The Other Side: New Jersey Nets
For the first time this season, the New Jersey Nets will face the Washington Wizards with a losing record. The Nets won both teams' season opener on Oct. 29, and carried a 9-7 record into their matchup on Dec. 2. On that night, the Wizards handed the Nets one of their worst defeats of the season; a 108-88 beatdown that featured two rare occurrences for the Wizards -- DeShawn Stevenson couldn't miss (he made 5 of 8 three-pointers) and the Wizards shared the ball (they had a season-high 33 assists).
The Nets rebounded to win their next two games and push their record to 11-8, but they haven't been above .500 since Dec. 19, when Devin Harris exploded for 41 points to lead New Jersey to a 121-97 win against his former team, Dallas. Since that victory, the Nets have gone 9-15 and are now 22-27. But since the Wizards are the only Eastern Conference team with no shot at the postseason, the Nets are just ½ game out of the eighth spot in the playoffs.
The Nets have won their past two games, defeating Philadelphia, 85-83, on Saturday and Milwaukee, 99-85, on Tuesday. Here's what else you need to know about the Nets before they play the Wizards tonight at Verizon Center:
1. Brook Lopez Has a Girl's Name, But a Man's Game
With teams focusing more attention on Devin Harris and Vince Carter, rookie center Brook Lopez has emerged as a trusty third option in recent weeks. Lopez has led the Nets in scoring the past two games, posting 24 points and 17 rebounds against Philadelphia, and 22 points and 12 rebounds against Milwaukee. Lopez was named to the Rookie Challenge team and recently broke Chicago point guard Derrick Rose's reign as Eastern Conference rookie of the month after averaging 14.9 points and 7.9 rebounds in January. He has had six games this season with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, and team President Rod Thorn feels lucky that Lopez landed in the Nets' lap at the 10th pick last summer. The Nets realize that Lopez, whom the Newark Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro calls, "Senor Pez," hasn't tapped his potential but are encouraged with the progress he has already made.
2. Devin Harris Is an All Star
Who knew that when the Nets traded Jason Kidd to Dallas last February that they'd have the all star a year later? Devin Harris became the 11th player in Nets history to make the all-star team. Harris, whom Washington drafted for Dallas in 2004, joins Buck Williams (three times), Otis Birdsong, Micheal Ray Richardson, Derrick Coleman, Kenny Anderson, Jayson Williams, Stephon Marbury, Kenyon Martin, Jason Kidd (five times) and Vince Carter (three times). Harris was incredible the first two months of the season, averaging 23.3 points, but he cooled off in January, averaging just 16.6 points and getting benched in a blowout loss against Boston on Jan. 17. Carter was not added to his ninth all-star team, but he might be pushing for David Stern to add him as an injury replacement for Orlando's Jameer Nelson (right shoulder) after returning from an ankle injury to post his fifth career triple-double (15 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds) against Milwaukee.
3. Josh Boone Is Lending a Helping Hand
Maryland native and former UConn star Josh Boone has missed 13 games this season with a left ankle injury, and is averaging just 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in his third season. But at least one Nets fan is hoping that he stays in New Jersey for a while. Boone saw a tractor-trailer pin Scott Koplik's car into a concrete barrier and drive off. Instead of driving on, Boone pulled over and called 911 for help.
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