Brooklyn Nets Weekly: Shaun Livingston, Andray Blatche Shining

Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche is picking up right where he left off last season as a versatile big off the Brooklyn Nets bench whose unusual skill set creates matchup problems.(NBA.com photo)

Is Deron Williams going to miss some time in the regular season?  What was believed to be a minor ankle sprain has turned into a major question mark as the 2013-14 NBA opener nears.  We saw during the first half of last season how debilitating an ankle sprain can be, as Deron struggled to play at the elite level everyone has come to expect from one of the league’s best point guards.

Coach Jason Kidd sure made it sound like his return for opening night against the Cleveland Cavaliers is certainly in doubt.

“This is going to be a question that we’re probably going to have to deal with every day until he does get the green light to go,” Kidd said.  ”But we’re not rushing him. So if we have to start the season with him still trying to get better, I think we all feel comfortable, but we would feel a little bit more comfortable if he was starting.”

Make no mistake, if Deron Williams isn’t Deron Williams this season, the Brooklyn Nets could safely be eliminated from any type of title talk.  He’s that integral to this group’s success.  Nevertheless, it’s been a successful preseason so far for coach Kidd’s squad, highlighted by another winning week.

LOOKING BACK

Last Week’s Results: 2-1 (preseason), 3-1 overall (preseason)

The Brooklyn Nets played their preseason home opener on Saturday night when the Detroit Pistons came to town.  Detroit came away with a 99-88 victory spearheaded by promising young center Andre Drummond, who was a force of nature in his 18 minutes and finished with 15 points on 6-for-8 from the floor.  For the Nets, Andray Blatche led the way with 15 points off the bench in 19 minutes, playing both power forward and center.  Brooklyn has to be happy with point guard Shaun Livingston so far, a player Jason Kidd lobbied for in the offseason.  Livingston has thrived with the starting unit so far in Deron William’s absence, including a seven-assist-to-zero-turnover night in this one.  Andrei Kirilenko continued to be a menace on defense, recording four steals and blocking three shots.

Next up for the Nets was a Columbus Day trip to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers.  It was just a preseason game, but Philly looked every bit the part of a team vying for the No. 1 overall pick as the Nets cruised to a 127-97 victory.  The entire repertoire was on display for Shaun Livingston in this one, as he nearly recorded a triple double, finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds, eight assists and two steals while once again playing heavy minutes with the starters.  Joe Johnson recorded his best night of the preseason so far, finishing with 18 points and six assists.  LSU product Chris Johnson won’t make this team, but in what was basically a league-wide audition he performed well, scoring 21 points on 5-for-7 shooting.  Blatche again was excellent off the bench and is making a case to be the primary backup four, scoring 14 points.  The other guys competing for that spot fared pretty well, too.  Reggie Evans was Reggie Evans, scoring just three points but pounding the glass for 10 boards in 16 minutes.  Mirza Teletovic, the much ballyhooed Euro who struggled last year, shot the ball well in this one, connecting on five 3s and finishing with 21 points on the night.

Sometimes it’s all about wordplay.  Kevin Garnett is a warrior and the last thing he’s going to want to do take nights off.  In the case of Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Celtics, Jason Kidd made one thing clear.

“We are playing three (games) in four nights and also he has been great for us up to this point in training camp, so I thought it was time to reward him and give him the night off even though he didn’t want to,” Kidd said in reference to Brooklyn’s new starting power forward. “I think he understands that he can get his work in now and then cheer his guys on.”

Cheer he did, as the Nets knocked off the Boston Celtics, 92-88.  Brook Lopez led the way with 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting.  Starting in place of Garnett, Andray Blatche was excellent, finishing with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting, six rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.

LAST WEEK’S MVP: Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston

(NBA.com photo)

Once touted as “the next Magic Johnson” out of high school, Livingston is now most famous for one of the most gruesome injuries in the history of sports, tearing his ACL, PCL, meniscus, dislocating his knee cap and spraining his MCL all in one awkward landing on a February night in 2007 against the Charlotte Bobcats.  He’ll never have the prestigious career arc he was once projected for, but Livingston is all the way back from the injury and the Brooklyn Nets appear to have gotten a steal this offseason.

“It’s good to see him back healthy. … I’m happy for him,” Deron Williams quipped when talking about the player most likely to back him up once the real games start.   “I’ve known him since he was in high school, so I’m happy on him to be back on the court and playing with him. I wanted to play with him at Illinois, but it didn’t happen.”

With all he has been through, it’s hard to believe he’s still just 27.

LAST WEEK’S LVP: Alan Anderson

Alan Anderson

(NBA.com photo)

With Jason Terry unable to suit up so far this preseason, Alan Anderson has had a chance to step up and steal minutes as a backup shooting guard.  So far, so bad for the final piece Brooklyn added to this puzzle in the offseason.  The former Toronto Raptor shot just 6-for-20 over the course of the week.  That simply isn’t going to cut it on a roster this deep.

WHAT’S NEXT

A Thursday night preseason game against LeBron James and the defending world champion Miami Heat gets national TV love.  The following Wednesday, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce head to Boston for the first time as they take on the Celtics.  Will Deron Williams return before the regular season begins?

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Topics: Alan Anderson, Andray Blatche, Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Shaun Livingston

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