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    How good timing presented opportunity for a quartet of Yankees prospects

    Monday, May 13, 2013, 1:02 PM [General]

    Sometimes in life, it’s funny how timing can work out and provide opportunities that might not have otherwise been there – and in the last 24 hours, a series of events in the Yankees organization that mirror the movie “Crash” have made that prophecy reality for a handful of prospects.

    The synergy started Sunday, when the Yankees placed Eduardo Nunez on the disabled list and recalled Alberto Gonzalez from Triple-A, leaving a spot open on the RailRiders’ roster; to fill it, Scranton added infielder Reegie Corona from Double-A. That might seem unremarkable out of context, but is quite a moment if you know that Corona has been in the Yankees system for almost a decade and has been waiting to return to Scranton for nearly three years.

    Corona played 105 games for Scranton in 2010 and could’ve found a utility role in the Bronx at some point, but he suffered a serious arm injury in a collision that July and ended up missing the rest of that season, as well as 2011 and 2012, recovering. The Yankees re-signed him last winter as a reserve, and after being activated at Double-A Trenton on May 1, he returned to Triple-A on Sunday, finally coming full circle in a career that was nearly ended on the same field 33 months earlier.

    On Monday, the Yankees were set to play a doubleheader against Cleveland, making up games that were rained out back in April; thus, the Yankees were allowed to call up a 26th man for the day and extended that spot to infielder Corban Joseph, who finally made his Major League debut (starting at first base in Game 1) two weeks after being recalled for two games but never playing after Kevin Youkilis went on the DL.

    With Joseph up – and RHP Brett Marshall, one of Scranton’s starting five, reportedly in Cleveland in case a pitching move needed to be made between games – the RailRiders needed a starter for Monday’s game and had an open spot on the roster for one day; as it happened, Double-A Trenton had an off day Monday, so LHP Nik Turley, who was scheduled to start Tuesday for the Thunder, will be added to pitch Scranton’s season finale against Gwinnett.

    That spot likely would’ve gone to whoever was lined up for Tuesday’s game regardless, but it’s a nice moment for Turley, a former 50th-round draft pick who spent time in Major League camp this spring and had made seven starts for the Thunder this season.

    And there you have it: a handful of events, all unrelated and most reactionary, have given one player (and possibly a second) the chance to make his Major League debuts, one to finally finish something he started three years prior, and one the biggest opportunity of his career, all in the span of a day where, to paraphrase Dante from Clerks, the Yankees weren’t even supposed to be here.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

    0 (0 Ratings)

    04-29-13 Nets vs. Bulls Pregame Notes

    Monday, April 29, 2013, 6:28 PM [General]

    With backs against the proverbial wall, it’s win or go home for the Brooklyn Nets tonight as they host the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at Barclays Center.

    After a loss in Saturday’s triple-overtime thriller in Chicago, the Nets are down 3-1 in the series, needing to win to force a Game 6 back in the Windy City on Thursday.

    “This is one you don’t pretend about, it’s as simple as it gets: you lose and you put the uniforms away, you win and you get to play again,” Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “In this case, we have the potential to have two of the three games here, and having home court is what you work for all year, but it’s clearly about somehow, some way, whatever you have to do, you find a way to win.”

    Game 4 truly was one for the books, with seven Nets playoff franchise records being tied or broken, but the tough loss left the Nets one game away from elimination. With Carlesimo’s future still up in the air, this could be his final game as head coach, but he downplayed that thought, saying that any thoughts about anything but Game 5 are “a waste of time.”

    “When the games come as quickly as they come, it’s very easy now to be tunneled in; our message walking off the floor Saturday was ‘Monday night’,” Carlesimo said. “By the time we got back, we had time to see most of the tape on the plane and get focused for tonight. Hopefully, if we win and keep getting some wins, it will be more of the same…if you’re thinking about anything else other than the next game right now, you’re wasting time.”

    With that said, Carlesimo was asked if any players had stepped up to address the situation, and he admitted that while he hadn’t personally, he wouldn’t be surprised if someone had taken that role.

    “We have a number of veterans, so guys don’t hesitate to say things. Usually it’s before or after a practice or a game; some guys are more comfortable doing that than others,” Carlesimo said. “I haven’t seen anything lately, but I’d be surprised if there hadn’t been (a meeting).”

    Heading into Game 5, the Bulls will be without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich, who played 60 of a possible 63 minutes Saturday but will miss tonight’s game with a severely bruised left calf. Even an hour before game time, Thibodeau said he was unsure who would start at point guard – but earlier in the day, Carlesimo said that Hinrich’s absence changes things dramatically no matter who replaces him.

    “It’s a major factor because he’s one of their best players,” Carlesimo said at the shoot-around. “Now again we’ve played them all year with guys missing and other guys have stepped up. And the one guy who’s obviously going to see more minutes is the one guy we don’t want to get more minutes.”

    That player is Nate Robinson, who outside of the scuffle with Watson had a phenomenal Game 4; he finished with 34 points, but had a near-franchise playoff record 23 of those in the fourth quarter, including an individual 12-0 run that got the Bulls back in it, and both that finish – and Robinson’s known ability to do things like that – will greatly change Brooklyn’s game plan in stopping “Krypto-Nate.”

    “We had been fortunate…not that we had him locked up, but we had been relatively fortunate that he hadn’t done what he’s capable of. He’s one of those guys who can just get it going and get in the zone,” Carlesimo said. “Good shots, bad shots, bank shots…whatever he’s doing he can hit them. Early on in the fourth he got it going and it wasn’t as much of a concern because we were sitting on a big lead – but tonight, we’ll be looking to him a little quicker and trying to throw water on him if he gets on fire.”

    Hinrich’s absence, however, could mean a bigger game for Deron Williams, as Thibodeau noted that guarding Williams is hard enough with his starting point guard, let alone without him.

    “With or without (Hinrich), Williams is always difficult to defend. You can’t guard him individually, you have to try to guard him with your whole team and make him work,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a great player.”

    One other note: at the end of his press conference, Carlesimo was asked about the NBA’s announcement Monday that the 12 owners on the relocation and finance advisory committee voted unanimously to reject the Maloof family's proposed sale of the Sacramento Kings to hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who planned to move the team to Seattle.

    Carlesimo coached the SuperSonics in 2007-08, their final season before relocating to Oklahoma City and the Thunder, and in speaking about the current situation, he specifically praised Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson – the former NBA All-Star who also served as a co-color analyst with Carlesimo on NBA on NBC broadcasts years ago – for helping keep basketball in Sacramento as long as he has.

    “There’s going to be a lot of extremely disappointed people in Seattle, but a lot of extremely excited people in Sacramento. I feel good for KJ, because he’s worked so hard…I don’t know where the situation is at, but (if the team stays in Sacramento and gets a new arena), there’s no question who deserves the credit,” Carlesimo said. “Kevin made this happen; he could’ve rolled over a long time ago. I’m sure they were excited to get basketball back in Seattle, but Sacramento’s a great town; I’m glad I’m not on that committee and don’t have to make that decision, because Sacramento has been supportive, but Seattle supported us for many years too.”

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    04-22-13 Nets vs. Bulls Pregame Notes

    Monday, April 22, 2013, 7:32 PM [General]

    The Brooklyn Nets were successful in their playoff debut Saturday night, and look to go up 2-0 in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series when they host the Chicago Bulls tonight at Barclays Center.

    Tonight’s game can be seen live on WWOR-TV My9, and it will be another true “Blackout in Brooklyn” as all fans have a black rally towel awaiting them at their seats.

    The Nets won Saturday’s Game 1 by a 106-89 margin and never trailed in a game where their lead ballooned as large as 28 at one point. Deron Williams had a strong game, scoring a team-high 22, and Brooklyn piled up a lot of points in transition, avoiding’s Chicago’s defensive strength in the process.

    “You don’t like to play when their defense is set up; guaranteed everybody that plays Chicago, that’s one of the first things you write up on the board,” Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “When they get set up, you’re in trouble.”

    In terms of that transition success, Carlesimo credited his own defense as well as Williams for maintaining a good pace.

    “Two things happened for us the other night; one, they didn’t shoot particularly well in the first half so we weren’t taking the ball out of bounds,” Carlesimo said, “and Deron and our team did a well above average job of getting the ball up the floor so we weren’t playing against the usual Chicago defense. They were spread out all over the floor and that makes a huge difference.”

    As for Williams himself, the point guard carried his strong second half into the first playoff game, and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau had high praise for the opposing point man.

    “He’s got his explosion back, he’s a big guard – powerful and quick – and he has the ability to make the right play; it’s not only his scoring (you worry about), but he also gets easy baskets for other people,” Thibodeau said. “You can tell he’s gotten his confidence back, too, so that makes him much harder to guard because you have to give him space. Guys like that, you have to make them work.”

    On the front line, the Bulls will once again be without the “full” services of All-Star Joakim Noah, who is still dealing with plantar fasciitis and is on a minutes limit of “about 20-25” according to Thibodeau. Taj Gibson and perhaps even Nazr Mohammad will be leaned on heavily to help Noah and Carlos Boozer out in defending Brook Lopez and boxing out Reggie Evans, and Thibodeau himself noted that even when fully healthy, the Nets present a big challenge defensively.

    “They’re playing at a very high level, and the way they finished the season, Deron Williams is rolling and he runs the team great,” Thibodeau said. “They have a number of guys who can run the ball off the dribble, and you have Lopez who has great touch and plays well with his back to the basket. They have good quality depth so they test you in a lot of ways, and you have to finish your defense against these guys; if you relax at all, they’ll make you pay.”

    Injuries have affected the Bulls from day one, with Derrick Rose missing the whole season and a number of guys sitting out long stretches due to injury, but that’s something Thibodeau has dealt with before – recalling past instances of being without a superstar during his time as an assistant in Houston (Yao), Boston (Garnett) and New York (Ewing) – and he knows it can’t be an excuse once you’ve gotten this far.

    “We’ve dealt with it all season long, and that’s part of the challenge – not just in how quickly you can adapt to things, but also how you adapt to guys coming back,” Thibodeau said. “We’re fortunate now that we do have a lot of guys a lot healthier than they were earlier in the season, which is a plus, but we have to get into rhythm quickly. Offensively it’s timing and spacing, defensively it’s intensity and protecting each other.”

    All that said, the Bulls will surely come out looking to gain momentum early, and coach Thibodeau knows that it starts with his defense.

    “We were disappointed obviously in the way we played, so we understand the importance of the game, and we know that we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did in Game 1,” Thibodeau said. “The challenge is to play for 48 minutes. We can’t allow missed shots to take away from our energy on defense and in rebounding; we have to play all aspects of the game.”

    And, as Carlesimo knows, the Nets can’t be complacent coming in, because the tide can always change in a hurry.

    “We gave up 54 points in the second half…it’s never a challenge for coaches to find things to be critical of or to work on, and we have a lot of things that we can do better,” Carlesimo said. “But, if we can shoot and take care of the ball the way we did the other night, that will cover up a lot of execution mistakes, and when you score that many points, that gives your defense a heck of a cushion.”

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    04-17-13 Nets vs. Pistons Pregame Notes

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 6:57 PM [General]

    Just 48 game minutes separate the Brooklyn Nets from their first playoff berth in six years, but before they get to the postseason they have one last piece of business: Wednesday’s regular season finale here at Barclays Center against the Detroit Pistons.

    The Nets are playing out the proverbial string tonight, locked into the No. 4 seed and doing a little scoreboard watching to see if they will meet Chicago or Atlanta in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs beginning this weekend.

    With their spot already locked in, interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo took the opportunity on Monday to sit four of his five starters – all except Gerald Wallace – as well as veterans Keith Bogans and Jerry Stackhouse. Even though the nine-man rotation of mostly reserves pulled out a 106-101 win over Washington, Carlesimo had said Monday night that the same scenario wouldn’t repeat on Wednesday, and he reiterated those comments in his pre-game press conference.

    “The six guys who didn’t play Monday haven’t played since Sunday because we had yesterday off. … We don’t know what’s going to happen yet (with the playoff schedule), whether we play Saturday or Sunday, so I think it’s important to get them some run,” Carlesimo said. “They have to sweat, they have to play, and it will be much more beneficial than a scrimmage. We need to stay healthy and play well.”

    Carlesimo did not indicate which two players will be inactive – saying everyone seemed healthy and available at morning shoot-around – but did say rotation tonight will be more “get everybody involved and keep everyone healthy” than true “playoff rotation preview.”

    “We’ll play everyone. I think we’ll sub the normal way, but after that we’ll just divide the minutes,” he said. “Gerald (Wallace) might play a few more minutes than the other guys, but we’ll just divvy it up.”

    No matter what happens tonight, the Nets will finish with their fifth winning month out of six this season, their most winning months in one campaign since they recorded five in 2002-03 – the last time the franchise went to the NBA Finals – and a total equal to their total amount of winning months in the last five seasons combined.

    A win, as well, would give the Nets a season series sweep of Detroit, marking the tenth team they will have blanked, and make Carlesimo 35-19 overall since taking over for Avery Johnson, making him the most successful coach in franchise history through his first 54 games.

    All that said, as Carlesimo noted, the Nets won’t be looking past a Pistons team that took them to double-overtime in their previous Barclays meeting, but they may be anxious to just get the playoffs underway in general.

    “I think they’re anxious; I think if everybody could fast forward a couple days they’d do that,” he said. “We like to have time to prepare and everything, but I think everybody would just as soon wish it were Saturday or Sunday right now.”

    Two other notes of interest about tonight, as it relates to franchise record boards:

    -It’s likely that lowered playing team will mean Reggie Evans’ streak of eight consecutive games with 13 or more rebounds will end, but he does still have a lot at stake. Evans is on of pace to lead the NBA in both rebounds per 48 minutes and total rebounding percentage, could break Dennis Rodman’s NBA record for defensive rebounding percentage, and could become the first player in NBA history other than Rodman to have a total rebounding percentage at least 26 percent while playing a minimum of 15 minutes per game. In addition, he needs just six rebounds to tie Jayson Williams for seventh on the franchise’s NBA-era single-season rebounds list.

    -Brook Lopez comes in as the only NBA player averaging at least 19 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game, and he also comes in with a Player Efficiency Rating of 24.6; if he can maintain that PER, he will finish the season as the Nets’ new NBA-era franchise leader in that category, surpassing the 24.5 PER posted by Vince Carter in 2004-05.

    And, finally, a Happy Birthday goes out to point guard C.J. Watson, who will do some balling on his 29th birthday tonight.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

    0 (0 Ratings)

    04-09-13 Nets vs. 76ers Pregame Notes

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 6:39 PM [General]

    It’s not often you hear the phrase “do or die game” for a playoff-bound  team in the waning weeks of the regular season, but tonight, it is in fact do or die for the Nets as they host the Philadelphia 76ers here at Barclays Center.

    Tonight’s game, which can be seen at 7:30 p.m. on My9 (WWOR-TV), is do or die for Brooklyn in terms of their quest for an Atlantic Division title; the Knicks’ magic number is down to one, meaning the next Nets loss or Knicks win will clinch the division for the orange and blue.

    Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo isn’t worried about that, however, as much as he is worried about the matchup between Brook Lopez and Philly’s Spencer Hawes, another 7-footer who like Lopez plays very well away from the basket.

    “They’re two very versatile bigs, who can both play away from the basket, rebound and pass,” Carlesimo said. “Spencer’s ball skills are very good, and they run a lot of things through the elbow with him. He can pas the ball well outside and go out and shoot threes, and he made a couple against us last time.”

    Lopez is very familiar with Hawes, as the two were Pac-10 rivals during their freshman seasons at Stanford and Washington respectively and have been together in the NBA for five years now, but so is Carlesimo; the Nets’ interim coach admitted that he and Hawes live nearby one another, and he actually got an up close and personal look at the big man a few months back.

    “He’s a neighbor of ours; he lives a couple of blocks away from the house, and he was actually over at the house over the All-Star break, playing with the kids in the back yard,” Carlesimo said. “He’s a good player, and he’s continued to improve this season, so it’s going to be important for us to make him defend and get more pressure on his jump shots; they’re a good jump shooting team, and we didn’t defend that well last time we played them. It’s hard to defend seven-footers, but we have to do it.”

    Jrue Holiday, Philly’s All-Star point guard, is the other player Carlesimo is worried about; citing the league’s modification of the rules on hand checking, Carlesimo says that a quick player like Holiday is becoming “virtually impossible” to guard effectively, let alone stifle.

    “It’s enough of a problem in the open floor, but in the pick and rolls, it’s really a problem now,” Carlesimo said. “Once one of their bigs gets a piece of Deron (Williams) or whoever’s covering him, then it becomes a real adventure. It’s almost better in the open floor; once you introduce the bigs into it, you knock guys off-kilter a little bit. Maybe it was too much the other way when you could do pretty much anything with your hands, but now it’s virtually impossible to guard the quick player.”

    That will be even harder perhaps if Joe Johnson, who has missed the last three games while battling a recurrence of plantar fasciitis in his left heel, will be unable to go. Johnson is listed as a game-time decision, and about 90 minutes before tipoff, Carlesimo didn’t know Johnson’s status but said if he does play, his workload will be all based on feel.

    “I haven’t seen him yet, but (if he does play) we’ll see how he feels,” Carlesimo said of Johnson’s availability. “He won’t go for huge minutes, but if he feels good, we’ll try to get maybe 30 or so out of him.”

    Two other notes of interest around game No. 77 of the season:

    -When asked about Nets minority owner Jay Z’s new sports management agency and the effect it might have on the Nets if he begins to represent basketball players and divest his interest in the team, Carlesimo said it would be “disappointing” to lose someone who has been very influential in not only the move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, but the identity shift that has come with it.

    “He had an enormous amount to do with the rebranding of the team; I wasn’t close to it at all, but from what I’ve seen, it would be hard to overstate his importance in this all,” Carlesimo said. “I like his involvement in the team; he’s at the games, and maybe he’s around more than I realize behind the scenes, but he’s an excellent fan, one that wasn’t just around this year, but a lot in the past too, which is very telling to me.”

    -Prior to tip-off, the Nets will display the Brooklyn Dodgers’ 1955 World Championship banner at center court. April 9, 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the first game played at Ebbets Field, and according to a team release, the pennant, which is on loan from the Brooklyn Historical Society, will be brought out by Brooklyn Dodgers fans who regularly attended games at the old field that was located roughly two miles from the Barclays Center in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    How Rivera, and the Core Four, defined a generation

    Saturday, March 9, 2013, 12:34 PM [General]

    In today’s baseball world, there’s almost no such thing as a “franchise player,” at least if your definition of that term involves someone who spends the entirety of a lengthy career in the same uniform.

    When Paul Olden announces the New York Yankees to the capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium on April 1, there will be two of those franchise players wearing pinstripes – and it will be the beginning of the end for the elder of the pair.

    Mariano Rivera announced his pending retirement on Saturday, telling the world that his nineteenth season in the Majors will be his last. He’ll be leaving the game with an all-time best 608-plus career saves, but he’ll also leave it with a pair of longevity records; Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada were the first trio of teammates in major pro sports history to play together for 16 seasons, and when The Captain and The Sandman both officially set foot on the field in 2013, they’ll tie Detroit’s dynamic middle infield duo of Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell for longevity as a pair of teammates, each twosome racking up an MLB-record 19 years in the same clubhouse together.

    Jon Lane posited on Friday that “whether you’re a Yankees fan or not, saturate your mind with every one of those memories and cherish them forever” because “the Great Rivera is untouchable and you won’t see one of his kind ever again,” and he’s right – in more ways than one.

    Whether you want to pin it on shorter careers, tougher economics, or any number of factors, there may in fact never be another like Rivera, or a pair like Mo and Derek: a player or players who define a generation to one team’s fans.

    Personally, the entirety of the “Core Four,” but especially Rivera and Jeter, are that definition; I will turn 33 years old later this year, and for myself or anyone in my general age bracket, it was more than half our lives ago that The Sandman and The Captain came to be…and yet, to many, it probably feels like yesterday.

    It was the day after Memorial Day 1995, May 23 to be exact, when Mariano Rivera debuted, starting and allowing five runs in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-0 Yankees loss to the then-California Angels. Less than a week later, the Yankees called up a babyfaced Derek Jeter, who was an underwhelming 0-for-5 in an extra-inning loss to the Seattle Mariners.

    Over the years, of course, Rivera went from starter to setup man to closer to the Greatest of All Time, while Jeter went from babyfaced rookie to Yankees Captain to first ballot hall of famer…but when they started, it was nearly 18 full calendar years, five Presidential elections, and almost the entire lifetime of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team that won gold in London ago.

    Think about that – for nearly two decades now, it’s been those two (along with Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, for most of the time) who have defined pinstripes, and so when one or more of those players finally decide to walk away, it’s nearly a lifetime of someone’s fandom going with them.

    Children who began primary school in the fall of 1995 are now college graduates or close to it, most of those born the year the Core Four showed up are in their final months of high school and/or childhood, and the one team that has ever gotten to Rivera in the World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks, was barely in its infancy as a franchise when The Sandman first donned pinstripes.

    A lot has changed over the last two decades, a lot except for the name of the New York Yankees’ closer. But time goes on, and eventually the verb in the phrase “so-and-so is greatest of all-time” goes from “is” to “was.” Saturday morning, Mariano Rivera told everyone that his verb will change less than eight months from now, and when Paul Olden announces those same Yankees on Opening Day 2014, the Core Four will be down to the Core Two or even the Last Man Standing.

    The end always comes eventually, but as Rivera has said, his wasn’t meant to be on the warning track in Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Instead, his end will come either in Houston on Sept. 30, or somewhere else (perhaps even Yankee Stadium) in October, or, if all goes really well, on the steps of City Hall somewhere around Halloween.

    Either way, it’s coming, so Yankees fans should indeed cherish every time they hear “Enter Sandman” blare throughout Yankee Stadium – because come next winter, The Sandman will be off to Never Never Land for good.

    And on that day, baseball, if not life, will never be the same again for many.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    03-08-13 Nets vs. Wizards Pre-Game Notes

    Friday, March 8, 2013, 6:45 PM [General]

    The Brooklyn Nets are 20-3 against sub-.500 teams this season, and they hope to continue those dominant ways when they welcome the 19-40 Washington Wizards to Barclays Center on “Noche Latina” around the NBA.

    The Nets are hoping that their success against sub-.500 squads will help them snap a less positive streak, that being their current three-game losing streak. Brooklyn has lost four in a row at Barclays just once this year, and is hoping to avoid matching that by giving the Wiz their 20th tally in the win column.

    Despite their record, the Wizards will be a tough matchup for P.J. Carlesimo’s bunch, with the Nets’ interim head coach pointing to their multi-talented leader and combo of effective big men as adding up to trouble.

    “They’ve very good defensively, and John Wall may be the fastest player in the league with the ball,” Carlesimo said of the former No. 1 overall pick. “You can talk about anyone you want, but I think that foul line to foul line, Wall is the fastest guy in the league, and that changes their dimension; they’re above .500 since he’s come back, and if you look at the teams they’ve beaten, they’ve done a great job.”

    As for that frontcourt, what is one of Brooklyn’s usual strengths will be somewhat negated by the trio of Nene, Emeka Okafor, and Kevin Seraphin, the former getting praise from Carlesimo as being a player the Nets need to make an effort to stop tonight.

    “Nene has torched us both games this, and one of the games last year as well…a lot of people can’t match up with our bigs, but they have a lot they can throw at you,” Carlesimo said. “Nene missed a bunch of games and when he first came back he was on minutes restriction, but he’s hit his stride of late.”

    The Nets’ frontcourt is in a little bit of flux of late, with Carlesimo announcing prior to Wednesday’s win at Charlotte that Kris Humphries was being taken out of the rotation and Mirza Teletovic would be given more minutes; the interim coach said that Teletovic should get more than 12 minutes tonight – with Carlesimo blaming the fact that “all plans go out the window when you’re down big” as the reason for Mirza’s small total Wednesday – and one other thing he may look tonight at is using Andray Blatche as a power forward alongside Brook Lopez.

    “Tonight, maybe…it’s something we want to do, and if the matchup is such that the other guys are struggling or both of them (Lopez and Blatche) are going good, then you may see it at times (going forward),” Carlesimo said. “Frankly, there are some teams we could be playing in the playoffs where the matchup lends itself to those two playing together, so we’d like to look at it a little bit.”

    One of the things the Nets will also need to do tonight is cut down on their turnovers; the team has committed 58 in their three games over the last week, reaching 20 or more against both Chicago and Charlotte, and their average is now more than 15 per game.

    “It’s more careless passing than anything; you’re not going to play a perfect game, and everybody’s usually in that 13, 14 range for average, but we’re too high,” Carlesimo said. “One of the things that’s happened since the break is we’ve played a handful of those ‘create a ton of turnover’ teams,  but in addition to that, we’ve been a little careless with the basketball and haven’t been sharp in our execution.”

    One of the things that Carlesimo does hope continues, however, is the team’s hot shooting, especially when it comes from the “big three” of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson; Williams is averaging 21.5 points per game since the break – nearly five points higher than his pre-All Star average – and when Johnson scores 20 or more, as he did on Wednesday for the first time since his return from a sore heel, the team is 13-2.

    “We’ve spent more time on shooting, we’re taking bigger chunks of practice and asking guys to come back post-practice shootarounds, and the time we’ve spent is helping,” Carlesimo said. “With Joe…that’s a legit stat, but I’ll bet you that in a lot of those games he had 20, Brook and/or Deron probably had a big game as well; we need those guys to all play well to beat the better teams, and them being hot helps everyone…they draw coverages that open doors for other people too. It makes a big difference if we can start with the sum of their averages and build on that; when one or two of them are struggling, it gets very tough for us.”

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

    0 (0 Ratings)

    03-01-13 Nets vs. Mavericks Pre-Game Notes

    Friday, March 1, 2013, 7:02 PM [General]

    The NBA schedule can often be a strange one, and that wackiness rears itself tonight as the Dallas Mavericks make their inaugural appearance at Barclays Center to take on the Brooklyn Nets.

    After four full months and nearly 60 games, this is the first meeting period between the Nets and Mavs in 2012-13, marking the second straight game where Brooklyn will be facing an opponent they have yet to see. Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo mentioned that point when talking about multiple-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, whose numbers are a little down due to early-season injury issues but has set season highs in both points (33) and rebounds (20) in the last week.

    “I hate to keep belaboring the point, but the schedule can be very unfair; had we played them twice in November or December it would have been infinitely our advantage,” Carlesimo said.

    Despite advancing age and that injury that cost him the first third of the season, Nowitzki is still a force, and Carlesimo admitted that the 7-footer is still a “horrible” matchup for many.

    “He’s a problem because of the skill set he is; he’s big, he can shoot threes, he can put the ball on the floor, he can post you up, and they do a lot of things for him,” Carlesimo said. “It’s hard to get a guy big enough that he can’t just shoot over them, because he’s more mobile…he’s one of the best offensive weapons in the league for a long time, so we just have to try to make him work.”

    This game also marks the first meeting between Deron Williams and the other team that was a finalist for his services this summer, although Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said that hadn’t even crossed his mind until he was asked about it earlier today.

    “I couldn’t overstate how important his decision to come back here was…and I couldn’t understate how unimportant that backdrop is tonight, at least in my opinion only,” Carlesimo said. “It hadn’t entered my mind, hopefully it hasn’t entered (Deron’s) either.”

    In their Barclays debut, Rick Carlisle’s Mavs squad brings with them a pair of a pair of stats that may not bode well for Brooklyn; Dallas averages 101 points per game this season, which is eighth in the NBA, and their bench averages a league-high 40.6 points per game.

    “It taxes your matchups; some teams you figure you’re okay with the matchups, but these guys are a problem because they have so many weapons that they’re going to have some mismatches to choose from,” Carlesimo said of the Mavericks’ bench. “They have a lot of excellent individual offensive players, and they have a great system because Rick (Carlisle) is a great offensive coach; it’s not an accident that the bench scores that many points.”

    Coming off that Dallas bench will be one man Nets fans are intimately familiar with: swingman Vince Carter, who spent the 2004-05 through 2008-09 seasons in New Jersey and has, in Carlesimo’s opinion, become a much different player even in the span since he’s been gone.

    “He’s shooting the heck out of the ball, over 40 percent from three…like Michael Jordan or Jason Kidd, he presented an aerial circus for so long, but as he’s gotten older, he’s gotten a lot more cerebral,” Carlesimo said of Carter. “He’ll take what you give him; he’ll still go inside and beat you up inside, and they’ll still run with him, but his perimeter game has gotten even better as he’s gotten older and he’s using that even more now. Now when you talk about him, you almost start with how good of a three-point shooter he is; that’s probably his primary weapon right now, and in the old days I don’t think you would’ve said that about Vince.”

    The Nets have struggled with up tempo teams this year, and their bench may be a little short-handed if both Joe Johnson (sore heel) and MarShon Brooks (sprained right wrist) are both unable to go or limited in their time. Carlesimo said prior to the game that he hadn’t talked to Johnson or trainer Tim Walsh about Johnson’s status, but admitted that he didn’t find out the six-time All-Star wasn’t able to go until right before tipoff in Tuesday’s win over New Orleans.

    “I’m assuming Timmy would have come and told me if he (was unable to play); we found out right before the game in New Orleans, but Joe said he felt good (earlier today) and hopefully he’s going to go and MarShon’s going to go.”

    That said, with this game being the first of a back-to-back for the Nets – the second game of which is on the road tomorrow night in Chicago – Carlesimo said if Johnson is a go, he might have to be limited simply to save some of what’s in the tank for the Bulls.

    “Hopefully we can get minutes out of him both nights,” Carlesimo said, but added that “usually when I say that about someone, they end up playing 40-plus, so we’ll see….Joe will have a lot to say, and hopefully he’ll be very direct if and when it starts to hurt.”

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    02-22-13 Nets vs. Rockets Pre-Game Notes

    Friday, February 22, 2013, 6:40 PM [General]

    It has been 74 months since the Nets defeated the Houston Rockets, but Brooklyn will look to continue their streak-snapping ways when they host Houston tonight at Barclays Center.

    With back-to-back wins over Milwaukee on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Nets snapped a 13-game losing streak against the Bucks that was tied for their longest active streak against any team. Now, they must look to snap a 12-game skid against Houston, one that dates back to Dec. 27, 2006, to continue a pair of positive streaks.

    Foremost, of course, is the Nets’ current four-game winning streak, but they also stand at 19-8 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, a start that ties him with Lawrence Frank for the best 27-game start in franchise history.

    If they are to get Carlesimo his 20th win tonight, they’ll have to do it without sharpshooter Joe Johnson, who will sit out the game because of plantar fasciitis that flared up in Wednesday’s win over the Bucks. Nets GM Billy King said both earlier in the day and prior to Carlesimo’s press conference that Johnson is “day-to-day,” but added that it was likely he will play on Sunday against Memphis – a diagnosis Carlesimo hopes rings true.

    “When (Nets trainer) Timmy (Walsh) told me the other night, I knew he’d be sore…it’s one of those things where the best thing is rest,” Carlesimo said. “It will be a concern for two obvious reasons; one, he’s such a good player, and two, he plays so many minutes and he’s such a crucial player that sitting him out for an extended period of time will have an impact. Maybe you can dodge a bullet for a game or two, but if you sit him out for a while, it’ll be a problem. It’s going to be hard, but a lot of players play dinged up – and maybe dinged up isn’t strong enough a word – but we’ll see what happens.”

    C.J. Watson will start in Johnson’s place – with Carlesimo joking that he “won’t ISO or post C.J. up as much as we do with Joe” – and he and Deron Williams will have the tough task of handling one of the NBA’s best backcourts in James Harden and Jeremy Lin.

    “Injuries happen, and you just have to play, but what makes the matchup so tough is that their backcourt is so big; their 1-2-3 combo is probably one of the biggest in the league,” Carlesimo said, “but C.J.’s experienced, and I like him out there starting.”

    Carlesimo said that MarShon Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor may get some extended minutes, and stated that Johnson’s absence affects them offensively as well as defensively.

    To that point, Harden is coming off a 40-point game against his old Oklahoma City mates on Wednesday and is averaging 26.5 points this season, which is good for fifth in the NBA, while Lin is averaging 12.9 points and the pair combines for just under 12 assists per game total.

    That duo combined for 43 points and 16 assists in Houston’s 119-106 victory over the Nets four weeks ago, and Carlesimo said there was a lot his team could learn from watching that tape back.

    “We have to get back in transition; that was the thing we probably did poorest in Houston, and we did a poor job of trying to control tempo at all in that game,” Carlesimo said. “They get the ball up the floor very quickly and they’re good in transition, and if you make them run half-court offense, they share the ball well and the ball moves very quickly. They also shoot a lot of threes, and we didn’t take anything away from them in that game. They just kept coming and we couldn’t stop them.”

    This will also be a second homecoming of sorts for Lin, whose rise to fame with the Knicks began with a stellar performance against the Nets last February, and Carlesimo knows that with him and Harden amped up for a big game, the Nets can’t afford to simply match the Rockets tonight.

    “It’s similar to the Denver game; we’ll need to score a lot of points to win, but we’re not going to outscore them, so we have to take a couple things away from them,” Carlesimo said. “They come at you with too many offensive weapons.”

    One of those weapons that may be out is Chandler Parsons, who averages a line of 14.5 points, 5.6 boards, and 3.7 assists per game; he is a game-time decision due to a sprained right ankle, but the Rockets are expected to the three players they acquired in a trade from Sacramento on Wednesday in uniform tonight.

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    02-13-13 Nets vs. Nuggets Pre-Game Notes

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 6:47 PM [General]

    The Denver Nuggets make their inaugural visit to Barclays Center tonight for a game against the Brooklyn Nets that will culminate the nominal first half of the NBA season for both teams.

    The Nets are looking to head into the break on a two-game win streak, still riding the high of a gritty overtime win over Indiana on Monday night. That win came just one night after many players, most vocally Gerald Wallace, called each other to task for their inconsistent and somewhat individualized play – an approach interim coach P.J. Carlesimo approved of.

    “It was important for us to respond and play the way we did at Indiana,” Carlesimo said, “and I think comments of that nature are great. I don’t just want to blanket endorse everyone just saying whatever they want, but I thought the comments were appropriate and the players responded well.”

    To make it a two-game streak, Brooklyn must get past a 33-20 Nuggets squad that is in the Top 5 in the NBA in scoring, rebounding, shooting, and assists, but is just 11-17 on the road and 3-7 in the second half of back-to-backs this season. The Nets have been at their best when running at a methodical pace and struggled with teams that run a lot this season, and Carlesimo knows that his team must give Denver as few chances to get their fast break as possible.

    “We have to take care of the ball, get back on defense, and put the ball in the basket when we have good looks,” Carlesimo said. “With some teams, they won’t always score off turnovers, but these guys will run and score immediately. Turning it over for sure would be death, and our offense will go a long way toward controlling our defense tonight.”

    Deron Williams will once again sit out tonight due to a reoccurrence of synovitis in both ankles, but in his absence, the Nets will hope for a repeat of Monday’s performance by Tyshawn Taylor, who stepped in and posted a line of 12 points, two rebounds, and two assists in 34-plus minutes, his most extended action of the season.

    The Nuggets, meanwhile, are looking to avoid losing a third consecutive game as they head into All-Star Weekend; the team had been riding a nine-game winning streak prior to Sunday, one which was snapped in an epic triple-overtime loss at Boston. That heartbreak was compounded last night in Toronto, when Rudy Gay’s jumper with 4.8 seconds left carried the Raptors to a one-point win.

    Denver comes into Brooklyn quite banged up, as they will be missing two key players with two others going at less than 100 percent. Danilo Gallinari (sinus infection) and Andre Iguodala (right cervical strain) will not play, while Wilson Chandler, who sat out Tuesday with left groin tightness, and JaVale McGee, who plkayed just five minutes because of what the team called left tibia irritation, could be limited.

    With any or all of those players absent, Kenneth Faried will likely have to be a huge force for the Nuggets; when asked about Faried’s high motor, Carlesimo likened him to Reggie Evans and acknowledged how the tough matchup Faried presents.

    “He’s going to get you extra possessions, on both ends of the floor,” Carlesimo said. “The truth is, you don’t see the other conference as much so I don’t see him as much, but the few games I’ve watched, he’s been a handful. … The way they play is kind of unique, and he’s a real problem for everybody.”

    All in all, Carlesimo said that he knows the Nets have struggled with quick teams and will likely need to up their tempo on offense greatly, but the fact that tonight’s game may end up as a shootout hasn’t affected the team’s strategy, at least at the outset.

    “Maybe the players have talked about that, but we haven’t talked with them about it; we (the coaches) will talk about it, and some nights we have to,” Carlesimo said. “Part of our game plan for some games has been to be aggressive and attack other teams, but we didn’t talk about that for tonight; we focused more on the other end, knowing we need to take care of the ball, get back on defense, and take care of the ball.”

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    02-10-13 Nets vs. Spurs Pre-Game Notes

    Sunday, February 10, 2013, 7:16 PM [General]

    On a snowy Sunday at Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets will look to avenge their worst loss of the 2012-13 season when they battle the San Antonio Spurs in a nationally-televised prime-time battle.

    The Spurs have won 17 of their last 18 against the Nets, with their 104-73 victory on New Year’s Eve in San Antonio still the largest margin of defeat the Nets have faced this season – and in outscoring Brooklyn 30-5 in the third quarter of that game, San Antonio held the Nets to their lowest single-quarter output in franchise history.

    Both that loss and the team's recent swoon that has seen them lose five of their last eight, are fresh in interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo’s mind, and he’s hoping he has pinpointed the catalysts for the latter as the All-Star break approaches.

    “I don’t think we’re playing with the same enthusiasm and confidence that we were, and that transmits into a lot of different aspects of our game,” Carlesimo said. “We have to get back to having a little more fun and playing through mistakes; lately, we’ve not been doing that as consistently.”

    San Antonio has been one of the NBA’s elite teams for the last 15 years, and despite their injuries and rough schedule, the Spurs currently have the NBA’s best record at 39-12. Carlesimo was with the team from 2002-07 as one of Popovich’s assistants and won three NBA titles on the Spurs’ bench, and knows that no matter who is in the lineup, it’s a tough go because of the system and those who run it.

    “Clearly it’s personnel first, starting with David (Robinson) and now Timmy (Duncan), and when you add a Parker and a Ginobili, you have three of the elite players in the league, and they’re winners,” Carlesimo said, “but having said that, I think (Spurs GM) R.C. (Buford) does a great job in putting that roster together; there’s been a lot of pieces in and out of that roster, but the core has stayed the same, and (Popovich) is beyond excellent in his understanding of the game, the way he teaches it, and most importantly, the way he handles people. Players like to play for him, and understand when he’s demanding and what he asks of them. It’s a great system, and it’s rolling.”

    Tonight, San Antonio will once again be without Tim Duncan (sore left knee) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring), with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich saying that neither will dress tonight and intimating they may both be out until after the break.

    “It’s about their health; we need to have those guys healthy and energetic at the end of the year,” Popovich said. “Things work a lot better with them than without, so I’m not going to take any chances. If I err, it’s going to be on the conservative side.”

    Those absences may be either a blessing or a curse for the Nets, who have as of late not played well against teams at less than full strength. But with those two out, Carlesimo knows the onus will once again be on point guard Tony Parker, who has gone for 30 or more points in three of his last five games, to lead the offense – and that is a role that Carlesimo believes Parker is so good at, he called the French star “the one (San Antonio) can’t afford to lose.”

    “(Parker) puts so much pressure on the defense; he is the focal point of their half-court offense, he’s as good a pick-and-roll guard as there is in the league, and in transition, he’s as good as there is going coast-to-coast,” Carlesimo said. “He’s not a guy you can play with one person; you need people back, but the problem with that is they have shooters, so when he gets by his guy and sucks in other defenders, you have other guys hitting jump shots.”

    With the Spurs having to run small lineups, one player who could get an extended look for the Nets tonight is Mirza Teletovic; Carlesimo said during the morning shoot-around that he has an expectation of what most of his players can and can’t do but the staff is “still not there with Mirza,” and the coach isn’t against changing up his lineup tonight if need be.

    “Depending on how the game evolves, we may move around; if we’re going okay, we may get guys out a little earlier in the first so they’re fresher in the second,” Carlesimo said. “Maybe we won’t stretch it out as much, or maybe we’ll look at the group that starts the second and put them on a shorter leash.”

    One other thing to watch for that is in the Spurs favor, especially given Brooklyn’s proclivity for struggling in the third quarter, is the fact that San Antonio is the best final-period team in the league. The Spurs average 26.7 points on 49.6 percent shooting in the fourth, both totals that are tops in the NBA, and their 40.9 three-point percentage in the final frame is second in the league.

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    02-05-13 Nets vs. Lakers Pre-Game Notes

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013, 6:45 PM [General]

    Six games and nine days remain on the Nets schedule before the All-Star break, and Brooklyn begins that journey tonight by welcoming Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to Barclays Center for the first time.

    The Nets are coming off a tough four-point win over an injury-depleted Bulls squad on Friday, and once again tonight they will be facing a short-handed squad; Dwight Howard is out for the Lakers with a shoulder injury, while Metta World Peace has been suspended by the NBA for one game for his altercation with Detroit’s Brandon Knight on Sunday.

    Brooklyn has lost nine games in a row to the Lakers, but LA is just 8-18 on the road this year while the Nets are 9-1 in their last 10 home games and 18-8 overall at Barclays Center. Those numbers, combined with the Nets’ perfect 17-0 record against sub.-500 teams, add up to appear as advantage Brooklyn – but Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo knows that Mike D’Antoni’s Lakers are always dangerous.

    “You still have to match up with the guys who are playing,” Carlesimo said. “But Dwight not playing obviously makes it different at the basket; he impacts the game with his defense more than anybody, and gives them a great post-up look.”

    That said, Carlesimo intimated that because the team was prepared to possibly see Howard out of the lineup, it’s World Peace’s absence that is more of a proverbial monkey wrench.  

    “They’ve been playing a little bit without (Howard) anyhow; World Peace makes a difference because he’s a three-point shooter, he’s an excellent defender, and he’s played a lot of their games this year while Dwight has been in and out,” Carlesimo said. “But, when you start with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, you can put anyone there and it’s still a good lineup.”

    Without two of his three starting forwards, Mike D’Antoni is expected to start Pau Gasol, Earl Clark, and Antawn Jamison up front tonight. Either way, it’s a bit of a different look than the last time the two played just before Thanksgiving in Los Angeles; that was D’Antoni’s first game as Lakers coach, and as Carlesimo himself can attest to, it can take time for a team to gel under a new coach’s system – but the Lakers have done it well.

    “They’re playing a lot more efficiently offensively, and Mike probably feels they still have room to get even better, but they’ve been playing well lately, putting points up and shooting the three,” Carlesimo said. “I didn’t see a lot of their games when they were struggling unless they happened to be playing someone we were getting ready to play, but they’ve been playing well of late.”

    One other nugget that plays against the Lakers' favor: Kobe Bryant is 18-7 against the Nets in his career, but he has averaged just 22.6 points per game lifetime against the Nets, a mark that is the second-worst scoring average against a single team on his resume.

    On the other side, it appears as Brooklyn will have a full 13 on the bench. As of this morning’s shootaround, C.J. Watson (sprained right ankle) was listed as probable, MarShon Brooks (sprained right ankle) was questionable, and both Andray Blatche (illness) and Jerry Stackhouse (stiff neck) were game-time decisions, but Carlesimo was optimistic on all four 90 minutes before game-time.

    “(Nets trainer) Tim (Walsh) said they’re available; we’ll see how they warm up and what they look like,” the coach said. “MarShon looked to me to be the least likely this morning, but we’ll see.”

    And, in one final non-basketball note, rumors have it that Justin Bieber, who is in town to be the host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live this weekend before embarking on a European tour, will be in attendance tonight.

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