The New Jersey Nets are nearly back to full strength and playing some of their best basketball of the season as they continue a four-game road trip Friday night against the Boston Celtics. Avery Johnson's crew has won three of their last five, while the Celtics have lost seven of 10 and are attracting plenty of negative attention.
The source of that attention? Word that everyone from Rajon Rondo to Keven Garnett to Paul Pierce can be had in a trade while Boston struggles to stay in the playoff race. That's right, the Nets get to take on a team that has to answer more trade questions than they do.
Even though the Dwight Howard chatter has never gone away, the Nets haven't been hurt by it lately. Though it's a lot easier to push that sort of stuff to the side when you get your starting center back, something New Jersey did just before the All Star break. Brook Lopez hit the floor for the first time all season on Feb. 19 and quickly found his way as he dropped 38 points on the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.
Deron Williams and rookie MarShon Brooks should be the main beneficiaries from Lopez's return. The two guards have had to carry the load offensively and try to fight through the double (and triple) teams that come along with that burden. Now they will both see more open looks on the perimeter as teams start to putting the focus back on Lopez.
New Jersey should be well rested considering they have only played once in the second half and have had two days off since that game. They will also get another day of rest Saturday before returning to action Sunday.
You can watch the game locally on YES or listen on Bloomberg 1130.
Next up for the Nets is a showdown with the lowly Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday.