Brooklyn Nets Roster Nears Completion

The Brooklyn Nets re-introduced Brook Lopez this morning at a press conference at the New York Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge, a day after the team announced it had re-signed Kris Humphries.

With Gerald Wallace already on board, Nets management focused on bringing back Lopez and Humphries to solidify the team’s starting frontcourt.

Lopez believes that he and Humphries can develop into a formidable duo.

“My strengths complement Humps strengths,” Lopez said. “He is a tenacious rebounder, goes after every loose ball, he’s a great defender. We can build a nice little frontcourt together.”

Lopez, who played in only five games last season because of a broken right foot, said he wasn’t focused on the barrage of trade rumors that would have sent him to Orlando as part of a package for Dwight Howard. Instead, he focused on getting back to full strength.

“For the most part I’ve been working on getting healthy,” Lopez said. “I want to be there for my team, that’s my main goal.”

“I don’t really read a lot of the stuff you guys write,” Lopez joked after being asked if the trade rumors bothered him. “I keep to myself mostly, read a lot of books and comics books, and they don’t mention Dwight Howard too much.”

Head Coach Avery Johnson always believed Lopez would return, even bestowing the center with a special nickname.

“I’ve been calling Brook ‘Brooklyn,’ that’s been his nickname,” Johnson said. “It would look really bad for me calling him ‘Brooklyn’ for a year and he never went to Brooklyn.”

The Nets continue to be one of the most active teams this offseason, as management tries to find the right pieces to round out the roster. The team also signed veteran shooting guard Jerry Stackhouse on Monday and point guard C.J. Watson on Saturday, who will back up Deron Williams.

“He was the number one guy on our board,” Johnson said referring to Watson, who was released by Chicago last week. “We thought he did a really nice job filling in for Derrick Rose last year and coming off the bench.”

The team will probably make a few more tweaks before the start of training camp, including finding a big man to back up Lopez.

“We have Reggie Evans and Humphries who can fill in at the five,” Johnson said. ”But we would like to sign another veteran to give us some security at that position.”

Johnson admitted that he was excited about the upcoming season and that the team looked good on paper, but he was quick to reiterate that they still have a lot of work ahead of them.

“It’s our time now,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we can take the buzz and turn it into something really special.”

Nets Proving They Want To Win Now

Yesterday the Brooklyn Nets agreed to a four-year contract extension with Gerald Wallace.

Today the team acquired Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams and a 2013 first-round pick that originally belonged to the Houston Rockets.

The only thing left is to sign Deron Williams and the first season in Brooklyn is sure to be a memorable one.

The beginning of free agency was once again marred by Dwight Howard’s demands. Last season he said he wanted out of Orlando, yet decided to opt into his contract. The Magic responded by cleaning out the front office for his approval, in which Howard responded by reiterating his desire to be traded and claiming that he will only sign an extension with the Nets.

Instead of waiting for the flip-flopping Howard to make a decision, the Nets made the decision for him. They re-signed the hard-nosed Wallace, who happened to be the best small forward on the market. They traded for Johnson, an all-star caliber player and dependable scorer. They stayed faithful to Brook Lopez, who when healthy, is a top five center.

The Nets decided they would no longer wait for Howard, and made the deal for Johnson instead.

Johnson carried the load in Atlanta for seven seasons, averaging 21 points and 5 assists, while helping the team end its eight-year playoff drought in the 2007-2008 season. Despite his all his contributions to the Hawks franchise, he has been criticized for his inability to take the team past the conference semifinals and for the hefty price tag attached to him.

Johnson was the man in Atlanta, but in Brooklyn he doesn’t need to be. He can fit in as a complimentary piece to Williams in the backcourt, a versatile shooting guard who can hit from the perimeter and create for himself. If the Nets win, his contract is secondary.

A quartet of Williams, Johnson, Wallace and Lopez is enticing. Sprinkle in MarShon Brooks, Gerald Green and rookie Tyshawn Taylor and you are looking at team that can win the Atlantic Division. Also, the Nets still have enough cap room to pursue a formidable player or two to fill the frontcourt.

These latest moves orchestrated by General Manager Billy King and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov prove that the Nets are closing the door on Howard coming to Brooklyn. By closing that door, the Nets can finally focus on what is most important, winning.

Brooklyn’s The Best Fit For Williams

It’s all about winning.

Deron Willams said so himself.

It’s not about the money, nor which billionaire owner he plays for. It’s not about past achievements, but what lies ahead. It’s not about homecomings.

Winning takes precedent.

The Mavericks have three players: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood taking up close to $38 million in cap space for the next couple of years. A max deal for Williams would eat up the remaining cap space, leaving the team little room to maneuver. Cuban would only be able to go over the cap to sign his own free agents (with bird rights). They’d also have the Mid-Level Exception.

Rick Carlisle recently said that Nowitzki needs help, and it showed in the playoffs. The German superstar will be 34 years old in June, and doesn’t have many runs left in him. The winning time frame is just not long enough in Dallas.

There have been rumors surfacing of Williams going to LA to join forces with Kobe Bryant. Seeing how the Lakers are way over the salary cap, the only way this could happen is if there was a sign-and-trade. The deal could involve other teams, namely the Houston Rockets, and would most likely involve either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum.

A deal involving Gasol, Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson and Williams as the focal pieces works, but the Nets don’t get nearly enough value in return for Williams. If Williams ultimately decides he wants a sign-and-trade (which he has never indicated), the Nets could find a better deal.

There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Williams going to Indiana, the team that had the best season by far amongst the teams that have enough cap room to sign Williams. A starting lineup of Williams, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert sounds sexy on paper, yet there has been little communication between the two sides.

Don’t expect Williams to land in Indiana, even though it makes a lot of sense.

The best fit for Williams in the short run and the long run is with the Brooklyn Nets. In the short term, Williams gets to be the face of a franchise with a new home and a new hope. The excitement around the Barclay’s Center is already starting to build and Williams could be at the forefront.

In the long term, a core comprised of Williams, an emerging MarShon Brooks and a healthy Brook Lopez could be competitive in the Atlantic Division. If the Nets could sign Ersan Ilyasova this offseason and can convince Gerald Wallace to resign for a reasonable deal, they could have a solid starting five with cap space in the near future. If the team can’t workout a deal with Wallace, look for Williams’ former teammate Andrei Kirilenko to fill the small forward spot.

Williams has the chance to be a part of something special, a unique opportunity that only comes around every 55 years or so.

If he wants to win and be a part of history at the same time, Brooklyn is the place to be.

Nets Draft Combine Review

The Brooklyn Nets, in conjunction with the Houston Rockets, hosted a draft combine this past weekend at the PNY Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Representatives from all 30 NBA teams were on hand to watch 44 players, most of whom are projected to be second round picks, participate in skill workouts and five on five scrimmages. Players were also measured and put through an array of agility tests.

The combine provided a great opportunity for the players to show off their talents and allow teams to get a better look at the prospects. The Nets hold the 57th pick in the upcoming draft, and hope to find a hidden gem in the late second round.

One of those potential gems is Kim English of Missouri, who impressed scouts with his accuracy from beyond the arc as well as his work ethic.

“It’s something I take pride in, knocking down shots and guarding,” English said. “To possibly learn under Anthony Morrow, who I think is a top five shooter in the NBA, it’s something I would take pride in.”

Another player who raised his draft stock was Tu Holloway of Xavier. Holloway, whose scoring and passing ability is well documented, showed great strides in his defensive ability.

“I take pride in my defense,” Holloway said. “You cant always control making shots or getting assists, but you can control your effort on defense.”

The Nets may be in the market for a backup point guard if they decide not to bring back Sundiata Gaines and Jordan Farmar opts out of his contract. The Nets could make Holloway their choice.

“I just want to make an impact,” Holloway said. “If it comes with me being the 57th pick to the Nets, I would love that and I would just work hard everyday.”

Scott Machado of Iona, who described himself as a ”Steve Nash that plays defense,” is another player the Nets could look at.

The Haggerty Award winner has steadily been climbing up draft boards though, and may be out of the Nets reach.

“I think it’s all about opportunities,” said Machado. “If I get picked up in the second round, I’m going to take advantage of it.”

Other players who made positive impacts include forward Josh Owens of Stanford, who had the highest vertical leap and ranked first in the bench press test, center Justin Hamilton of LSU, and guard Orlando Johnson of UC Santa Barbara, whose draft stock skyrocketed after the combine.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will host a similar draft combine May 30 and 31, before prospects head to Chicago June 6 for the NBA’s annual draft camp.

The Nets will find out whether or not they landed a top three pick at the NBA Draft lottery May 30 in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Questions Surround Nets’ Free Agents

Will Deron Williams stay or will he go?

Brook Lopez wants to stay, but should the Nets sign him long-term?

What does the team do with its remaining cap space?

These are all tough questions that only time can answer. The Nets do have more flexibility than most teams and can make a splash in free agency. Unfortunately, this year’s free agent class pales in comparison to that of 2013.

And of course, everything hinges on Williams.

I think the allure of a new home in Brooklyn is enough to keep him from going to his first home in Dallas. So, let’s say he resigns and the contract starts at around $17 million. Lopez, a restricted free agent, signs the qualifying offer for $4.2 million, making him unrestricted in 2013. The Nets would have roughly $20 million to spend on remaining free agents, including Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries.

Wallace and Humphries are veterans most likely looking for their last long-term contract. If the Nets commit to them, their cap room is occupied and the dream of Dwight Howard is all but gone. The dream of any big time free agent is all but gone.

Here is what the Nets roster could potentially look like by the end of free agency:

Point Guard: Deron Williams ($17M), Jordan Farmar ($4.2M) Sundiata Gaines ($1M)
Shooting Guard: MarShon Brooks ($1.1M), Anthony Morrow ($4M)
Small Forward: Damion James ($1.3M) Gerald Green ($1M)
Power Forward:
Center: Brook Lopez ($4.2M), Johan Petro ($3.5M), Jordan Williams ($760,000)

You may notice a gaping hole at the power forward position, but there are many options that would be good fit for the team. Signing a guy like Ersan Ilyasova for the mid-level exception would be huge because the team would still have flexibility next year. A good one-year rental would be Antawn Jamison who proved he could still get it done in the twilight of his career. Other power forwards the team could consider are Jason Thompson, J.J. Hickson, and original Nets draft pick Ryan Anderson. Those players are all restricted, however, so their current teams can always match an offer.

The small forward position is a little tougher to gauge because Wallace is easily the best of the bunch. If the Nets don’t want to give him a long-term deal, they might have to depend on youngster Damion James, and journeyman Gerald Green, who played well in big minutes toward the end of the season. Other options include Matt Barnes, C.J. Miles, and Dominic McGuire.

MarShon Brooks played well in his rookie campaign, and is poised to be the starting shooting guard in the inaugural game at the Barclays Center. Anthony Morrow is a formidable backup and the team will likely sign someone to take DeShawn Stevenson’s spot.

The point guard and center position is set with Williams and Lopez starting, and Farmar and Petro off the bench.

There are many more questions about the Nets future that will slowly start to be answered. Some answers may come as soon as May 21, when the team’s first free agent camp opens. Others might take a little longer to unravel.

One thing is certain, the biggest question still revolves around Williams.

Will he stay or will he go?