Saturday, March 17, 2012
Updated: March 18, 5:38 PM ET
Gerald Wallace to start Saturday
By Mike Mazzeo
Special to ESPNNewYork.com
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Nets will put out their 20th different starting lineup this season on Saturday night -- more than any other team in the NBA. Granted, it'll be a lot better than it has been.
Point guard Deron Williams and recent acquisition Gerald Wallace will start against the New Orleans Hornets, coach Avery Johnson announced before the game.
Williams has missed the past four games with a strained right calf, while Wallace will make his New Jersey debut two days after he was traded to the Nets from Portland in a deadline deal.
"It's pretty exciting for us," Johnson said. "Both of those guys are well respected in this league."
Wallace, 29, a 2010 All-Star who was averaging 13.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds, gives the Nets a serious upgrade at the small forward position.
"We were ranked 30th in that position by our stats as far as starting small forward," Johnson said.
The Nets have lost three small forwards to season-ending injuries -- Damion James; Shawne Williams, who was dealt to Portland in the Wallace trade; and Keith Bogans, who was waived by the Nets -- so they were seeking some stability at the position. DeShawn Stevenson had been starting at the 3, but he was playing out of position since he's been a shooting guard throughout his career.
Wallace said the trade caught him by surprise.
"I didn't see it coming," the 11-year veteran said. "I had just talked to my agent the day before, and was told no (nothing would be happening), so it's kind of a shock for me."
Wallace has a player option for next season worth $9.5 million. He said he's "still deciding" on whether to opt in or out.
"We'll see how things go," he said. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on finishing out the season, trying to make the playoffs and we'll go from there."
The Nets (15-30) are 5½ games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 21 games left in the season.
Johnson likes Wallace's defense and thinks it'll be nice to be able to guard some of the best forwards in the league without giving any help. He also likes Wallace's ability to finish in transition.
Since Wallace is new to the offense and the system, the Nets likely will run a "small menu" of plays for him.
The Nets feel as though they fortified their small forward position with the addition of Wallace and his backup, Gerald Green, who has averaged 11.3 points per game and is on his second 10-day contract.
The Nets are likely to sign Green for the rest of the season and possibly next year as well. They have to make a decision on whether or not to keep him or let him go by Sunday. Johnson said the organization is in talks with Green's representatives about a deal.
Backup point guard Jordan Farmar will miss Saturday night's game with a sore right groin. He is also "probably probable" for Monday night's game as well, Johnson said.
Nets GM Billy King has taken heavy criticism for the Wallace trade because he gave up a top-3 protected first-round draft pick in the deal. But King defended the transaction, saying it will help the Nets make a playoff push and that they didn't want to develop a player over a two-or-three-year period at this point with the team moving to Brooklyn in 2012-13.