The 2010-11 New Jersey Nets will be nothing like last year’s incarnation, with only four players returning from that 12-win squad.
These Nets have a new owner (Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov), a new arena (Newark’s Prudential Center), a new coach (Avery Johnson) and, likely, a new attitude.
“I think the guys returning from last year’s team probably have a lot of anger,” said NBA TV analyst Brent Barry.
Here’s a look at the Nets’ core group of players:
Which Devin Harris will show up? The one who averaged 21.3 points for New Jersey in 2008-09, or the one who struggled to put up 16.9 in 2009-10? “I’m not giving Devin an ‘out,’ but last year was a very difficult situation for a lot of those guys,” said Barry, who spent 14 years in the NBA as a player.
Harris, 27, isn’t durable, which means backup Jordan Farmar could get the playing time he desired during his four seasons with the Lakers. The 23-year-old’s athleticism enables him to lead fast breaks and play good perimeter defense. He's a streaky shooter, though.
Anthony Morrow, 25, gives the Nets a true sniper from 3-point range. He finished in the Top 5 in 3-point percentage each of his first two seasons in the league.
Troy Murphy should have a big impact once he returns from a lower back injury, likely in early November. The sharpshooting 30-year-old has averaged a double-double in five of the seven seasons he's started full-time.
Meanwhile, 19-year-old rookie Derrick Favors could get major minutes as Murphy recovers. The No. 3 overall draft pick has been compared defensively to Tim Duncan.
“He has all the physical tools, good instincts on defense,” said Dennis Velasco, a writer for the Nets Are Scorching blog, part of ESPN.com’s True Hoop network. “He’s adjusting to the game. He’s gonna struggle in the beginning.”
Travis Outlaw, 26, and Terrence Williams, 23, provide the youthful energy and athleticism at small forward that Johnson needs to implement a defense-first mindset. Velasco likes Outlaw, in particular.
“He can shoot the three,” Velasco said. “He’s a hustle player.”
Brook Lopez is the Nets’ centerpiece, literally and figuratively. The 22-year-old averaged 18.8 points and 8.7 rebounds last season, which makes a 20-point, 10-rebound average the next logical step.
“They need Lopez to shine,” Velasco said. “If they don’t get Carmelo [Anthony vis trade], they still need a superstar. He has the most potential for that.”