NEWARK, N.J. –- You can’t overlook the opponent or the fact that, for most of the game, they didn’t play anyone taller than 6-foot-8, but that doesn’t discount what Nets rookie forward Derrick Favors did in his first professional game.
In New Jersey's preseason opener, Favors played 21 minutes and scored 14 points, threw down four dunks, missed only two shots and grabbed nine rebounds in a 108-70 trashing of Maccabi Haifa at Prudential Center.
“He was good,” Avery Johnson said. “In the right spots on defense, really decisive on offense, ran the floor well. He got some good work in for his first professional game.”
More than a week ago, it seemed this space would be about Carmelo Anthony’s New Jersey debut. But Anthony remains in Denver -– for now -– and Favors is doing everything he can to show that he should stay a Net. Now the Nets need to see more performances like this before they decide to remove him from any trade discussions for Anthony. You still have to make the move for Anthony if you can. The Nets need a big-time star to help fill this nice new building and for them to be as relevant and significant as Mikhail Prokhorov expects them to be.
In the meantime, it’s okay to wonder what Favors could be. What’s clear is he’s athletic, takes up a lot of space and is strong inside. He had one impressive move where he got the ball in the corner, around 3-point depth, put the ball on the floor, drove baseline, rose up and threw it down, but was called for a charge. Still, Favors played with terrific energy, was active and ran the floor. He did all the things the Nets said he could do, and he’s only 19. The kid is going to get stronger and better.
Favors entered with about five minutes left in the first and, on his first offensive possession, grabbed an offensive rebound but couldn't convert it. His first basket came after he trapped a Maccabi player with Anthony Morrow and caused a turnover. Morrow threw Favors the alley-oop pass and he knew what do with it, throwing it down with authority.
Later, he showed a drop step leading to a score inside that Johnson and Favors both said came from his work with assistant coachPopeye Jones.
“I think I played good as far as running the floor and bringing energy off the bench,” Favors said. “Overall, I can do a little better.”
“More rebounds, probably post-up a little more, set screens a little more.”
It was a solid first game for the rookie, but doesn't mean the Nets can't consider moving him for Anthony.
More will be known about Favors and this team when the Nets play better competition this week, like Boston. If the Celtics are at full strength, Favors could be banging inside against Kevin Garnett, Shaq and Big Baby.
"We have a long ways to go. Fortunately for us, the season doesn’t start now. Defensively, too many breakdowns, especially in the first half. We picked it up a little bit in the third quarter. But our guys are really working hard.”
- Avery Johnson on his team.
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Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)