Nets vs. Pelicans: Brooklyn Tips off 2019 Near the Midpoint

The Brooklyn Nets tip off 2019 at home against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, just a few days away from the midpoint of their season. Their game at Chicago on Sunday will be the 41st of the season.

After a 9-6 December, the Nets have a winning percentage of .447, which puts them on pace for 36 wins, a jump over last season's 28-54 (.341) mark.

“I think we’re kind of on schedule in terms of our improvement," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "I don’t want to jump ahead, but I think you guys know the projections, what they’re looking like. I know that can change with a lot of things, but I think we’re on a good margin of improvement in terms of that. Then I just like the progress of our players. They’re getting better individually. Overall, I’m positive. I don’t think we’ve made the huge breakthrough, the smash through the ceiling with our football helmet on, yay. It’s more just – I can’t get the right word, I don’t know. It’s just kind of an on-target process.”


Rondae Hollis-Jefferson left Saturday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks early in the first quarter with a right adductor strain. He had previously missed the entirety of Brooklyn's preseason schedule and its season opener due to a left adductor strain suffered while playing in Jeremy Lin's charity game in China during the summer.

“Not as bad as China, the China incident," said Kenny Atkinson. "Not nearly as bad. So that’s good news. I think it’s a strain. It’s not a pull, it’s not a tear. A strain. So that’s good news. I can’t give you a timetable, but it’s not a huge, long process like he went through in the offseason. So I’d say the news is positive in that sense.”

Hollis-Jefferson has been in the starting lineup since late November, so the Nets will be looking to fill a spot there. Jared Dudley had started the first 20 games of the season before Hollis-Jefferson stepped in.

“We talked about it today, haven’t made a decision," said Atkinson on Monday. "Obviously we have to find a solution to that. When he was out, we had JD starting. So that’s a possibility. We have a possibility of moving one of our wings to the four. DC [DeMarre Carroll] has played the four, Rodi’s played the four. We have that possibility. We’re just going to have to find some combination that works.”

The Nets are not expecting to have Allen Crabbe back against New Orleans. Crabbe has missed the last nine games due to knee soreness.

“I’d say doubtful for Wednesday," said Atkinson. "Still is not there. He’s still not where I want him to be and he’s not where he wants to be in terms of being ready.”

Meanwhile, Treveon Graham is nearing a return. The third-year swingman injured his hamstring in the second game of the season on Oct. 19. Graham could offer a reinforcement in Hollis-Jefferson's absence, but possibly not as soon as Wednesday.

"Super close," said Atkinson. "He did the whole practice today. We’ll get feedback tomorrow. But he’s really, really close, which is, considering, that’s great timing for us. Because he can play the four, he can play the three, he can play the two. So that’s great timing.”


Shabazz Napier and Kenneth Faried gave the Nets big nights against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. With the Nets going deep into their bench on the second night of a back-to-back, Napier matched his career high with 32 points and Faried contributed a double-double with 21 points and 20 rebounds.

"He had 20 and 10," said Ed Davis of Faried. "What else is there to say? He had a hell of a game. It's tough in the NBA when you sit, sit, sit. Play garbage minutes and come in against one of the top teams and produce. Credit to him for being there mentally and being ready and Shabazz too. He tied his career high. He had an efficient game. Lot of credit goes to those guys because it's a tough position to be in and I've been in that position before."


Joe Harris made 4 of 5 3-point attempts in Saturday's loss at Milwaukee, and he opens 2019 as the NBA's No. 2 3-point shooter after a hot-shooting December.

Harris made 35 of 62 3-point attempts over 13 games in December, leading all NBA players for the month with at least 1.5 attempts per game and at least 10 games played. That elevated his season-long percentage to 48.3 (86-178) second only to Portland's Seth Curry (50.0 percent 38-76), who has attempted more than 100 fewer 3-pointers than Harris.


When the Nets first saw the Pelicans this season, down in New Orleans in October, the Pelicans were off to a high-scoring, hot start over the season's first week. It did not end well for Brooklyn, despite having a seven-point lead in the final two minutes. A turnover with less than 10 seconds remaining led to the winning basket for New Orleans. The Pelicans would go on to lose their next six, win six out of seven, then lose four straight. Now they've lost six of their last eight and will come into Brooklyn Wednesday night with 17-21 record, 14th in the Western Conference. New Orleans still boasts one of the league's premier players in Anthony Davis, who ranks third in the NBA in scoring (28.5), fourth in rebounding (13.0) and second in blocks (2.6). Jrue Holiday is fourth in assists (8.7) and averages 20.9 points per game. Julius Randle has moved into the starting lineup and averages 19.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Forward Nikola Mirotic missed his ninth straight game on Monday. He's averaging 17.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Pelicans are the NBA's second highest scoring team (116.2) and rank fourth in offensive rating (111.9) but 26th in defensive rating (111.7). As a team, New Orleans is third in the league in assists (26.9) and sixth in rebounds (47.3).