Josh Newman, SNYNets.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For the Brooklyn Nets, the starting five was supposed to be the easy part with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez comprising one of the Eastern Conference’s more formidable units on paper.
However, with five preseason games, including more than one iffy defensive performance gone and only one to go on Wednesday against the Knicks at Nassau Coliseum, reality is starting to set in a bit.
Rebounding may be an issue, while intensity and even toughness have been questioned at times.
With opening night against those same Knicks looming on Nov. 1, the opening night may be in question, simply because Nets head coach Avery Johnson hasn’t come out and said that those five, presumed all along to be his starters, are in fact his starters.
“I think everything is an open book for us,” Avery Johnson said after practice on Monday. “I’ve had teams before, even the 67-win team we had (in 2006-07), we had a few different starting lineups. Right now, everything is an open book. I’m not saying we will or we won’t (change the lineup on opening night). I think my job is to try and make the best decisions to give us the best chance to win. If that’s something that we need to do, we will and if we don’t need to, we won’t.”
The notion that the presumed starting five is not set only picked up steam on Sunday afternoon when it was announced that Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire will be out 2-3 weeks with a ruptured cyst in his left knee. That timetable assures that he will miss the opener.
Without Stoudemire, the Knicks may be in a position to start Carmelo Anthony at power forward, a spot where he flourished late in the truncated 2011-12 regular season with Stoudemire injured. If that were to happen, the Nets may look at starting somewhere other than Humphries.
If the Knicks, or any other team, were to go small, moving the 6-f00t-7 Wallace, a solid rebounder for his position, down to power forward makes some sense. Another option down low to deal with Anthony could be versatile 6-foot-9 Bosnian rookie Mirza Teletovic, who is slated right now to be Humphries’ backup.
“Slide ‘G’ to the 4, Mirza to the 4, there’s ways around it,” Williams said. “We have a lot of different lineups we can go with. We can go big, we can go small, our starting lineup is pretty big. Joe is 6-7, Gerald is 6-7, I’m one of the bigger point guards in the league, then we have Brook and 7-foot and Hump at the 4. We can go big, we can go small, sometimes sliding ‘G’ to the 4 is one of our best bets.”
In the end, a legitimate double-double threat like Humphries is unlikely to be told to come off the bench and Wallace or Teletovic seeing extended minutes at power forward would be dictated by what the matchup is. However, with the head coach confirming nothing with one preseason game and less than 10 practices left before Nov. 1, this is a situation that will command some attention.
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.