The Brooklyn Nets’ nine-game road series is half over. The tally thus far? Two wins, three losses and no more Joe Johnson, whose contract, surprisingly, was bought out by Brooklyn last week.
Johnson, 34, in his 15th year, was contracted to earn $24.8 million this season, cleared waivers and signed on with the Miami Heat, making his South Beach debut against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden Sunday. He’d also been courted by several other NBA teams, most notably the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Chris Bosh’s health concerns, Johnson is expected to play “a prominent role,” as stated by Heat coach Eric Spoelstra. He’s already been inserted into their starting lineup.
Brooklyn, with Bojan Bogdanovic replacing Johnson, continued their road tour with back to backs at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, taking losses to both home teams, the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, the center’s co-tenants.
Brooklyn played the Clippers, without the injured Blake Griffin, the fourth-best Western Conference team, competitively until the fourth quarter. Those who may have left early to beat the horrendous traffic that L.A. is famously known for would have missed the reasons why the Clippers are known as “Lob City.”
With approximately three minutes to go in the game, guard Chris Paul and center DeAndre Jordan, also TV pitchmen who together appear in one of television’s funniest insurance commercials, exploited Brooklyn’s defensive weaknesses with three high, individually lobbed passes to the basket by Paul that were powerfully slammed by Jordan. In Hollywood fashion, they were not only athletic but also dramatic and theatrical.
Brooklyn’s loss to the rebuilding Lakers the next night, Tuesday, without Kobe Bryant in uniform, and someone else sitting in actor Jack Nicholson’s floor seats, was a competition between the Eastern Conference’s second to last-place team and the last-place Lakers, who’ll undoubtedly retire Bryant’s number after his retirement at the end of this season. Rookie DeAngelo Russell’s 39 points led L.A. to victory and ended the Laker’s eight-game losing streak.
“Tonight was just my night,” said Russell, who’s expected to be the new star of this team, carrying on the legacy of Bryant and past Laker greats. “It shows what we’re capable of.”
Nets center Brook Lopez, who hails from the Southern California area, fouled out with 2:43 left in the fourth quarter, scoring 23 points in a hard-fought contest.
“We had opportunities to get back into the game, but it just never happened,” said Lopez, whose Nets must prepare for another back to back tomorrow, Friday, on the road against the Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Timberwolves, Saturday, before coming back east next week, concluding their road trip in Toronto and Philadelphia.