The Brooklyn Nets come to Cleveland tonight to take on the Cavaliers in Game 1 of both squads’ regular season slates. Last season Brooklyn finished 49-33 and lost a tough first round playoff series to Chicago in 7 games. The 2012-13 Cavaliers ended up at 24-58, suffering through several lengthy injuries to key guys.
The Nets made many significant additions in the offseason with the goal of winning a title in June. They traded picks and players to the Boston Celtics for championship-pedigree Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. They also signed former All-Star Andrei Kirilenko to come off of the bench.
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov hired 40-year-old Jason Kidd as the new head coach, seemingly minutes after his 19-year Hall of Fame playing career ended.
With a payroll north of 100 million dollars, the league’s highest, Brooklyn goes into this season with what many hoops heads think is the best first five in the NBA: returning Nets PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson and C Brook Lopez tipping off with KG and Pierce. Every member of the starting five has been an All-Star, a distinction that none of the other 29 NBA teams share.
There was plenty of excitement on the Cleveland side as well this offseason. Owner Dan Gilbert brought back Mike Brown as head coach after he was let go in 2010. They chose the 6’8” ultra-talented UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett with the #1 overall pick in draft. In addition, they signed veteran 7-footer Andrew Bynum, who when healthy is one of the top big men in the league. Bynum’s status is listed as “to be determined,” so he may not suit up for the Cavaliers for while.
The Cavs now have a slew of young players to develop and build around, with the leader on the court being PG Kyrie Irving. Irving, entering his third year, averaged 22.5 ppg, 5.9 apg and 1.5 spg last season. Joining Irving in the backcourt is second-year 2-guard Dion Waiters, who was selected #4 overall in 2012. In his rookie campaign Philly-native Waiters put up an impressive 14.7 ppg. Up front, third-year PF Tristan Thompson (#4 pick overall in 2011) averaged 11.7 ppg and 9.4 rpg playing in all 82 games. Throw in the relentless veteran C Anderson Varejao and second-year 7-footer Tyler Zeller and Cleveland has a solid core capable of making a legit run at a playoff spot in 2014.
Tune in to the YES Network at 7PM ET to watch the new-look Nets take on the rising Cavs in the Rock and Roll Capital of the World.