The Warriors are coming off a handling from the San Antonio Spurs at home last Tuesday, but are looking to rebound against one of the Eastern Conference's best in the visiting Brooklyn Nets. Since the Warriors only get limited exposure to east coast teams like the Nets, we wanted to take this chance to get some insider perspective from a team expert like Reed Wallach (find him on Twitter @ReedWallach), who represents Nets Daily. We asked him a bit about their early success, returning superstars, and their chances of repeating a playoff run this season.
Q&A with Nets Daily
GSoM: The Nets have started the season on a high note, coming out of the gate 4-2 before a big trip out west. What have been the keys to the early success? The team is one of the highest scoring squads in the league (ranked #4 in the league as of Wednesday); can they keep this up?
Reed Wallach: First and foremost, Deron Williams looks like he is back at full strength. DWill has been battling ankle and wrist injuries for the past several years and it has clearly held him back. After getting surgery on both ankles this summer, he is finally bouncing around the floor, scoring and dishing out dimes like the Nets expected him to when they traded for him. Joe Johnson has continued to display incredible offensive ability as well, something that has been showcased dating back to last season. However, Johnson thinks that the team hasn't been as good as some think. He said on Tuesday the team was playing selfish, and this first west coast trip will be the first real tests for Brooklyn, and we will see just how great this offense is.
GsoM: Has the drama surrounding the team been a distraction? The national media continues to find behind the scenes rumblings from the Nets, starting with Jason Kidd's departure, rumors of a team sale from its owners, and now recent stories about players like Joe Johnson speaking out about "selfish play". Do you see the stories calming down or will it get worse before it gets better?
RW: The Kidd story is an afterthought at this point. The Nets are over it, and it seems like Kidd is trying to move past it too. The Johnson story isn't as big as I think it has become. Yes, it's a big deal that Johnson said the team is playing "selfish" and that they haven't played anybody, but I think that is Johnson making a point that they aren't perfect and they need to remain aggressive. He did say he hasn't spoken to anyone in the locker room about it yet, so I don't think this is a brewing issue. Johnson isn't vocal, so when he speaks, it's usually for a reason. I believe this is his way of getting the point across.
Preview: Nets hope to bounce back tonight
The discussion surrounding the team this week has focused on Joe Johnson calling out his teammates, but his comment about Brooklyn not facing elite competition is way more important.
GSoM: The Warriors were lucky enough to gain the services of Shawn Livingston over the off-season to help our backcourt off the bench. Having seen him with the Nets, what can we expect out of the guard at full health?
RW: Livingston is awesome. I loved having him in Brooklyn and it was sad to see him go. He's a willing defender and versatile on that end of the floor. He can guard 1's, 2's, and 3's at any time. On offense, he's very difficult to stop. He doesn't have any outside shot, but you have to respect him because you can't let him pick up a head of steam and get into the paint; he's extremely adept at finishing around the rim. Last season he finished near the top in point per possession on post ups per Synergy Sports. His lanky frame makes him a great complementary piece to the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. I could see all three of them on the floor at once, and having it work.
GSoM: Deron Williams is a cornerstone of this franchise, and a huge factor in its success. He has endured a tough past 18 months, with injury concerns and declining play last season, but now returning to form winning Player of the Week honors in the East. Do we believe he is back for good, or do you think he will burn out like he did last season?
RW: Like I said before, he looks it. He won Eastern Conference Player of the Week last week (some sweet shooting guard playing in California won it for the West, forgot his name though :)), which is a great sign that he has really returned to playing at a high level. If he maintains good health, there is no reason why he can't be an All Star again and carry this Nets team as far as the Eastern Conference Finals. It's been a long-standing thing with the Nets: they will go as far as Deron's ankles take them.
GSoM: The Nets had a fantastic playoff run last season beating Toronto in the opening rounds last year before falling to the Miami Heat. The roster returns healthy again, and they keep the momentum - is this team a Championship contender? What will be the keys to another deep playoff run?
RW: I'd love to say they're a playoff contender, but unfortunately they aren't, at least right now. They're in the lower part of the second tier in the East, grouped with Toronto, Washington and Miami, with Charlotte and Atlanta right behind them. If things break right, they remain healthy and Brook Lopez returns to All Star form, I think they can certainly get into the second round and give either Cleveland or Chicago a run for their money. For now though, they need to prove themselves against tough competition, starting out West.
GSoM: Finally, give us a friendly prediction on the Nets/Warriors matchups this season.
RW: The Warriors aren't a great matchup for the Nets. They have speed on the wings, something the Nets struggle with and have the size to matchup with KG and Lopez. I think that they end up splitting their two matchups, the Warriors taking the one Thursday because the Nets will be gassed after a game in Phoenix the night before, and the Nets taking the win in March because the Warriors will be in Boston the night before.