New-look Nets eager to live up to preseason hype

Deron Williams celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer in Deron Williams celebrates after hitting a 3-pointer in the second half of a preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers. (Oct. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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After an eventful offseason loaded with lots of hype, the re-branded Nets are set to tip things off at long last, ready to write some new history in their new borough.

Months of fanfare regarding their Brooklyn move and endless speculation dissecting their chances in the Eastern Conference race now take a backseat, and no one is probably happier with that than Avery Johnson. The Nets have spent a lot of time in the spotlight over the past few weeks, something that's sure to continue as they're getting shadowed by NBATV's "The Association" for a season-long, behind-the-scenes documentary.

But the next time they receive a congratulatory pat on the back, it will likely be in appreciation for an on-court accomplishment and distancing themselves as far as possible from last season's ugly 22-44 mark.

"We are finally getting locked in in that area," Johnson, entering his third season as the Nets' coach, said in a recent interview. "I think in the beginning, it was [about] moving into the area, the team moving, all of the excitement around our team, 'The Association' being here, people supposedly picking us to be the most improved team.

"All of that is great, but we've got to go ahead and play basketball. We've got to get down to business."

The Nets believe they have assembled a talented roster, surrounding their franchise player Deron Williams with enough pieces to make considerable noise in what should be a rugged Atlantic Division race.

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Williams, who opted to re-sign with the Nets rather than play for his hometown Mavericks in Dallas, comprises half of what general manager Billy King thinks is the league's most talented backcourt.

Just the thought of playing a full season with someone of Joe Johnson's caliber and a frontcourt of small forward Gerald Wallace, power forward Kris Humphries and center Brook Lopez has Williams as eager as the eighth-year pro has been since his early days in Utah.

"I'm definitely excited about this season," the three-time All-Star point guard said. "I think we have a chance to be good. It's a work in progress and it will be. Everything doesn't happen just all at once. We've got to be patient. Fans have to be patient and realize that.

"But we are working in the right direction."

The Nets want to employ an up-tempo style, pushing the ball up the court in certain situations. Since they have what they believe is quality depth at all five positions, they want to wear their opponents down and also give themselves the opportunity to collect some easy buckets in transition.

"We are just trying to get it off the glass, man," Joe Johnson said. "Obviously, we need to get stops. But even if we don't, we want to take the ball out quick and put a lot of pressure on the defense. With Deron being so great in attacking and getting fouls, we want to put him in the best position possible."

The Nets are no longer irrelevant in NBA circles and the added attention will, without a doubt, create pressure on them to succeed immediately. Avery Johnson embraces it all in bear hug-like fashion, welcoming the long, winding road the Nets are about to embark on.

"I want to just help our players individually, so then we can reach our goals collectively as a team," he said. "That's all I want. When this story is being written about this season, I want the story to be that we maximized ourselves. Whatever that means, we've maximized every bit of talent and every ounce of talent on this roster."

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