What's up with Kevin Garnett and his back injury, and how come the Nets haven't missed a beat without him?
The Nets are notorious for not providing much information about their injuries, and this is just another instance. Garnett has been "day-to-day" for about three weeks now, missing 11 straight games. Nets' GM Billy King and coach Jason Kidd don't seem concerned, and it's mostly because they've gone 9-2 without him (including a road win in Miami and home wins against the Bulls, Grizzlies and Suns, to name a few). The main reason why they've been so successful is because they were able to plug in rookie Mason Plumlee and he's been beyond fantastic. The Nets have found their identity, which is long and athletic, and Plumlee fits right in to what Kidd is trying to do. They've also gotten help from Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko and even Jason Collins as their bigs off the bench. But, mainly, because of Plumlee's development the Nets have been allowed time to really let KG recover fully instead of rushing him back.
What's the feeling around Brooklyn about how this team can fair in the playoffs? Who's the preferred match up?
The confidence is back in Brooklyn, and there's a feeling around the team that they can make a run at the Title. Is that realistic? Eh. But, they've gone 26-10 since the turn of the New Year, won 11 straight at home, and, as I mentioned, have gone 9-2 without their "defensive anchor" in Kevin Garnett -- not to mention, Brook Lopez, their All-Star center, has been out most of the season. I think it helps that they've gone 3-0 against the Miami Heat this season, which is a non-scientific indication of how good a team is, right? Really, though, they are a confident bunch. Joe Johnson is playing great basketball, Deron Williams is playing at an All-Star level, Paul Pierce is as well, and Shaun Livingston is among the Most Improved Players in the NBA. They have a lot of weapons on offense, which includes the newly-acquired Marcus Thornton and Andray Blacthe off the bench, and they've been a top-5 defense in the NBA since the start of 2014. So, they're confident, playing great basketball, and right now they don't see a team out there that necessarily "scares" them.
As for the preferred matchup, I think they would rather play a team like Toronto or Washington in the first round, because I don't think anyone "wants to" play the Pacers or Heat in the first round or even the Bulls, who could have home court advantage over them. Also, as a team led by vets, the Nets would have that "been there, done that" advantage over the Raptors and Wizards.
I've been a fan of Shaun Livingston for a while -- how can you not, with the injuries he's overcome? It seems like he's settled into a good role with the Nets. How valuable has he been?
Shaun Livingston has been great. He's a favorite of the fans, the media (myself included), his teammates, his coach, team management, and just about everyone who's familiar with his story and his amazing recovery. He's been so important for this team that just this week Nets' GM Billy King told the media that re-signing Livingston this summer will be the team's top priority. That speaks to just how valuable he's been, and it's because he fits perfectly into Kidd's two-point guard system, starting Livingston alongside Deron Williams in order to have two ball-handlers who can run on the court at the same time. Livingston has been great, and everyone in and around the franchise is already fretting about possibly losing him this summer. They're hoping to picks comfort and system over money, but as we know, that's rarely the case.
Jason Terry is not even with the team anymore, rehabbing in Dallas. Any hard feelings with how that whole situation played out?
I like Jason Terry, I think he's a good dude, and it wouldn't surprise me if he had a long broadcasting career ahead of him. However, from a business perspective, the Nets were able to trade Terry, who was underperforming this season, and Reggie Evans, who all he can do is rebound, to the Sacramento Kings for a 26-year-old Marcus Thornton who in less than a month has already helped the Nets to three wins with his offense off the bench -- scoring 20-plus in each game, something Terry hadn't done at all this season. So, yeah, I do like Terry and I wish him well, but in the business of basketball, the Nets got a better basketball player in Thornton and they have no regrets about trading him.
What do you see as the key to this game for Brooklyn? What do they need to do to win?
The key in this game for Brooklyn is going to be on the defensive side of the ball. Obviously, the Mavericks are one of the top offensive teams in the NBA, so they need to try and get the game to be played at their pace, which is much slower than Dallas' preferred pace, and, again they need to key in on the defensive side of the ball. The other thing is, they can't look ahead to New Orleans on Monday night. Meaning, the Nets have struggled on "night two" of back-to-back sets, and there's been an effort to "correct" that. Jason Kidd needs to play for the win on Sunday -- and I suspect he will, but... -- and not coach the minutes to worry about Monday night's game. It's a small thing, but seemingly important.