Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Nets closed out a four-game road trip in ugly fashion with blowout losses at the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets on Friday and Saturday, respectively. However, the good news is that they get to come home at 26-18, just two games behind the first-place Knicks in the Atlantic Division.
As the Nets come home for four games beginning Monday night with the Orlando Magic, the upcoming schedule is a brutal one. After the Magic, they host the Miami Heat on Wednesday, the Chicago Bulls on Friday and the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 5.
Those final three games of the home stand will be a nice test for a Nets team that currently sits at just 10-18 against teams with a .500 record or better.
“This game is just as important as those other games,” Joe Johnson said at Monday morning’s shootaround of the Magic, who the Nets have already beaten three times this season. “This could be a springboard into something special. We want to take care of home court and we gotta start with Orlando and those other games, we’ll worry about them when they come.
The Nets have held the Magic to just 76 points per game over those first three contests, but this will be the first time the Nets are seeing Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who missed the first three meetings with a combination of hamstring and Achilles ailments. In the veteran point guard’s last five games, all Magic losses, he is averaging 17.6 points, 8.0 assists and 5.4 rebounds.
Reaction to Rondo
The fact that Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is done for the season with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament could potentially affect the Nets in multiple ways.
The initial reaction locally seemed to be that Rondo, the starting point guard for Eastern Conference All-Star team, will need to be replaced on the roster by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Whenever Stern makes that announcement, it stands to reason that either Williams, Johnson or Brook Lopez has a good shot and getting the call, which is made by Stern regardless of position. The Nets, who were playing .620 basketball when All-Star reserves were announced on Thursday evening, have zero players in the Feb. 17 contest at the Toyoya Center in Houston.
When the All-Star reserves were announced, Lopez, who is having a career year with averages of 18.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, was viewed as the biggest Eastern Conference snub. Instead, Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah and Chris Bosh were among the frontcourt reserves voted in by coaches.
“I think all three of our guys, I would think, naturally, there is going to be a little disappointment when you play well enough to be selected and you’re not,” Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “Whether they will stay by position or not, I don’t know. I think they’ve done it both ways in the past if I’m not mistaken.”
On his three candidates, Carlesimo continued, “I’m sure it has occurred to them or somebody said it to them, but they’re not gonna lose any sleep over it.”
The other big ramification of the Rondo injury is the race for the Atlantic Division crown. With Boston’s season already on the ropes with Rondo healthy, it now faces an uphill climb to win a division it has owned for the last five years. As it stands right now, the Celtics are in third and trail the Knicks by seven games.
Rondo, now a four-time All-Star, is the third high-profile point guard to find severe knee troubles inside the last year, joining Derrick Rose of the Bulls and Ricky Rubio of the Timberwolves.
“That’s definitely sad,” Williams said. “You never want to see anybody have an injury like that. I’m definitely playing for his recovery and hopefully he can come back stronger.”
With 1:07 to play in the loss on Saturday at Houston, Williams was ejected by referee David Jones for arguing calls. Williams did not address the media afterwards and the team was off on Sunday. That meant Monday morning was the first opportunity for Williams to speak.
A savvy veteran aware of what can happen when speaking out of anger and emotion, it turns out Williams had a pretty good reason for staying silent on Saturday night.
“I just wanted to make sure I didn’t say anything stupid, that was it,’ Williams said. “It was nothing about the game, I was just making sure.”
Williams scored 20 of his 27 points in the first quarter Saturday, but a 34-20 second quarter for the Rockets was the undoing in a 119-106 Nets loss.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA