The Brooklyn Nets square off against the Miami Heat tonight at Barclays Center, looking to extend their home winning streak to nine games and avenge the two losses they’ve already suffered at the hands of LeBron James and company this season
The big news of the day on the Nets front centers on Brook Lopez, as NBA Commissioner David Stern has selected the Stanford product to replace the injured Rajon Rondo on the Eastern Conference All-Star Team. Lopez was considered as perhaps the preeminent snub when All-Star selections were announced last week, given that he is the only player in the NBA averaging 18 points, seven boards and two blocks per game and is currently fourth in Player Efficiency Rating.
Lopez was unavailable before the game to speak to the media, but interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo praised his All-Star and said that Lopez believes it was a team effort to get him into the game.
“I think it’s great; when Rajon went down, we were hopeful (to get an All-Star),” Carlesimo said. “We had three candidates, two if (Stern) wanted a guard and obviously Brook. The first thing (Lopez) said to me is that so many of his points this seasonare results of double teams and (Deron Williams and Joe Johnson) finding him. … I don’t think, honestly, Brook gets selected if we’re not having the kind of year we’re having, so the team feels good about it.”
Joe Auriemma will have more on Lopez’s selection to the All-Star Team later tonight here on YESNetwork.com, and you can check out the team’s official release on the site as well.
The other big news of the day is the war of words between the teams, foremost the comments Nets forward Reggie Evans, who told the New York Daily News that he doesn’t consider the Heat “true champions” because of the lockout shortening the 2011-12 season and had some strong words for the reigning NBA MVP.
“Our team is defending the Miami Heat. If our team has to defend one person, LeBron isn’t going to score nothing. …LeBron is no different from Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche; no different,” Evans said. “People need help (on defense). Some people don’t need help. Everybody has to be double-teamed, it doesn’t matter who you are. You just have to stop LeBron in transition.”
James refused comment about that subject at this morning’s shootaround, instead weighing in on the Nets’ current coaching situation and questioning the team’s motivations during Brooklyn’s resurgence under Carlesimo.
“They’re not doing anything different; they’re playing with I would say more passion. They’re playing more together and like they want to play for the coach,” James said. “It sucks that Avery had to take the hit at them not wanting to play at a high level but that’s what it looks like to me. They just picked it up in intensity level and you can tell they like to play for P.J.”
In his press conference, which had its share of lighthearted moments, Carlesimo was asked about James’ comments, and sat silent for a few seconds before offering his take on what he called his “Jekyll and Hyde” team.
“I think that LeBron is entitled to his opinion…but the first thing we said to the team that Friday morning (after Johnson’s firing) was that collectively, all the players and assistants, had we done a better job, Avery would still be coaching,” Carlesimo said. “We believed that then, and we believe that now; I’m certainly not going to disagree with LeBron before we play them, but no one liked the situation.”
As for the game itself, Deron Williams is still a true game-time decision with flu-like symptoms, and Carlesimo admitted he hadn’t even inquired about his point guard’s services 90 minutes before tipoff.
“I haven’t seen him, but I think he’s going to try; (Nets trainer) Timmy (Walsh) probably would have told me if he couldn’t,” Carlesimo said.
The coach also said that Williams, who didn’t practice on Monday, looked “lousy” at Tuesday’s shootaround and couldn’t do a lot, but he didn’t rule out Deron playing and having a big game.
“He’s under the weather to put it mildly, but he’s been there before and played through it, so we’ll see,” Carlesimo said. “It could be anything from he’ll shock us and look like normal Deron Williams to he’ll try but there’s nothing there…we’ll see what happens.”
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is also in attendance for tonight’s game, as well as Friday’s tilt with Chicago, and questions about that attendance and his own job status led to the comedic highlight of Carlesimo’s mostly upbeat pre-game media meeting.
“From the beginning (Prokhorov) has made me very comfortable and said ‘just go coach the team,’ and I don’t feel the need to (meet with him). … I don’t think he’s coming in to see me, I think Miami and Chicago had a little something to do with it,” Carlesimo joked, adding that “I don’t think he was sitting in Moscow the other day saying ‘you know, I have to go see P.J.’”
On Monday, Nets GM told Billy King that he would be meeting with Prokhorov this week, with Carlesimo’s future one of the potential topics.
And, in one other piece of big news, the reigning Miss America, Mallory Hagan, is here at Barclays Center tonight and will be singing the National Anthem prior to the game.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES