For a team that has battled injuries all season long, the Nets sure have picked the best time to get healthy.
Kevin Garnett returned to the starting lineup on Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers after missing 19 games due to back spasms, and all he did was put up a ho-hum 10 points on five-of-six shooting with four boards in just 13 minutes. More importantly, he directed the Nets defense on the court.
Welcome back, KG.
Also back in the lineup over the weekend was Andrei Kirilenko, whose length and scrappiness fit perfectly within Coach Kidd’s small-ball style. He allows the Nets to make up for the team’s lack of size and rebounding with deflections and tracking down loose balls.
Welcome back, AK47.
If all holds firm in the Eastern Conference, the Nets are headed for a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls. Points in that series will come at a premium, and as good as Mason Plumlee has been in Garnett’s absence, the Nets would prefer to have a former MVP and NBA champion calling the shots instead of a rookie.
However, even with a healthy veteran frontcourt presence, the Nets still need the guys that got over the team’s abysmal 10–21 start and into the playoffs to step up come playoff time. Andray Blatche, Mirza Teletovic, and Plumlee cannot defer to the Big Ticket because he has been there, done that. They need to remain aggressive and continue to create those match-up problems that have benefited them so well in 2014.
With newfound health, Kidd will have even more options to create headaches for the Nets opponents.
Tom Lafe is a 6-foot-5 sports-world insider with a middling high school basketball career who believes the Nets will be driven by the success of the team’s big men.