The NBA season is here. It has been here for a while. With that in mind, it is time to flip through the book on the 2013-14 season and to take a look at what the season has had in store — especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year’s NBA Blog Preview (don’t worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks … months … this preview IS never-ending, afterall).
Last Year/This Year: 49-33/17-22
OMD Podcast with Brooklyn Balling’s Josh Burton:
Last Year vs. Magic: Nets 107, Magic 68 in Orlando on Nov. 9; Nets 82, Magic 74 in Brooklyn on Nov. 11; Nets 98, Magic 86 in Orlando on Nov. 30; Nets 97, Magic 77 in Brooklyn on Jan. 28
This Year vs. Magic: Magic 107, Nets 86 in Orlando on Nov. 3; Jan. 21 in Brooklyn; April 9 in Brooklyn; April 13 in Orlando
Magic Connection: Assistant Coach Charles Klask (Video Coordinator, 2001-2011)
When the Magic faced the Nets in early November, things were so much different.
Brooklyn was still getting used to its new power trio with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Deron Williams learning to play together. The Nets still had Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson too. This was more than a Big Three lineup, but was a true superstar lineup.
They just were not playing that way, and the Magic’s blowout victory at Amway Center seemed to send the Nets spiraling.
Garnett is clearly not the same, struggling with the injury issues that plague older players. Pierce has seen limited minutes. Williams has fought off his own injuries. And Lopez is out for the year.
The Nets have had to change who they are not only to save their season — their pseudo coach, Lawrence Frank, was sent upstairs to write daily reports — but survive this mess of a year. Injuries have clearly kept the Nets from being all they can be.
That does not mean the year will be an abject failure.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/Zimbio
As Josh Burton of Brooklyn Balling tells us in the podcast linked above, the Nets have transformed into a perimeter-oriented team. They are riding Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce’s playmaking on the perimeter to get victories and try to return to .500 and the Eastern Conference Playoff race.
The surprise play and performance from Shaun Livingston has helped with that transformation as Jason Kidd has grown more into himself as a head coach.
Beyond the spilled drink fiasco and the constant hunt for tabloid approval, this Nets team needed the time to grow. It was unfair perhaps to heap on championship expectations. Five guys used to have the ball in their hands for most of their long, stories careers, had to learn to play off the ball more and work together. We see this often with newly assembled teams. It should have been no surprise to see the Nets struggle.
But to struggle that much?
Brooklyn is going to have a hard time shaking off that slow start, even in this Eastern Conference.
The Nets though appear to be figuring themselves out more and more. And they could still yet be the dangerous team everyone thought they would be.
How the Nets Will Beat the Magic: The Nets are quickly becoming a more perimeter-oriented team and they have the players to get into the paint and really create for themselves (mostly) and others. Brooklyn features a pretty big guard lineup, so I would suspect that will be a big matchup advantage. Joe Johnson is capable at palying either the two or three and should be able to post up whoever the Magic have guarding him. I would suspect much of the offense will run through him with Shaun Livingston or Deron Williams running pick and rolls with Garnett mixed in. Eventually, you would think the Nets’ depth becomes too much for the Magic to handle.
How the Magic Will Beat the Nets: The key is to keep the Nets out of the paint and force them to take mid-range jumpers. They have plenty of players who are adept at making those shots and do not mind taking them. Paul Pierce has made a 15-year career at the elbow and Joe Johnson really earned the nickname “Iso Joe.” Forcing Brooklyn into these inefficient shots and away from sharing the ball are absolutely critical for the Magic to get a win in this matchup.