By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
February 26, 2013
It’s extremely rare in the NBA for a franchise to change one of its names, but when the Brooklyn Nets visit the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday evening, it will be a matchup of teams embracing new identities.
After playing for several decades in the Garden State and being known as the “New Jersey Nets,” the former American Basketball Association member moved to New York City during the summer of 2012. As a result, the Nets became the borough of Brooklyn’s first major professional sports franchise since the famed Dodgers left for Los Angeles in the 1950s.
Meanwhile, the Crescent City’s NBA team has been known as the “New Orleans Hornets” since arriving here in 2002-03, but at the conclusion of the current 2012-13 regular season, will officially change its nickname to “Pelicans.” In addition to the name, the Pelicans will have new uniforms, logos and a different color scheme, featuring the more traditional shades of navy blue, red and gold. Coincidentally, the Nets previously sported navy blue and red uniforms, but shifted to a no-nonsense, black-and-white color scheme upon arriving in Brooklyn.
Other than their current and future franchise rebrands, the Hornets and Nets don’t share many similarities at the moment. Brooklyn went all in on attempting to move to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference immediately by acquiring standout guard Joe Johnson and several other veteran players last summer. New Orleans’ outlook is a bit more long-term in nature, with the club hoping to build for the future around talented young players such as Anthony Davis. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft won’t turn 20 until March 11. On the following day, New Orleans and Brooklyn will close their annual two-game head-to-head series March 12 by playing in the Nets’ brand-new Barclays Center.
Intriguing matchup: Center, Robin Lopez vs. Brook Lopez
The twin brothers were born a minute apart on April 1, 1988 and are one of just two sets of active NBA twins (Marcus and Markieff Morris play for Phoenix). Brook had a one-minute head start on Robin and also is the more accomplished NBA player, having made the All-Star Game for the first time this month. However, Robin has made significant strides in his Hornets debut season and is one of the NBA’s most improved players.
In their first season since moving to Brooklyn from New Jersey, the Nets are on pace to post their best winning percentage in a decade. The last time the Nets franchise registered a winning percentage of .600 or better in the regular season, point guard Jason Kidd led the ballclub to an appearance in the 2002 NBA Finals. The past few years have not been nearly as successful as the Kidd era, however, including an active streak of five consecutive non-playoff seasons. The Nets went 22-44 last season, but raised hopes and expectations considerably by trading for former Atlanta star player Joe Johnson in the summer, along with re-signing fellow starting guard Deron Williams to a long-term contract. The Nets are in the hunt for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference and only two games behind the New York Knicks at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Johnson and Williams entered 2012-13 as Brooklyn’s marquee attractions, but center Brook Lopez was the lone Nets player selected to the recent NBA All-Star Game in Houston. Lopez, the twin brother of Hornets center Robin Lopez, is enjoying the best campaign of his five-year career. The 7-footer leads the Nets in scoring and is second in rebounding behind Reggie Evans.
On the rise
Andray Blatche’s career has been revitalized after signing with Brooklyn in the ’12 offseason. The versatile 6-foot-11 forward had spent his entire NBA seven-year career in Washington, but the Wizards used the amnesty clause to be rid of Blatche’s contract. Two seasons ago, Blatche averaged career bests with 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds for Washington, but last season was arguably the worst for him as a pro.
Nets small forward Gerald Wallace has enjoyed several productive games against the Hornets over the course of his 12-year NBA career. The Alabama native isn’t the high-flying athlete he once was on fast breaks, but he remains capable of providing defense, rebounding, three-point shooting and scoring around the basket.
On the sideline
After an 11-4 start to the regular season, the Nets dropped 11 of their next 14 contests, leading to the firing of head coach Avery Johnson. Then-assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo took over and won 19 of his first 27 games, giving Brooklyn renewed hope that it can compete with some of the East’s elite teams such as Miami and Indiana in the postseason.
Did you know?
Brooklyn veteran shooting guard Jerry Stackhouse, 38, is only three years younger than New Orleans head coach Monty Williams. Stackhouse, who debuted in the NBA in 1995, went head-to-head numerous times on the hardwood against Williams. Williams, a small forward, played in the NBA from 1994-2003.
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