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Nets look to the future and will want more return on expensive investments

Joe Johnson #7 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts

Joe Johnson #7 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts after a turnover to the Atlanta Hawks during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the NBA playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2015 in Atlanta. Credit: Getty Images / Kevin C. Cox

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Joe Johnson doesn't need any tarot cards to know what's beyond the horizon for the Nets.

When the team with the league's highest payroll finishes with a 38-44 record, gets knocked out of the playoffs in the first round and has three players with contract options, Johnson figures it's only inevitable for the winds of change to blow through. Anyone is expendable, including himself.

"I'm sure something is going to happen,'' Johnson said Saturday, less than 12 hours after the Nets' season ended. "I don't know what, but I don't see us coming back with the same team. This is my third year here and I could see if each year we've gotten better, but it's kind of been the opposite. So for us to not even be a .500 ballclub in the East is disheartening.

"I think everybody in that locker room is kind of unsure of their future here, so we'll see what happens going into the summer."

The Nets have advanced past the first round of the playoffs only once in their first three seasons in Brooklyn and have only one second-round win. Given the record payroll and luxury taxes the franchise has doled out, that's an underachieving scenario.

Their Big Three of Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez hasn't flourished together the way management envisioned. With Lopez holding a player option -- along with Thaddeus Young and Alan Anderson -- it leads to additional uncertainty.

Lopez, whose option is for $16.7 million, remains non-committal about his long-term desires. After missing most of last season with a foot injury, he stayed relatively healthy and finished strong, averaging 19.7 points in regular-season action after the All-Star break and 19.8 points and nine rebounds in the Nets' playoff series with the Hawks.

"I like being here," Lopez said. "I absolutely enjoyed my time with the Nets. It's been good for me."

Asked specifically what's going to drive his decision, Lopez said: "I don't know. There's lots of different stuff. I haven't thought about it at all. The season just ended, so I haven't given it any thought."

But Young sure has. Although the expected salary-cap boost in 2016 may affect his thinking, Young indicated that his next move hinges on Lopez.

"It does factor in. That factors in a little bit also," said Young, whose option is for $9.97 million. "I definitely want to see what the big fella is going to do also, but we've already been told that they expect us back next year and they want us back next year no matter if we pick up our options or opt out. But for me, like I said, I'm just going to factor in everything possible across the board and just try to make the right decision."

Anderson's option is for $1.06 million, and he plans to test the waters to see if he can get a more lucrative deal. He averaged 7.4 points, started 19 games and was one of the Nets' better defenders.

"I'm free, so . . . ," Anderson said. "I would love to stay in Brooklyn, but I am a free agent. So I will be free."

Mirza Teletovic, who returned in the playoffs after blood clots were discovered in his lungs in January, will become an unrestricted free agent if the Nets don't tender a qualifying offer. He said he'll mostly leave it up to his agent, letting him decipher what's best.

Nets coach Lionel Hollins has a wish list of attributes he'd like to see in the roster's construction. He wants the Nets to add more backcourt quickness, athleticism, basketball I.Q. and depth to give him more options and encourage individuals to be more accountable because "accountability is a big part of consistency. People want to play, and when I control the playing time, attitudes do change."

Hollins also suggested the Nets don't need a "star" player to get to the next level. Three years ago, the Nets thought that guy was Williams, but he shot a career-low 38.7 percent and struggled in another injury-plagued season.

"He's not a franchise player anymore," Hollins said. "He's a good player, he's a solid player. But I don't think he's a franchise player anymore. That's just my opinion. He's a good player.

"I'm proud of the way he's bounced back and played, and there's so much pressure on him to be a franchise player.

"Everybody talks about a franchise player. We need to have a franchise team."

New York Sports