Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Brooklyn Nets [Print without images]

Saturday, November 24, 2012
W2W4: Nets vs. Blazers

By Mike Mazzeo

The East River Rivalry will begin on Monday night, but the Brooklyn Nets can't afford to look past the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday afternoon.

Here's what we'll be watching for at 3 p.m.:

WHAT COULD'VE BEEN: Nets GM Billy King made a controversial transaction at the deadline last season, trading his team's first-round pick -- top-three protected -- to the Blazers in exchange for Gerald Wallace. The pick turned out to be Weber State point guard Damian Lillard, who has been an absolute stud for Portland. The 22-year-old is averaging 20.2 points and six assists on 47.3 percent shooting for the Blazers. If he keeps it up, he'll probably end up garnering Rookie of the Year honors.

The Nets were able to retain Wallace over the summer, signing him to a four-year, $40 million contract. That and the Joe Johnson acquisition convinced Deron Williams to stay. Still, having Lillard's cap-friendly rookie deal wouldn't have been too bad either. Granted, maybe D-Will would've bolted for Dallas.

SLUMPING STAR: D-Will is shooting 33 percent (23-for-69) in his last five games. Overall, he's shooting a paltry 40.4 percent from the field and 26.2 percent from 3-point range. Bottom line: Hurt or not, D-Will isn't playing like a top-10 NBA player right now.

JOLTIN' JOE: Joe Johnson had his best shooting performance of the season in Friday night's victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, knocking down 8 of his 12 attempts en route to 19 points. Let's see if Johnson can carry over his aggressive play into Sunday's action.

BROOK-LYN: Brook Lopez's last three games: 23 points, 22 points and 26 points. Lopez is also doing a nice job blocking shots. The 24-year-old center has been Brooklyn's best player this season.

D IT UP: The Nets allowed just 13 points to the Clippers in the fourth quarter on Friday night in what was their best defensive performance of the season -- especially when factoring in the quality of their opposition. Nets coach Avery Johnson was quite pleased, even though the team still has a long ways to go on that end of the floor.