Kris Humphries hurting as Celtics come to town
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It may not be such a holly, jolly Christmas for Kris Humphries.
On Sunday, he was benched for the entire game. Then on Monday he missed practice because of an abdominal muscle issue and may require an MRI.
Humphries was scheduled to meet with the doctor Monday afternoon and his status for the Nets' Christmas Day matinee against the Celtics is uncertain. That means that whether it's because of an injury or the coach's decision, he could miss the rematch of the Nov. 29 game in which he, Gerald Wallace and Rajon Rondo were ejected for an altercation that spilled into the stands behind the basket.
A shoving match ensued after Rondo, who was suspended two games for the incident, retaliated when Humphries committed a foul that sent Kevin Garnett crashing to the floor. That led to a war of words through the media in which Humphries was called "out of control" by Garnett and "soft" by Celtics guard Jason Terry.
With the bad blood surrounding this game, Johnson was asked how he plans to get his players to keep their emotions in check.
"We're a different team right now," he said. "During that time we were playing like we had a lot to prove, we were on the road, we felt like we were an underdog. Somewhere along the way, I guess we started to feel a little differently about ourselves.
"I think for our guys, they are going to be aware of it," Johnson added. "I don't think they'll back down from anybody but I think they just want to play basketball. But as we've seen in the past, our guys, they're pretty physically and mentally tough."
Deron Williams said the game against the Celtics will be intense but also downplayed the incident.
"I don't know how much bad blood is still there," he said. "We beat them twice this year. I know they're aware of that and they'll come in ready to play."
The Nets will come in with their new-look starting lineup. With the recent benching of Humphries, Wallace shifted from small forward to power forward and Keith Bogans got the start at small forward. The small-ball lineup helped create more spacing and movement for a stagnant Nets offense.
What the 6-7 Wallace lacks in size defensively against power forwards, he makes up for with speed. On Christmas, he'll have to defend Garnett, who has four inches and 30 pounds on him.
"I got to take advantage of [my quickness] because that's probably the only thing I have on him," Wallace said. "He's taller than me, he weights more than me. I just have to use my quickness and hope my quickness out does his age."
The NBA's Christmas Day schedule is generally reserved for the league's marquee teams and players. It will be the first Christmas Day game for the Nets since 2002 (a 117-81 win over the Celtics), the season they reached the NBA Finals for a second straight year.
But since their 11-4 start, the Nets have resembled a marquee team in no aspect other than market size. Prior to the win over Philadelphia on Sunday, they had dropped eight of their last 10 games. The Nets' struggles on the offensive end led Johnson to incorporate some new sets -- and bench Humphries.
"We threw out about 40 percent of what we were doing offensively," Johnson said, "and went with something else."
Some tweaks to the offensive playbook were at the very top of Williams' Christmas list. Now that he got his wish, he hopes it's the beginning of a turnaround for the Nets.
"It would be great for us to continue this win streak," he said. "Get two in a row, and continue to build our confidence as a team."