Nets face questions as training camp begins Tuesday
They've been the darlings of the offseason, receiving kudos from almost everyone for their nearly $330-million spending spree.
It's been a dizzying five months for the Nets, a franchise that's undergone a rebirth of sorts with its move across the Hudson River and into Brooklyn. But now it's time to get down to work, and see just how close they are to fulfilling those championship aspirations owner Mikhail Prokhorov restated a little more than a week ago as he stood at Barclays Center.
The Nets begin training camp at their East Rutherford, N.J., practice facility Tuesday and here are five questions they face as they prepare for their inaugural season in Brooklyn:
1. How long will it take for the roster to jell?
General manager Billy King constructed essentially an entirely new roster, giving the Nets a tremendous amount of depth sprinkled with a dose of versatility. Nine new faces are being incorporated, led by all-star shooting guard Joe Johnson. In Atlanta, Johnson never played with a dynamic point guard like he had with Steve Nash in Phoenix. So it's probably going to take a while for Johnson to find a consistent, harmonious tune with Deron Williams. But when he does, the Nets should really take off offensively. Defensive cohesion is also going to be a key, given their expected scoring prowess.
2. Is Brook Lopez healthy and can they count on him all season?
After not missing a game in his first three years in the league, Lopez couldn't stay on the court during the lockout-shortened campaign. He played in just five contests because of right foot and ankle injuries, but has made it clear heading into camp that he's 100-percent healthy. The 7-footer has proven he can be among the league's best at the center position, averaging 17.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game during his career. Even so, the Nets would like to see Lopez crash the boards more.
3. What kind of impact will Mirza Teletovic have?
The 6-9 Bosnian forward is one of the team's more intriguing signings. He flourished in Euroleague play last season, averaging 22 points and six rebounds, and shot a deadly 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. He's considered a "stretch four," meaning a power forward who forces the defense to play him on the perimeter. If his game translates well to the NBA style and he's able to knock down shots from outside, it will give coach Avery Johnson a big weapon off his bench.
4. Can Andray Blatche take advantage of his second chance?
The 26-year-old never lived up to expectations in his seven seasons with the Wizards and the organization cut ties with him in July, using the amnesty clause. Washington basically gave Blatche $23 million to go away after he fell out of favor for his play on the court -- and his behavior off it. He was benched for the season's initial 22 games after reportedly ballooning to 280 pounds, and shot a career-worst 38 percent, averaging 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds. The Nets think they have put a solid support system in place for Blatche and are confident he can be a valuable contributor at backup center.
5. Are they ready to make that leap?
Johnson didn't back down in his introductory news conference in Brooklyn when asked which of New York's pro basketball teams was the better one. The Nets, in his estimation, are. We'll get our first gauge in the Nov. 1 season opener if that's the case, but in earnest, the Nets' expectations go beyond being more of a superior team than their crosstown counterparts. They believe they stack up well against any team in the league and can finish among the Eastern Conference's upper echelon. So if the pieces really are in place, they're going to have to find a way to back that thinking up.