Star-studded Nets don't intimidate Raptors

Raptors' Kyle Lowry knows he will have his hands full trying to guard all-star Deron Williams...

Raptors' Kyle Lowry knows he will have his hands full trying to guard all-star Deron Williams tonight in Brooklyn. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 PM ET

Dealing with Brooklyn’s new one-two all-star guard punch is going to be a major challenge for the Raptors.

Trying to neutralize Deron Williams and Joe Johnson amidst all of the hype, spectacle and tumult at the brand, spanking new Barclay’s Center in the first game in Brooklyn Nets history will make it all the more difficult.

Hurricane Sandy wiped out the originally scheduled opening game between the Nets and New York Knicks, so the Raptors get to open the building, just as the Nets once opened the SkyDome for pro hoops.

The Nets won just 22 games a season ago. They should easily double that total now that Johnson is around to complement the newly maxed-out Williams.

Gerald Wallace, a healthy Brook Lopez and former Raptor Kris Humphries complete an impressive starting five, while MarShon Brooks, C.J. Watson, Andray Blatche and import Mirza Teletovic bring all kinds of firepower off of the bench.

But it is Williams and Johnson, with eight all-star appearances between them, that will power the Nets.

Williams has long been considered one of the premier point guards in the NBA, while Raptors swingman Landry Fields called Johnson “one of the top five hardest guys to guard in this league.”

Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said slowing them down will be a challenge.

“I’ve got to go out there and try to contain (Williams), but he’s an all-star level player. You know he’s going to get his,” Lowry said.

Williams has battled injuries the past few years and Lowry believes having Johnson around should be just the tonic.

“He gives D-Will a little bit of a break. He gives D-Will an opportunity to go spot and shoot which he does really well,” Lowry said.

“Joe can command the eyes of everybody on the floor so he gives D-Will a chance to rest a little bit.”

Head coach Dwane Casey recognizes the talent the Nets can throw out, but maintains his team controls its own fate.

“We can’t look at each player talent-wise, we’ve got to do what we do. We’ve got to focus on our fundamentals,” he said.

“If they make tough shots … we have to shake their hands and go the other way. We can’t worry about who the players are … we’ve got to respect them, but we’ve got to play our game.”

The Raptors want to start better and make more shots, but, most importantly, start stopping opponents again.

“Our team defence has to get better. We can’t allow teams to shoot 47% (as the Indiana Pacers did on opening night). We have to do a much better job defensively,” he said.

That won’t be easy, especially at first, because the Nets will be fuelled by the historic nature of the evening and by the atmosphere.

Guard John Lucas III and Fields believe they’ll be fine.

“I think it’s going to be nuts, wild (but) we don’t care if it’s their home opener, new gym, at the end of the day, it’s a basketball game,” Lucas said.

“We’ve gotta go in there and throw the first punch. We’ve gotta go in there and just suck the air out of it.”

Added Fields:

“We’ve got to be ready to play, doesn’t matter what kind of antics they come out with.”

Sure, the players insist they won’t be thrown off by the uniqueness of the evening, but what happens if Brooklyn’s power couple, part-owner Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce want to say hello?

Lucas, a big fan of the hip hop star, said he’d ignore Jay-Z.

As for Casey.

“I like their music, but I don’t like their team.”

RAPTORS AT NETS

7:30 P.M. RSN

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Kyle Lowry vs. Deron Williams

Two of the NBA’s top two-way point guards. Both are extremely physical playmakers who can also pile up points. Lowry has a size disadvantage, but makes up for it with his dogged play.

Lowry is out to prove he belongs in the conversation with Williams.

SCOUTING REPORT

Nets will be amped for Brooklyn opener after inaugural game with New York Knicks got postponed due to Hurricane Sandy. One of NBA’s worst teams last season, should add more wins than anybody else now that Williams and Brook Lopez are healthy and with Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson around for the full season.

Ex-Raptor Kris Humphries helps make up for some of Lopez’s failings on the boards.

Should challenge Boston for first in the division.

DID YOU KNOW?

It is somewhat poetic that the Raptors will help open the Barclay’s Center. The Nets were Toronto’s first opponent back in 1995 at the SkyDome. The Raptors were the last team to play the New Jersey Nets (game was at the ACC) and the teams met in a memorable playoff series after Vince Carter was gifted to the Nets.

Humphries is backed up by fellow former Raptors power forward Reggie Evans and another ex-big man, Popeye Jones, is an assistant coach.

This will be the first of 10 road games this month for the Raptors.

 

 

 


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