The Brooklyn Nets have been feted and they've been seen in exhibition games, but they officially come to life on Saturday night.
It's a bit later than expected thanks to Sandy, but the Nets should be okay with that since it should mean fewer empty seats and no chance of rogue Knick fans whooping for the other side on a big night for the team. And moving on from the Knicks also allows the Nets the basketball equivalent of a soft opening against the Raptors that will feel like just one of 82 after any opening festivities.
We've come up with six questions that will bear heavily on how many of those games the Nets win this season.
1. Is Deron Williams healthy? Williams had cortisone injections in his ankle to help him cope with bone spurs and says that he plans to play through the season before considering surgery. He could do that and be fine or things could take a turn for the worse as he tries to compensate for the injury.
The team couldn't afford to be without Williams. Their entire offseason spending spree was devoted to making him feel comfortable staying with the team in Brooklyn and the team without him would struggle to compete for a playoff spot.
The harder question to answer is whether they could succeed with a less than 100 percent Williams. We'll probably find out the answer to that question soon enough.
2. How good is the offense? It should be very good. Joe Johnson gives the team the consistent scoring option they were missing last season, forcing Williams to be both scorer and creator for the team.
Johnson will eliminate that need and force defenses to give both players more room to operate as they spread the floor. The frontcourt is a bit less impressive, but Williams should set those players up in good position to score based on past experiences with players of similar talent levels.
3. Can this team stop anyone from scoring? It's a good thing the offense looks so impressive because they are going to need to score a lot of points this season. The reason for that starts in the middle.
It's hard to have a good defense if you've got a bad defensive center and the Nets have one in Brook Lopez. His lack of athleticism leaves the Nets with a decision to be more aggressive about helping him or letting penetrators take the ball right to the rim on the ever-backpedaling Lopez.
The first option could work, but Williams will have to be a lot more aggressive on defense than he was last season and it will likely take time for the Nets to work out the kinks. Avery Johnson's never coached that way in the past, but the times might call for a change.
4. Where's the depth? MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic should bring points and Reggie Evans brings his personal brand of borderline physical play, but that's about it. Brooks and Teletovic don't do much of anything to help the defense, so the Nets will be even more stressed when they're in the game.
5. What's the payoff for going all in? Re-signing Williams, Lopez, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace took care of plenty of cap room for years to come. Trading for Johnson obliterated what's left.
The good news for the Nets is that it means there will be stability for the first time in a long time in terms of the roster. The bad news is that it is hard to see this team competing for more than a berth in the Eastern Conference finals in a world that includes the Heat.
6. How will they finish this season? Figuring out some way to improve on defense is crucial because five or six more stops a game would make a tremendous difference when matched with such a promising offense. The battle for positioning among the Nets, Knicks, Celtics and Sixers figures to be pretty fierce unless the Celtics clearly separate themselves from the pack early in the season.
As of now, the defense and depth questions limit our projection to the neighborhood of 45 wins and the fifth seed in the playoffs. That's a big step forward for a team that will be getting used to life in the big city.