Most teams come back from the All-Star break rested for a second-half run. The New Jersey Nets will do so with an entirely new look.
One day after trading away nine-time All-Star Jason Kidd, the new-look Nets host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.
On Tuesday, New Jersey (23-30) sent Kidd, forward Malik Allen and swingman Antoine Wright to Dallas on Tuesday for point guard Devin Harris, center DeSagana Diop and swingmen Maurice Ager and Trenton Hassell plus forward Keith Van Horn, who hasn't played in nearly two years. The Nets also received two future first-round draft picks and $3 million.
Harris, who's expected to take over Kidd's role, is averaging career highs of 14.4 points and 5.3 assists, but had missed the Mavericks' last 10 games with a bone bruise on his left ankle and will likely have to wait at least two weeks before suiting for the Nets.
Last month, Kidd - who leads the league with 12 triple-doubles and needs one more for 100 his career - publicly demanded a trade, starting a new round of rumors that have distracted the Nets for the last three weeks. The groundwork for Tuesday's deal began last Wednesday when Kidd didn't play in New Jersey's final game before the break, a 109-91 loss in Toronto.
The Nets have lost 14 of their last 20, but are still in the Eastern Conference playoff mix.
"We were in a holding pattern for so long, now there's no more holding, no more waiting,'' New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "You've got six or seven teams thirsting for the playoffs, and we're going to have to hit the ground running and adjust, and we're certainly capable of doing that.''
The Nets come back from the break against the Bulls, whom they have won 12 straight home games over since the start of the 2001-02 season. New Jersey beat Chicago 112-103 in overtime at the Meadowlands in each team's season opener on Oct. 31, and have won nine of its last 12 over the Bulls.
Vince Carter had 24 points and nine rebounds in the opener, and is averaging 26.3 points and 8.2 boards in six home games against them since being traded to the Nets in 2004.
Richard Jefferson had 29 points and 10 rebounds against Chicago in October, and is averaging 23.4 points in his last eight home games against the Bulls.
Jefferson is averaging a team-high 23.0 points, but just 15.5 on 37.8 percent shooting in his last six games. Against the Raptors, Jefferson struggled in the opening half, going 2-for-12, and finished with 15 points.
"I've got to get into some kind of rhythm in the first half and I really haven't,'' he said. "That's going to be something for me to focus on in the second half of the season. I'm not doing that and it's not helping my teammates.''
The Bulls (21-31) also have been a huge disappointment. Chicago was expected to contend for the East title, but instead fired coach Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve and has the sixth-worst record in the conference.
"We'll come back on Tuesday and start over again,'' interim coach Jim Boylan after Thursday's 99-92 win over lowly Miami. The Bulls are 12-15 under Boylan and have won consecutive games just once.
Luol Deng is expected to miss his 13th straight game with a left Achilles injury, while Ben Gordon, who is averaging a team-high 20.0 points, could be back after missing five games with a right wrist strain.
Gordon led the Bulls with 27 in the opening-night loss at New Jersey. He's averaging 18.7 points in six career games at the Meadowlands.
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