Nets reset their focus, prepare for Raptors instead of Knicks

Joe Johnson tries to dribble past Philadelphia 76ers Joe Johnson tries to dribble past Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young during the first half of a preseason basketball game. (Oct. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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As the Nets moved around on the Barclays Center court Thursday, the squeaks of their sneakers echoed in the empty arena, a stark contrast from what they had envisioned.

Rather than donning their white home uniforms against the Knicks and unveiling them as a team for the first time Thursday night, the Nets were practicing, doing their best to get an honest day's work in after the game was postponed Wednesday.

"We all were really looking forward to Opening Night tonight," Joe Johnson said. "But we are not able to do that. So we have to look forward to Saturday and just try to get better until then."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who urged the NBA to reschedule the game Wednesday because of Hurricane Sandy, said Thursday that he gave the NBA the go-ahead to play Saturday's game against the Raptors. Because it's on the weekend, Bloomberg believes there will be fewer cars on the city's roads, many of which have become more congested because of the limited mass transit options.

Still, the matchup with the Raptors likely won't have the same buzz that came with the prospect of opening against the Knicks, particularly with some of the chatter that was emanating from both sides.

"I think guys were looking forward to it," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "Under the circumstances, we can't do anything about it. I think it was a little bit of a letdown in some ways yesterday, but the guys, we all understand that the game just couldn't happen. I think the relief now is we know that we are going to have a game on Saturday unless somebody surprises us."

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Ever since the tail end of training camp, the Nets have prepared for the Knicks and studied their tendencies. But Johnson made them turn the page Thursday and start thinking solely about the Raptors, putting them through a lengthy session that included a scrimmage lasting for three quarters.

Johnson's message to his players before practice was simple: Fellas, it's time to move on.

"I said, 'We can't do anything about the game that was supposed to go on tonight. It's all about Toronto,' " Johnson said. "We practiced basically a lot against Toronto today and things that they like to do. That's the best we can do under the circumstances.

"We had to get a lot of the Knicks' players and their rotations and their philosophies out of our minds . . . So the shift is focus on us, focus on Toronto and that's what we need to do."

What they'd like to do is bang against someone other than their own teammates. By the time they tip off Saturday, the Nets will have gone 10 days between games. They haven't played since the preseason finale against the Knicks Oct. 24.

"We're antsy," Joe Johnson said. "It was kind of like that in preseason, too. We were the last team to play in preseason, now we are the last team to play in the regular season. We're just kind of actually ready to get it started."

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