New Jersey Nets (6-13) at Cleveland Cavaliers (7-10)
Time: 7:30 p.m. Venue: Quicken Loans Arena. TV/Radio: Fox Sports Ohio/WTAM, WAKR, WHBC.
Cavs probables: PG Kyrie Irving (16.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.9 apg), SG Anthony Parker (6.3, 2.5, 2.2), SF Omri Casspi (8.1, 2.1, 1.3), PF Antawn .
Jamison (15.0, 5.4, 1.7), C Anderson Varejao (9.8, 11.2, 1.6)
Nets probables: PG Deron Williams (18.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 8.6 apg), SG Anthony Morrow (12.4, 2.6), SF Deshawn Stevenson (2.9, 1.3), PF Kris Humphries (13.1, 10.8), Mehmet Okur (7.6, 4.8)
Injuries: Cavs — Tristan Thompson (ankle) probable; Nets — Brook Lopez (foot) out, Damion James (foot) out, MarShon Brooks (Achilles) questionable, Kris Humphries (illness) questionable, Mehmet Okur (back) questionable
Officials: Dick Bavetta, Kevin Cutler, Zach Zarba
• Tristan Thompson is probable tonight after missing the last two games with a sprained left ankle. This is a good night to get him back to help on Kris Humphries, who destroyed the Cavs on the boards last season. The Cavs held Humphries to just five rebounds in the first meeting this season on New Year’s Day. Humphries, however, is questionable with a stomach virus and did not participate in the team’s morning shootaround today. The Nets are loaded with injury problems. More on that later.
• Thompson has exactly two assists in 15 games this season, prompting coach Byron Scott to refer to his rookie as a “hole” instead of a “hub” in the offense — the same terms he used to describe Samardo Samuels last season. Over the last couple of days, Thompson has worked a little bit on dumping the ball off. But he had no idea his assist total was so low.
• When told he had two assists for the season, Thompson put his hand on his head in astonishment. “Only two assists? Total? All year? Wow! Oh geez. Definitely gotta work on that.”
• Samuels conceded last season that his mentality was simply to get to the basket, something the coaching staff worked with him on all year. But Thompson insists when he catches the ball, he faces up first and looks around the floor to see the spacing and cutting lanes before deciding what to do. “It’s not just rip ‘n go,” Thompson said. “My assists don’t justify that statement, but I’m telling the truth. I’m not lying to you guys.” Then Thompson laughed again.
• Only three players in the league with enough games to qualify have fewer than three assists — Thompson, fellow rookie Enes Kanter and Nuggets center Chris Andersen. Kanter and Thompson each has two, while Andersen has only one assist this season.
• With Thompson on the mend, the Cavs sent Luke Harangody to Canton on Thursday because Scott said the team has enough bigs. They have to keep Mychel Thompson with the team for practice purposes, since Scott is still limiting Anthony Parker’s practice time because of his lower back problems.
• Scott’s two biggest concerns tonight with the Nets are Deron Williams and Humphries. Williams is heating up after a horrendous shooting start to the season. He had 34 points Wednesday in the Nets’ overtime win at Philadelphia on Wednesday, a victory coach Avery Johnson called one of the best over the last two seasons.
• The Sixers have been on the road all week and this is the final stop on the three-game trip. They’re 1-1, with a loss at Chicago and a win over the Sixers. After losing six of seven to start the season, the Nets are 5-7 over the last three weeks. “They’re playing much better basketball,” Scott said. “Deron Williams is playing great and he’s the type of guy that can carry a basketball team. Our big-time focus is making sure we can corral him as much as possible.”
• That means another huge test for Kyrie Irving, who has played better defensively as of late. Williams had 16 points, five assists and six turnovers in the first meeting.
• Along with Humphries’ virus, MarShon Brooks has a sore Achilles and Mehmet Okur has a sore lower back. Okur sat out shootaround this morning, too, while Brooks told the Newark Star-Ledger his Achilles feels “great.” Brooks is averaging better than 15 points a game off the bench for the Nets, but they don’t want to rush him back and believe the injury could be fatigue-related.