Pump Up Music: Smashing Pumpkins -- "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
The Big Picture: The New Jersey Nets are following an encouraging path. Even though they're not likely to win even 35 games this year, they're loaded with young players, all of whom have "NBA Starter" in their futures, and a few of whom could be championship building blocks.
Start with Brook Lopez. We shouldn't be surprised with his offensive production based on what he did in college, but his defensive prowess has been something of a revelation. He's got a knack for blocking shots, which New Jersey needs, since most of their other young 'uns are defensively challenged.
The team tried to correct that further by picking up Courtney Lee, who was one of the Magic's perimeter stoppers as a rookie last year. They had to give up Ryan Anderson, the Official Favorite Rookie Sleeper of Rufus on Fire last year, but Anderson was blocked by Yi Jianlian.
When they move into their new Brooklyn digs, you can be sure they'll have a still young-ish core that'll be attractive to a superstar, whether that's LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or any number of great players hitting free agency in 2010-12.
Key to Victory: The Nets only have one true PG on their roster right now, with Devin Harris out, and Rafer Alston can't play all 48 minutes. That means rookie Terrence Williams will see time at point, and maybe Courtney Lee. Either way, this is a recipe for hounding the ballhandler with special vigor. The Bobcats might even consider a modified press, just to make any non-Rafer point guard work hard to bring the ball to the offensive end.
Harris is the only player the Nets have who presents a true matchup problem for the Cats, so Charlotte probably doesn't need to make any major adjustments and can simply do what they do. If the Nets go big in the backcourt, say, by playing Williams at point and Chris Douglas-Roberts at the two, that might be a problem for Felton and Augustin playing together, but that's why we've got Gerald Henderson. It's not complicated.
Detail That Might Interest .08% of Fans: The Nets' highest paid player is Bobby Simmons, on the roster primarily because his contract expires after this season. He's still living large off a breakout 2004-05 season for the Clippers that's probably going to end up looking like the fluke season of his career.
Site Note: Just a heads up that the site is set to undergo what SB Nation's calling a "visual refresh" in the next day or two. From what I've seen, the tweaks are minor, but noticeable. Carry on...