Czar’s Season Preview


From the Booth

Mike Fratello and Ian Eagle break down the Nets’ 111-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday.

Fratello Fundamentals

Passion is a prerequisite for playing pro ball.

In Friday’s matchup against Golden State the Nets were literally dragging their feet in the first half and at the beginning of the third quarter. They didn’t get back on defense, and as a result the Warriors killed them in transition, stretching their lead to as many as 19 points.

You cannot compete in the NBA without passion for the game. You must bring energy to the floor night in and night out. If you don’t consistently play hard at this level, your opponent will quickly open up a large lead and run away with the win.

Sparked by some big hustle plays made by tenacious 11th-year veteran Gerald Wallace, the Nets woke up before it was too late and rallied to knock off the Warriors 102-100. Wallace had 24 points, 18 rebounds and a block that sealed the deal in Oakland and helped New Jersey sweep the season series.

Gameday Dish: Nets vs. Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks and New Jersey Nets faced off three times in the first ten games of this crunched NBA season: twice in Jersey and once in the ATL. The Hawks won all three contests and look to sweep the series at home tonight. The good news for the guys from the Garden State is that their margin of defeat went from 36 to 7 to 5. If the Nets continue to gain ground on the Hawks they just might get a long overdue W.

The Hawks last played on Wednesday, when they bested the young Cleveland Cavaliers and soon-to-be Rookie of the Year PG Kyrie Irving in OT, 103-102. 8th-year forward Josh Smith led the team with 32 points and 17 boards. But 11th-year SG Joe Johnson saved the day with a 3-bomb at the end of regulation and the winning basket in the bonus round.

The Nets lost to the Wizards on Wednesday at home, 108-89. The game marked the 10th straight outing without starting center Brook Lopez, who will be sidelined again tonight (and perhaps for the remainder of the season) with a sprained right ankle. PG Deron Williams and head coach Avery Johnson were both ejected in the third quarter for arguing a non-call on a Williams drive to the hoop.

The emotional third quarter was the culmination of a frustrating season fraught with injuries and hard-to-swallow losses. New Jersey needs a win badly. But they haven’t fared anywhere near well at Philips Arena of late. In fact, they’ve dropped six in a row in the Peach State by an average of 17.2 points.

On the plus side, in their three losses to the Hawks this tilt NJ didn’t have Mr. Hustle, Gerald Wallace. The 11th-year SF will suit up for the Nets for the fourth time since being acquired from Portland before the trade deadline last week. The one-time NBA steals leader has averaged 17 ppg and 6 rpg for NJ. In their recent loss at Cleveland, the athletic swingman had an impressive 27 and 12 run in 40 minutes of court time.

The Nets have dropped six of their last seven contests and sit 8.5 games behind the current eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, their Hudson River rivals, the NY Knicks. With only 18 games remaining in the regular 66, hope against hope, the Nets still have a small statistical shot at the postseason.

Realistically, they’ll be on the outside looking in come playoff time. But finishing the year with effort, enthusiasm and heart will go a long way with their fan base and serve as a classy adieu before they pull up stakes and head to Brooklyn next year.

Tune in to YES tonight at 7:30 PM ET to see if the Nets can right their ship against the Hawks in Hotlanta.

From the Booth

Fratello and Ruocco answer questions from fans during halftime of Saturday’s Hornets-Nets game.