So much for the circus-atmosphere general manager Billy King said the Nets would avoid this year. Can’t wait to see what happens when they open their first training as the Brooklyn Nets.
Their last camp as the New Jersey Nets began with reports that Dwight Howard would ask for a trade from Orlando and could be Newark-bound by Friday afternoon. Then reports said the Magic were considering filing tampering charges because members of the Nets organization, including owner Mikhail Prokhorov, had met with Howard.
King denied that was so. And the Nets were not close to acquiring Howard on Friday. But for the second straight year – which happens to be the second year of the Prokhorov-King-Avery Johnson era - the Nets were embroiled in drama before the basketballs hit the court for the first time.
On Media Day last year, a four-team deal involving Devin Harris and Derrick Favors that would have brought Carmelo Anthony to the Nets was supposed to be this-close to happening. It didn’t, but it set the tone for a season filled with drama and distractions.
So here we are again and here are the Nets in the middle of another firestorm, whether it was of their own doing or not. In this case we tend to believe some reports weren't entirely accurate.
“We’re just focused on basketball,” Johnson said after the first practice. “We’re focused on the things we can control on the court. Hopefully, whatever is being talked about it will get resolved at some point.”
Whatever has to be resolved from a basketball standpoint makes all the sense in the world and really isn’t anything new at this point.
The Nets want Howard and they’re going hard after Nene in free agency. It’s been written here and other places that Howard was their top target through trade and Nene their top one in free agency. It also was written here that the Nets probably would have to quote-unquote overpay for Nene or another free agent.
It may not be what their fans want them to do, but the Nets have to do something to appease Deron Williams. That’s what everything is about for the Nets – getting players that make them a winner and gets Williams to sign a five-year extension next summer.
So the latest reports had the Nets presenting Nene with a four-year offer for between $60 million and $65 million. That’s great dough for someone who has never made an All-Star team.
But Nene is coming off a strong year for Denver, where he averaged 17.1 points and 9.4 rebounds. After Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and Tayhaun Prince – all free-agent targets on New Jersey's list – chose New York, the Clippers and Pistons, respectively, you knew the Nets would dig deeper into Prokhorov pockets to try to prevent striking out in free agency.
Paying Nene big wouldn't be a panic move like giving Travis Outlaw a five-year, $35 million contract after whiffing on all the marquee free agents starting with LeBron James. Nene is a good player who can help the Nets and they should do everything they can to get him.
The same for Howard and it could mean Brook Lopez’s days as a Net are numbered. If the Nets can get Howard you trade everyone on the roster not named Williams.
Lopez’s name has been prominently mentioned in the trade rumors. After three years in the NBA and with the Nets, this should not have that much of an effect on Lopez. He’s been through plenty in a short time.
Two years ago, he was the starting center on a team that started 0-18, fired coach Lawrence Frank, put GM Kiki Vandeweghe on the bench, brought in Del Harris as an assistant who had his eyes on the head job and left abruptly after he didn’t get it.
Then last year, the Nets were involved in trade talks for Anthony from September until February, finally made the trade for Williams and also pulled off two other deals. It should just be another season for Lopez.
“I just ignore it,” Lopez said. “I don’t read any of that stuff online or any stuff like that. I’m here to play basketball for this team as long as I’m here and that’s my job.”
This is just the start of what should be another wild season for the Nets. Can’t wait to see what happens when they open their first camp as the Brooklyn Nets. Maybe by then, the basketballs will hit the court before something else hits the fan.
Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
Al Iannazzone covers the NBA for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)