
“The only person that can stop Brook is Brook,” Evans added.
“He’s had an excellent year,” said coach P.J. Carlesimo.
THE NETS SEASON:
The 49-33 Brooklyn Nets’ team will appear in their first playoff game since 2007 they were still New Jersey’s team. It’s also Brooklyn’s first post-season game in the borough since Oct. 10, 1956, the day the Dodgers lost Game 7 to the Yankees at Ebbets Field. The Nets inaugural season across the Hudson River has been a bumpy ride on the 2 train from Penn Station to their Atlantic Avenue stop in Brooklyn.
After cancelling opening night at Barclays against the New York Knicks after the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the Nets’ began the season with an 11-4 record. Avery Johnson was named Eastern Conference coach of the month in November.
Following a losing stretch where Brooklyn dropped 10 of 13 games, spiked an apparent feud between the coach and his star point guard, University of Illinois alum Deron Williams, Brooklyn fired Avery Johnson on December 27. Johnson was replaced by then-interim coach Carlesimo. Brooklyn won seven straight games for their new coach, with highlighted wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks.
The Nets have benefited from strong play in the second half of the season from Williams. After dealing with ankle injuries in the preseason, Williams lost 15 pounds during the all-star break and set a franchise record with 11 3-pointers made against the Wizards. Brooklyn has also benefited from the inside presence of Reggie Evans, a rebounding machine. The Evans-effect has rolled into the strong play of Brook Lopez. Clutch shooting by big off-season acquisition Joe Johnson is also an added benefit. Johnson, an all-star himself, has grown comfortable in the role of playing second-in-command in Brooklyn’s offense.
THE BULLS SEASON:
The 45-37 Chicago Bulls have been bit by the injury bug all season starting with its season-long vigil for MVP Derrick Rose.
Rip Hamilton, Brooklyn native Taj Gibson and Harlem native Noah – who has missed 12 of his last 15 games- have been in and out of the rotation dealing with injuries. Noah will play in game 1 for Chicago. The Bulls’ injury dilemma began in the last postseason when Rose tore his left ACL in round 1 against Philadelphia. Expectations for his return in the second half of the season have been disappointing and it’s probable he won’t return this season.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau informed reporters today that Rose is most likely out for the postseason, a small surprise to say the least. As a result, the Bulls have been reliant on a point guard by committee filled by Kirk Hinrich and former Knick Nate Robinson. Robinson, who’s had a good season in Thibodeau’s system, has taken advantage of his role and is averaging 13.1 points per game.
In spite the shuffling of lineups, injuries and set-backs, the Bulls have still been convincing in some high profile games. Chicago ended both the Miami Heat and New York Knicks’ notable winning streaks during the past month and the Bulls haven’t won by having a main star taking a plethora of shots, but they’ve won by playing a team concept of basketball on both ends of the court.
The key to this series will be highlighted by play in both forward positions.
Gerald Wallace has had a quiet season for Brooklyn. Crash has suffered a multitude of injuries this season, but has gotten plenty of rest recently. Will he show up? Andray Blatche has been a spark plug for Brooklyn in his first season with the squad, averaging a smidge over 10 points a game. He has great court awareness and ball control for someone at his 6-11 height, all lean and muscular size. Chicago’s Luol Deng has been the Bulls’ go-to scorer and has been trusted by his coach. Noah has held the fort down as Chicago’s emotional leader this season.
Chicago has a feel-good story without their floor general but the Nets will win in 6 games against the Bulls. The Nets have strong guard play in Deron Williams, better coaching by Carlesimo, and a more athletic center core in Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans.
Brandon Robinson began his journalism career at 12 years old with the NBA’s Nets Basketball, hosting the kids radio show, Nets Slammin’ Planet on New York radio with Nets legend Albert King and Lynn Wilson. His show was featured on NBA Inside Stuff with Ahmad Rashad, Hoop Magazine, MSG Network and Fox Sports Network. He has interviewed everyone from U.S. governors, athletes and television personalities, earning the nickname; Scoop B. He covered the Nets inaugural season in Brooklyn for BrooklynFans.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScoopB.