The Big Picture: Just as we're pretty sure the Bobcats aren't as bad as their record implies right now, the Nets weren't as bad as their record was last season. A 12-70 season is a horrific slog, but there's a real argument that their roster's got a top end equal to the Cats', and they certainly have better depth.
Given their ages and contract situations, would you rather start a franchise with Gerald Wallace or Brook Lopez? Stephen Jackson or Devin Harris? In both cases, I think I'd rather have the Nets player. Wallace is probably the best player, overall, in the game tonight, but that's pending Lopez's continued development; he's already a borderline Eastern Conference All Star behind Dwight Howard, competing with Andrew Bogut and Joakim Noah for the East's second center spot. And Harris is younger and plays a more important role than Jackson.
I'm also terrified of what Anthony Morrow and Troy Murphy might do tonight (Murphy is "50-50" on whether or not he'll play). Carlos Delfino went 5-11 from three, and even though not all of those were wide open attempts, it certainly felt that way. The Cats are giving up threes at a 41% clip through the first few games, and those two guys -- Morrow, especially -- can bomb away with the best of 'em.
Musical interlude: Lauryn Hill -- "Doo Wop (That Thing)"
Keys to Victory: Larry Brown is almost certainly going to want to play his centers a good deal against Lopez, whether that's Nazr Mohammed or DeSagana Diop, because it just feels demoralizing when the opposing team dumps it into the post and the big man overpowers our guy on his way to the rim. The thing is, I suspect Mohammed won't be able to do much to stop him, and Diop has a near-zero chance of doing anything against him on the offensive end, so the best solution -- again -- is probably to play Boris Diaw and Tyrus Thomas long minutes alongside each other in the front court. Diaw can be sneaky in how he plays bigger guys, and Thomas has sheer hops and tenacity in his favor, so they might actually fare as well as we'd expect Mohammed to do against Lopez.
Meanwhile, on the offensive end of the floor, Mohammed is a fifteen-feet-and-in guy and Diop is a please-don't-ever-shoot guy, while Thomas and Diaw can stretch the floor out to twenty feet and beyond. I'd rather have them taking uncontested shots from the perimeter and putting the ball on the floor than hope Mohammed can work some magic on Lopez near the rim.
In the back court, D.J. Augustin will have his hands full with Harris. At 6-3 Harris, is relatively tall for a point guard, and has gotten better at posting up over the years. He's no Chauncey Billups or Andre Miller, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him shoving Augustin around on the block early and often, hoping to force LB to give big minutes to Shaun Livingston. But if the size advantage isn't enough, Harris is probably faster than Augustin, too. The classic Devin Harris maneuver is to get a step on his defender, drive the lane, and then as the defender tries to keep up, jump into him or an onrushing help defender, torso to torso, as he tries to lay it up, drawing a foul. He does this all the time, and even though defenses know it's coming, there isn't much they can do about it except try to keep him from getting that first step, which is tough, considering he goes baseline to baseline in 3.9 seconds... slowing down at the end... and while dribbling.