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Nets no longer coming up short in talent

Deron Williams talks to his teammates during practice

Deron Williams talks to his teammates during practice at the PNY Center. (Oct. 5, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Any time he picked up his cell phone and dialed a free agent during the summer, let's just say Avery Johnson didn't have to worry much about leaving a voice mail.

"It's not like you are calling and guys are hitting ignore," the Nets' coach said Saturday after practice at the PNY Center in East Rutherford, N.J. "So it's a good feeling. It's a good feeling."

That's a far cry from the way things were in his first two seasons in the New Jersey swamps. Many prospective players the Nets hoped to bring in probably chuckled at the thought of suiting up for a franchise that's taken a back seat to the Knicks for years.

But now that they're the toast of Brooklyn and boast one of the top backcourts in the NBA in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the Nets are a hot team, and they had little problem filling out their roster.

From one through 15, they have unprecedented depth. The Nets haven't had a roster with this kind of potential in seemingly forever, and Gerald Wallace, who has played on some bad teams, is wowed by the way they stack up.

"This is probably the most talented team I've been on," the swingman said, "since I was in Sacramento."

Just how deep are the Nets? They have two players in Josh Childress and Andray Blatche who might be starters elsewhere -- and they're fighting to make the roster after signing non-guaranteed one-year contracts. MarShon Brooks, one of the team's leading scorers last season, now has to come off the bench and embrace the role of sixth man.

The Nets' roster is as crowded as an LIRR car during rush hour, but that can be a good thing for Johnson. In a way, just about everyone is on notice. Well, save for his superstars.

"It helps when you have that sort of competition where a guy knows, 'Hey, I'm not going to get half a season to get it right because the talent pool is not that high,' " Johnson said. " . . . The main thing is guys know that they don't have 25, 30 games to continue to make the same mistakes because Coach doesn't have any other options."

Johnson's most arduous task is keeping everyone happy, given that he'll probably go no more than nine to 10 deep on most nights. There also will be occasions when someone suddenly is hurled into the action at a moment's notice, depending on certain situations. Massaging egos will be key.

"You look at a guy like [Keith] Bogans," Johnson said. "There's a possibility Bogans could be in the rotation early in the season or not. But at the end of the game, if we are up by two, 92-90, and it's 10 seconds to go in the game, he should have already been on the bike warming up because he knows I've got to put him in with that defensive unit to get a stop, and hopefully win the game and go home.

"So even though another guy may have 30 points that night, Bogans is also going to be a hero, especially if he shuts down the guy that we put him on. I'm hoping that we have the type of team where guys are just only going to be concerned about team basketball and how can we become the best team."

Notes & quotes: The white team, featuring Williams and Johnson, won Friday night's scrimmage over the black team. C.J. Watson led the scoring with 24 points. He strained his hip, but Johnson thinks he will practice Sunday . . . The Nets will conduct their first practice at the Barclays Center .

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