Hornets-Nets Preview

The Associated Press

Though New Jersey did not acquire the superstar it hoped, the move the Nets did pull off prior to the trade deadline could make them a better team for the rest of the season.

Veteran forward Gerald Wallace could make his debut for the Nets on Saturday night when they try to hand the visiting New Orleans Hornets a fourth consecutive defeat.

New Jersey (15-30) was reportedly one of the teams that Orlando star Dwight Howard was interested in joining before he decided shortly before Thursday's trade deadline to waive the early termination option in his contract and stay with the Magic through at least next season.

With Howard out of the picture as the marquee name the club wanted to begin play in its Brooklyn arena next season, the Nets instead acquired Wallace from Portland for Mehmet Okur's expiring contract, forward Shawne Williams and a protected first-round pick.

Though Wallace is by no means the caliber of player as Howard, the 11th-year forward could be a nice addition to a lineup that has the potential to be effective when star guard Deron Williams (calf) and big man Brook Lopez (ankle) return from injuries.

"I can understand fan base wanting (more)," general manager Billy King told the Nets' official website. "But I think in doing so, I'd rather try building the roster and adding the piece and also keeping (salary) cap flexibility.

"(Wallace) understands and knows what we're trying to do, so he's pretty excited."

Caught in a crowded forward situation in Portland, Wallace averaged 13.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 42 games - lows for both in the last four seasons. However, his veteran presence could help the Nets as they try to make a push into playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Wallace's possible presence Saturday could provide a boost as New Jersey tries to bounce back from an 86-70 loss at Orlando on Friday. The short-handed Nets shot 33.7 percent and got only 27 points from their starters while losing for the third time in four games.

(This was) a tough one for us,'' coach Avery Johnson said.

Despite the rough night in Florida and with Williams likely to miss a fifth straight game, the Nets still have a good chance to rebound against a New Orleans team that has dropped three in a row and 11 of 14.

Hours after the Western Conference-worst Hornets (10-34) remained silent at the deadline, Chris Kaman had 20 points and rookie Gustavo Ayon added 16 with nine rebounds in a 99-89 home loss to lowly Washington on Thursday.

Though the Hornets' last three defeats have each come by 10 points or fewer, all came at home, further shredding the team's overall confidence.

"I hate losing, and we seem to lose almost every time that we step out on the floor,'' forward Trevor Ariza said. "It's pretty frustrating."

The subject of constant trade rumors, Kaman is averaging 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds in the last 17 games. He's averaged 23.0 and 9.3 boards in his last three against the Nets.

New Jersey has won two of three against the Hornets following a five-game skid in the series.

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