Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Nets starting to put pieces together

30_in_30_brookyln_nets_082717.jpg

30 teams in 30 days: Nets starting to put pieces together

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: Brooklyn Nets

It has been a long uphill battle for the Brooklyn Nets who are still paying – literally – for the 2013 draft night trade with Boston that has had an eclipse-like effect on their franchise with no signs of sunshine … until now.

Sean Marks, heading into his second full season as Brooklyn’s General Manager, has started to put together the pieces of what should be a much more competitive roster this season.

The centerpiece to Brooklyn’s turnaround will be D’Angelo Russell who was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I don’t know where his ceiling is,” Marks said during a Sirius radio interview recently with Joel Myers and Tim Legler. “We like his size. We like his passing ability. And the more I get to know D'Angelo, the more I like the person. We've spent a lot of time together and I think he fits with how we want to play. So, we're excited there.”

In addition to Russell, the Nets also added Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll and Timofey Mozgov.

Not the most exciting core of talent, for sure.

But the aforementioned players have all shown the ability to play in this league, and they join a Nets squad that returns Jeremy Lin, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sean Kilpatrick and Caris LeVert.

Again, not the sexiest names on the NBA landscape, but that’s OK.

This team isn’t being built to win at a high level now.

More than anything else, they will look to build off the gritty play we saw last season that led to lots of losses in large part because other teams had better players.

Brooklyn will have many nights like that this season, but the talent level on the roster now is a step up from last season and because of that, look for the Nets to be more than just more competitive but actually more games.

Enough to make the playoffs?

Nope.

Don’t see that happening.

But unlike last season, racking up wins over Brooklyn won’t come nearly as easy.

“We want to see progress every year,” Marks said. “I know Kenny does, I know I do. The fans demand it. So, I think now with the change in the roster —and the roster will continue to evolve here for the next couple of years for sure— they’ll see a direction in how we want to play, where we want to head (from) here.”

Key free agent/draft/trade additions: D’Angelo Russell (Los Angeles Lakers); DeMarre Carroll (Toronto); Allen Crabbe (Portland); Timofey Mozgov (Los Angeles Lakers).

Key losses: Brook Lopez (Los Angeles Lakers)

Rookies of note: Jarrett Allen.

Expectations: 32-50 (Fifth in the Atlantic Division, 12th in the East)

Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

celtics_al_horford_101617.jpg

Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.

It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.

Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.

MORE:

“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”

In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.

In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.

“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.

“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE