Nets still have time to get Dwight, please Deron

    Friday, December 16, 2011, 6:35 PM [General]

    The Nets made Williams happy and will be able to keep him beyond this season. We’re talking about Shawne Williams, not Deron.

    Shawne was given a two-year deal by the Nets, which was a good signing. He can play both forward spots and no matter if Brook Lopez is in the middle or Dwight Howard, Shawne Williams is going to get plenty of open looks in the corner. Deron Williams will make Shawne Williams a better player.

    Deron Williams will make all of the Williamses on the Nets better. There are four now, but with all due respect to Shawne, Jordan and Sheldon, only one really matters.

    The preseason opens Saturday against the Knicks, the regular season next week, and nothing has changed for the Nets. The roster looks a little different, but they still haven’t assembled one that will make Deron Williams re-sign with them in the summer.

    The Nets have several things going for them though: time, Williams, Howard hasn’t been traded yet and they’ve maintained their cap flexibility for next summer.

    Realistically, they have until July to make Williams happy.

    Don’t believe the reports that the Magic are through discussing any trades involving Howard. Maybe they are right now, but Howard will be moved before the trade deadline. The Magic can’t let their franchise player leave without getting something in return to get the organization back on track.

    This sounds a little like the Carmelo Anthony saga last season, where the talks were on, then off. Mikhail Prokhorov said the Nets were out, but then they were back in it. The Magic are going to do what’s best for them just as Denver did last year and as the Nets tried to in the Anthony situation.

    There is one difference here though: The Nets are in a position of strength.

    We’re not saying they absolutely will end up with Howard, because the Lakers could put together a package that includes Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. But unlike last year, when Anthony didn’t want to play for the Nets, all reports say that Howard wants to team up with Deron Williams and play for the franchise that will call Brooklyn home beginning next year.

    But it will be up to Orlando to make a deal that makes the most sense for them, gets them the young players, picks or veterans who can help them stay competitive. The Magic are not going to get equal value for Howard, but they have to get something, so Nets general manager Billy King will be in pursuit all season.

    And one thing you learned about King last year during the 'Melo chase is he will reach out to everybody to try and find the players, contracts or picks the other team wants.

    All of that said, as of this writing, the Nets could – could - open the regular season without making a major acquisition. There still is time, though.

    They didn’t get Tyson Chandler, Nene, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Shane Battier and some of the other names on their free-agent wish list. But Andrei Kirilenko and Kris Humphries are out there still, and the Nets continue to talk to their representatives.

    The bottom line, though, is the biggest name available – and he is available – is Howard, and the Nets are going to be prudent while that big fish is out there.

    The Nets didn't want to handcuff themselves and give Nene a max deal. He ultimately signed for five years and $67 million with Denver. The Nets were interested, but my hunch is their reported offer of four years, $64 million wasn’t entirely accurate.

    In any event, they waived Travis Outlaw through amnesty, signed Shawne and Sheldon Williams and Ime Udoka and have a rookie shooting guard they think can be good in MarShon Brooks.

    “I don’t look at the roster and say, ‘Well, geez, they can’t win with that team,’” King said. “We’re going to add some more pieces. It may not be before opening day; it may be done via trade later, but we’ll continue to build.”

    The Nets still have a healthy Brook Lopez – remember last offseason he had bout with mono and didn’t get to work out as much. The Nets probably will showcase him because they have to, but also to get his scoring numbers up to increase his trade value.

    The biggest thing the Nets have is the most important Williams on the roster. Deron is here from the start of camp, and he is the reason Howard is considering the Nets.

    They’re a better team than they were when the season started last year. If the Nets can get Howard, they could become the best team the franchise has had in their NBA history.

    They still have time.


    Joined Chris Shearn and Joe Auriemma for the Off the Wall Podcast where we talked Nets, Knicks and general NBA. Click here for a listen


    Follow me on Twitter @Al_Iannazzone


    Al Iannazzone covers the NBA for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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    As camp starts, Nets are center of attention again

    Saturday, December 10, 2011, 12:32 AM [General]

    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.)


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    Almost closing time for Avery Johnson and the Nets

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011, 8:08 PM [General]

    Avery Johnson joked that when the time comes for the Nets to get something done with free agents, he’s like Mariano Rivera.
    “They bring me in to close,” Johnson said today.
    Johnson can give the final sales pitch – he ultimately decides how much a player plays. But the two biggest things for the Nets in their pursuit of any free agent are Mikhail Prokhorov’s fortune and Deron Williams’ future.
    Williams declared his intentions yesterday, saying, “I plan to stay.” That should help the Nets lure some players. But the almighty millions could be the deciding factor.
    The truth is the Nets are going to have to spend more than they probably would like in order to get Nene or Tyson Chandler or Caron Butler or even to bring Kris Humphries back.
    In most cases, the players are not going to take less to go to Newark this year and Brooklyn in the fall. The Nets aren't Miami, the Lakers or the Celtics.
    The Nets are a team that won 24 games last year, one season after winning 12. The Brooklyn move, Prokhorov and Williams give the Nets a different feel, but they’re still not one of the elite teams or franchises just yet.
    “We’re not in the situation where we’ve been a playoff team here recently, or a championship team, but we have a lot of positives in our situation,” Johnson said as he met with reporters for the first time since the lockout was settled and announced the expected hirings of P.J. Carlesimo and Mario Elie as assistants.

    “It’s a matter of trying to convince, from a statistical standpoint, from just communicating with guys, that this is a great situation to be a part of. But most of the free agents, guys that we’re after, we’re not their only option.”
    Johnson said all the right things. He’s perfect for the Nets. He loves to talk – is a fantastic talker – carries himself well and is a fierce competitor. That’s what the Nets need.
    It has been a very good week for them overall. Last week, Nets general manager Billy King spoke to the media and addressed trade rumors about Dwight Howard and the importance of keeping everything in-house so the players are unaffected.
    The next day, Williams’ agent, Jeff Schwartz, and the All-Star point guard said he won’t sign an extension with the Nets now, but added that it doesn’t mean he won’t re-sign with them later. He can get more money – about $40 million more – this way.
    Then, yesterday, Williams declared he wants to remain a Net, that he would say there’s a “90 percent” chance he signs with them after the season. He left a little wiggle room in case the Nets don’t make the moves that will keep him. By now, everyone knows getting Dwight Howard would be a guarantee.

    “We definitely need to add some guys to our roster,” Johnson said. “We have glaring weaknesses in certain areas. But Deron definitely has some ideas. Billy and I are confident. I’m confident in Billy, but it takes two to Tango.”
    By the way, most of the stuff Williams said on WFAN and what he told beat reporters yesterday is what he has told the Nets behind closed doors. They know the players Williams wants to play with – now, and when the Barclays Center opens next year.
    Now it’s about executing the plan and making some major moves and changes before the start of camp on Friday. They may not be able to get Howard by then, but the Nets have to start putting together a playoff-contending team and acquiring the assets that may enable them to get Howard later, which would assure them Williams isn’t going anywhere.
    “We’re just excited that he’s happy to be here,” Johnson said. “There’s a strong possibility that we’re going to have him, not only this year, but in years to come. Nothing is guaranteed. June 30 is a long time away.
    “We’re a much better team starting this training camp, without having signed or having done anything up to this point, than where we were at the start of last year.”

    The Nets are better. They’re still not as good as they want to be and need to be, but they’re working on it.
    The NBA schedules were released today and in a word, the Nets' is brutal.

    Most team schedules are because of the condensed season, but the Nets open with 10 of their first 14 games on the road. They also play six games in eight nights to start the season – three sets of back-to-backs with four of those games on the road.
    Here’s a little more of the schedule breakdown:
    * The Nets’ home opener is Dec. 27 against Atlanta. 
    * The Nets only play three games each against the two teams closest to them in proximity: the Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks play at The Rock just once (April 18).

    * Deron Williams makes his Utah return on Jan. 14.
    * LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat visit Prudential Center twice (Jan. 7 and April 16).

    * Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, and the world champion Mavs, with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd, don’t play at the Prudential Center.
    The Nets have two sets of three games in three nights (Jan. 21-23 vs. OKC, vs. CLE and at Chicago, and Feb. 18-20 at Chicago, home for Milwaukee and at the Knicks).
    Their nine road games against the West are at Denver, Phoenix, Utah and the Clippers (Jan. 11-16), at Dallas (Feb. 28) and at Golden State, Sacramento, the Lakers and Portland (March 30-April 4).
    The Nets end the season with seven of their final 10 games at home. 
    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
    Al Iannazzone covers the NBA for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)


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    Deron wants to stay, and wants Dwight

    Monday, December 5, 2011, 6:27 PM [General]

    Deron Williams is doing everything he can to put the Nets and their general manager Billy King at ease. But Williams also is letting King know he’s on the clock.

    Williams met with beat reporters at a SoHo restaurant not long after he went on WFAN and declared, “My plan is to stay.” Williams said similar things to the writers after lunch.

    His plan is to opt out after the season, but stay with the organization. He said he had a “strong feeling” that he would re-sign with the Nets next summer. But King has roughly eight months to turn a team that won 24 games last season into a championship contender.

    The best way to leap tall buildings in a single bound is by acquiring Superman.

    It’s not Dwight Howard or bust, but if King can make a deal with Orlando for the All-Star center the Nets can be assured that Williams will put his signature on a new, five-year, $101 million deal in July. Chances are, Williams said, Howard would, too.

    This part could hardly be considered new or news to anyone, least of all King.

    The Nets general manager knew he had to make a major move when he replaced Rod Thorn as president in July 2010 and that’s all King tried to do. He failed in getting Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, but may probably get the best player of the bunch when King unexpectedly made the deal for Williams.

    Now King, who is as competitive as anyone in the organization, will do whatever is necessary to entice Orlando to make a deal with the Nets involving Howard.

    The Nets offer likely would start with Brook Lopez and two first-round picks and they almost certainly would have to take back Hedo Turkoglu and the three years and $35 million he has remaining on his contract.

    It’s also possible the Nets will add more assets through free agency who also could be used at some point to sweeten a deal. They are targeting Nene, Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and numerous other players to fill the spots at power forward/center, small forward and the bench.

    The bottom line is this: Williams wants to play with Howard. He said he definitely would re-sign with the Nets if they got Howard. The Nets want to keep Williams and would love to get Howard.

    Sounds like all the Nets need is for Orlando to agree to something eventually. No big deal, right?

    King said he would keep all talks quiet because he doesn’t want the “circus-like atmosphere” that enveloped the Nets last year because of the ‘Melo Drama. It’s a safe bet that if King hasn’t spoken to Orlando GM Otis Smith yet he will in the near future.

    This is one of the many reasons Williams is happy from what he’s seen and heard from the Nets since being traded to them in February. They have made everything about him and will do anything to keep him happy. Williams “can pick his teammates,” a source said recently.

    “It definitely feels good to have that support,” Williams said. “I have a lot of input. They ask me about guys, about who I like to play with - so that’s great, any time management will come and ask you that type of stuff.”

    Williams is the face of the franchise, the person they are promoting as they plan their move to Brooklyn. But he’s also someone who’s willing to share the spotlight, like all great point guards, and that’s what he wants to do.

    Although Williams praised Lopez, Anthony Morrow and other players on the team, he knows he needs more in order to win.

    “We have to get some big pieces that can build a championship,” he said.

    The Nets are going to go after one of the biggest ones. Williams said it clearly. If Superman lands in this area, Williams will stay for sure. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but the Nets will work hard to get Howard or the pieces that will keep Williams around.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


    Al Iannazzone covers the NBA for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)


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    Pressing matters facing the Nets

    Friday, December 2, 2011, 1:46 PM [General]

    After such a long lockout-generated layoff, it’s busy season in the NBA and the Nets should be among the busiest teams.

    They have the money – up to about $24 million for free agency – the star point guard and some assets to at least be in the conversation to acquire Dwight Howard.

    Negotiations for players and free agents should heat up over the weekend and early next week, building to the expected opening of camps Dec. 9. Here are some pressing issues concerning the Nets and their roster and one major issue that seems to be put to rest – for now.
    D-Will Won’t
    Deron Williams’ agent Jeff Schwartz said yesterday what many people were already thinking, including Nets execs: his client won’t sign an extension with the Nets and will become a free agent next summer. But hours later, Williams tweeted to say it doesn’t mean he won’t re-sign with the Nets.

    This was a smart move – as was outlined here – to just get it out of the way so it doesn’t hang over the heads of Williams and the Nets all season. The new CBA made it almost a guarantee Williams would go this route. He makes much more money by opting out. It doesn’t mean he won’t re-sign. And by doing it now, the focus can be about basketball. 

    The Nets will try to build around Williams to improve their chances of him signing a 5-year, $101 million contract in the summer.
    Build a front court
    That’s what this off-season is all about for the Nets and they have several ways they’d like to go and many more ways it can go.

    The ultimate goal for general manager Billy King would be to put together a trade for Howard. He would give the Nets the best chances to be competitive and keep Williams.

    But if they can’t get Howard now, the Nets still have to want a big man. They’ve gone hardest after Nene. Tyson Chandler also is in the picture. If the Nets can get one of them they’ll move Brook Lopez to power forward.

    But whoever the Nets get could become an asset they try to use to acquire Howard. Agents have to be considering that too because they may not want to send their player to the Nets with the possibility they could be traded by February.

    You also have to look at who fits best.

    Nene and Chandler would complement Lopez, who is more of a jump shooter and pick-and-pop player. But if getting Howard is the end goal, Lopez – the Nets’ main trade chip today – might be the best fit to play alongside Superman.

    Nene and Howard could co-exist, but Chandler and Howard are a little more similar. Neither is a power forward. That may not work that well.

    The Nets have their plan for this and Plans C-Z. And everyone wants to know where Kris Humphries fits in.

    Humphries remains in the picture. But the Nets want to make other moves first. They need to address both power forward and small forward and depending on how things shake out, they might not have the time or money to bring Humphries back. He’s one of the top two power forwards (along with David West) and will be in demand.

    Other players the Nets have an interest in is restricted free agent Thaddeus Young, an athletic hybrid forward who would fit well with Williams, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Shane Battier, Andrei Kirilenko and Grant Hill

    Hill is an interesting name and he has a natural link because like King, he’s a Duke alum. But at this stage of his career, Hill may want to stay where he is and play Steve Nash or go to a winner.

    Improve the bench
    Presuming the Nets get a starting big man and small forward and ultimately amnesty Travis Outlaw, you are looking at a bench consisting of Jordan Farmar, MarShon Brooks, Damion James, Johan Petro, Sundiata Gaines and Jordan Williams. The Nets need more scoring, experience and versatility.

    One player the Nets have interest in is Shawne Williams, a good fit who could stretch the floor off the bench. The Nets likely would give him more than the one-year deal the Knicks have discussed. But the Heat and Bulls also have shown interest.

    Some other players on their list that could help them include Arron Afflalo, Rasual Butler, Bostjan Nachbar, Luc Mbah a Moute, Chris Wilcox and Josh McRoberts.
    Talk to Lopez
    King did the right thing when he said he wouldn’t allow “the circus-like atmosphere” that surrounded the Nets last year to happen again.

    So one of the first things he and coach Avery Johnson have to do next week is sit down Lopez and reassure him that he is in their plans; that they are going to start talking extension with his agent. That part is true. That Lopez is in their plans probably isn’t entirely.

    They like him, but if they can move Lopez to get Howard the Nets would do it in a heartbeat. But they have to try to keep things quiet and avoid the distractions. The Carmelo Anthony drama definitely affected the team. They’re good to need Lopez focused and committed. As of now, he’s their No. 2 player.
    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone
    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)


    Nets GM King courting players now, needs a big move

    Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 7:00 PM [General]

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Billy King wasn’t with the Nets when LeBron James’ announced his “Decision” or when the team settled on their Fab Four in free agency last year.

    This is King’s first time going through the process in full as Nets general manager and one thing you know is he will be is aggressive.

    He was in his pursuit of Carmelo Anthony and ultimately in landing Deron Williams, and that’s what the Nets need now.

    Teams were permitted to speak to agents today for the first time since the lockout began on July 1. That official kicking off perhaps the biggest Nets’ offseason since Jason Kidd was a free agent in 2002 because of what lies ahead.

    The Nets are going to Brooklyn and would like to take Williams with them. So King needs to get the players that make the Nets competitive now and assets that can turn them into a championship contender later.

    “I want to build a team I think can be successful,” King said. “If it takes being successful now and that will help us down the road, then we’ll do it now. We’re not going to sit here and say, we’ll wait to the future, because the future is not promised to anybody.” 
    Everything King does will be with Williams in mind and with Williams’ backing.

    He can opt out after the season – and odds are he will. But if the Nets improve enough to entice him to stay their Brooklyn opening will be almost complete.

    The only thing that could make it better would be if Williams and Dwight Howard were in the starting lineup. King is trying to make sure that happens through this critical free agency, too.

    “Every year there’s an importance to it because you’re building a roster,” King said. “Yeah, Deron Williams’ contract situation is important. But we have the right to negotiate with Brook [Lopez] coming up. Every offseason is important because that’s your one chance to build a roster for that season.”

    There was plenty of news circulating about Lopez and Howard, but that was expected. If the Nets are going to get Howard now they have to offer Lopez and draft picks. But that doesn’t mean the Magic are going to accept that offer.

    Orlando general manager Otis Smith likely will seek out the best offers and make the decision when it’s clear he can’t keep Howard. But Smith won’t want the Dwight Drama to match the distraction the ‘Melo Madness caused Denver.

    The Nets hope it ends differently than the Anthony situation and they're the winners of the Howard sweepstakes. But in the meantime, King can’t wait on what may be. He has to worry about what is.

    The Nets have a star point guard, are moving to Brooklyn next year, have the richest owner in the NBA and could have about $23 million to spend on free agents.
    That puts King in better position than his predecessor Rod Thorn was in last summer. Thorn had Mikhail Prokhorov’s checkbook, but Brooklyn was two years away and Devin Harris was the best player on the team.

    The Nets chased James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Tyrus Thomas and ended up with Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar and Johan Petro.

    This time around, the Nets’ targets are big men Nene and Tyson Chandler and small forwards Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Andrei Kirilenko and Shane Battier. Kris Humphries remains in the picture, but the Nets need to address other areas first.

    Beside getting Howard, their hope is to nab either Nene or Chandler, move Lopez to the power forward, put a versatile small forward in the starting lineup and retool the bench.

    Some of these moves would make Williams’ happy, but also could give the Nets enough assets where a deal for Howard could be more realistic. Orlando may be more interested in a package that includes Nene or Chandler than Lopez.

    The bottom line is King wants to be a playoff team as soon as possible, and he wants flexibility on the court and off of it.

    “I want to get as much flexibility,” King said. “That’s when teams are good - when they’re not limited in their substitution patterns because then you can mix and match our roster better.”

    As far as the other flexibility, King said, “You always want assets. If you need to improve your roster, you can have assets to do that.”

    King is confident he will be able to improve now, but also collect enough pieces to make moves later. Howard is the ultimate target and the pursuit of Superman begins now.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone

    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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    No NBA, but still reasons to be thankful

    Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 3:39 PM [General]

    There won’t be NBA games on Thanksgiving and Christmas appears in doubt. But it shouldn’t spoil the holiday spirit.

    Many of us miss the NBA but you always can find things to be thankful for at this time of year. Here are some for the Nets and their fans:

    They haven’t lost a game yet: Many of you probably had hopes for the postseason this year, especially with Deron Williams on the roster. Well, they still got a shot. Seem to remember two years ago their season was over by the end of November.

    They haven’t lost Williams yet: That wording may not have been fair, but we were trying to match the previous entry. A better way to put it would be Deron Williams still is a Net. The organizations’ goal is too keep him and they will do everything to accomplish that.

    There have been few Williams’ rumors: With no season, the speculation of Williams ending up in Dallas or with the Knicks or somewhere other than Newark/Brooklyn has been minimal. Enjoy it while it lasts.

    Brook Lopez hasn’t been outrebounded by a guard yet: You know what happened last year; how infrequently he grabbed double-digit boards and how maddening he was on the glass. Not once recently have you or anyone in the Nets gotten worked up over that.

    The Nets haven’t given up any free throw rebounds: They might have led the league last year in most times failing to grab the defensive board off a missed foul shot, which gave us a memorable Avery Johnson quote. “It's a free-throw rebound. Whatever happens that's the greatest gift you can get.”

    Travis Outlaw hasn’t missed an open shot: It's the obligatory poke at Outlaw in there, but we still say he’s a decent role player. It’s his $7 million per year salary – which the Nets gave him – that makes him an easy target.

    Humphries Takes New York: OK, the show is called something like Kim and Kourtney take New York, but many of us are going to watch the Kardashian's show because of Kris Humphries. You know they are going to make Humphries look bad, and try to show why Kim Kardashian asked for a divorce after 72 days. We feel bad for Humphries because he's a good guy and he hasn't been portrayed in the best light.

    Here are some things to be thankful for, if and when the lockout is settled:

    The Nets could be the most ready team: We’re not talking about chemistry or continuity. But with Williams lighting it up in Turkey, Jordan Farmar playing in Israel and various Nets spread across the globe, they should be in relatively good game shape and not have to play catch up from that standpoint. Camp will be short, so the more ready they are, the better.

    The Nets can talk to Williams again: The biggest factor in keeping Williams will be to get him another superstar, but it also would help the Nets if they could communicate with their franchise player. Not talking to him at all hurts them.

    The amnesty clause: If that item from negotiations makes it to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it means the Nets will be able to cut Outlaw and eventually get his salary off their books.

    They can formally say goodbye to New Jersey: For New Yorkers, this isn’t that big of a deal. But the people of New Jersey deserve to have the Nets say goodbye to them the right way after 34 years in the Garden State. A playoff berth would be a nice farewell, but also a tease.

    Just to cover the gamut, here are some things the Nets and their fans probably don’t appreciate because of the lockout:

    They can’t see Williams: With each day that passes another day and game could be cut off from his Nets’ career. He can opt out in July and the Nets and their fans don’t want his bio to say he played 12 games for the Nets.

    They can’t retool: No CBA means the Nets can’t spend all the money they have under the cap to try to make them a playoff team now or acquire the assets that could enable them to land Dwight Howard make them a championship contender later.

    Lopez’s development could be slowed: He needs to be around his coaches to work on his body, mindset and game, especially after a bout with mono affected his training last summer. Lopez had a good offensive season despite that, but has room to grow and his development is critical for the Nets’ long-term future, whether he is with them or is part of a package for a certain Magic center.

    Rookies may not be ready: MarShon Brooks and Jordan Williams won't have the benefit of a full training camp and will have to learn the NBA on the fly, and may have to gain some experience and PT in the D-League.

    Williams and Jersey again: Can’t stress enough how not being able to talk to Williams hurts the Nets or that not having a full final season at the Prudential Center is a slap in the face to their fans.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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    Even in his moment, Rivera thinking of someone else

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011, 2:16 PM [General]

    Mariano Rivera always has been about the Yankees first and foremost, never about his own achievements or accolades, and he proved that once again yesterday when really the moment should have been all about him.

    It was long after Rivera saved his 602nd regular-season game, setting Major League Baseball’s all-time mark. Longtime WFAN Yankee reporter Sweeny Murti asked Rivera if he allows himself to fully embrace this accomplishment and what it means. Rivera said he appreciates it. But then he quickly stopped himself and made sure everyone knew Murti had a daughter last week. Rivera congratulated him for that.

    Even when it was about Rivera, he was thinking about someone else.

    As an NBA writer, you generally don’t get to cover many baseball games. But I was at Yankee Stadium yesterday, covering the game for The Record and saw history. Now I’ve covered the Nets’ worst start in NBA history -- the 0-18 Nets two years ago -- and the greatest closer in MLB history on the day he established a new saves record.

    Needless to say, the locker rooms were different afterward.

    The Nets were down and disgusted; Chris Douglas-Roberts ripping into his teammates for being soft and having no heart. The Yankees were celebrating someone who is as mentally strong and has as much heart as any professional athlete.

    And Rivera’s response to Murti’s question was as remarkable as anything else that happened in the Yankees’ 6-4 victory over the Twins and there were plenty of compelling things going on. The fans cheering Nick Swisher’s inning-ending double-play in the eighth inning comes to mind.

    But that Rivera is thinking about someone else, remembering someone else’s joy when he should be enjoying his own momentous occasion is just one thing that makes Rivera so special. It’s never about him.

    “You’re not around people like this every day that come to work every day, they give their heart and their soul,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “To see the level he’s done it at, whether it’s been in the American League East or the playoffs or World Series and to see how humble a guy is and how easy he is to talk to and how easy it is for him to offer advice to other people and talk about pitching, attitude and approach - it’s an honor to be around a guy like that.”

    There’s no denying Rivera is the greatest closer of all time. He didn’t need to pass Trevor Hoffman to earn that title. Rivera stood alone on the mound and received a standing ovation after fanning Chris Parmelee looking at a cutter because he has no equal on that part of the baseball field.

    As Girardi said, “You’re shocked when he doesn’t close the game. That’s the feeling. That’s not the feeling you have about all closers.”

    It’s true. It’s a bigger story when Rivera blows a couple of save opportunities in a row than it is when he closes the door on teams regularly because that’s what you expect from him. And when he does it, he gives a little fist pump and then moves on.

    Rivera’s not into showmanship. He’s not about having everyone look at him. He tried to walk off the field after hugging all of his teammates, but Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez wouldn’t let him. They pushed him back on the mound so he could get the applause he deserved, so he could truly have the moment all to himself.

    “I can’t describe that feeling,” Rivera said. “It was priceless. It was a moment. I did not know it could be like that. I was thanking God at that moment. It was just incredible. It was something I never imagined.

    “It was a feeling like that when we won the World Series, I'll give you that.”

    That really was the most Rivera would give about himself on this day. A deeply spiritual man, he thanked God numerous times and talked about how much he wanted this day to come and go because there was much more work to do.

    You know he meant win more games, make the playoffs and add another World Series trophy to the Yankees.

    He’s 41 and the finish line is approaching for the greatest closer of them all, but he’s still getting the job done on the mound better than anyone else in baseball. And on a day when he set a record that’s going to be tough to break, when it was all about him, Rivera remained humble and thought about someone other than himself.

    Al Iannazzone is a Nets Insider and covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). Follow Al on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone

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    Johnson adjusting to quiet time

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011, 6:29 PM [General]

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The lockout hasn’t stopped Avery Johnson from making some pretty impressive rounds this offseason. It’s just prevented the Nets coach from visiting and talking to his players – for the most part.

    The one exception was last month when Johnson attended the wedding of Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian. He got league approval to go to California and had to have congratulated the groom, which would have made it the only time since 11:59 p.m. on June 30 that Johnson communicated with one of his players.

    “My wife had a great time,” he said.

    A few weeks later, Johnson had a great time during a trip to Russia.

    He held a clinic for 100 coaches at Moscow Sports University, conducted a camp for children 13-and-under and played in an exhibition game with principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov. Johnson, the ex-point guard, hit four threes and set up Prokhorov for a basket.

    “A three-point play,” Johnson said. “It’s on YouTube. Check it out.”

    Though Johnson couldn’t say it, he probably would rather see Deron Williams passing it to Brook Lopez for a three-point play. You could YouTube that, too, and it could be the last time you see it for a while.

    The owners and players union seemed to be making progress in recent meetings, and there was hope the season would start on time. But after an important session Tuesday, a bleak picture was painted again; the threat of a shortened season or none at all re-emerged.

    There still is time for the season to start in November, but the two sides have to keep talking and clearly must concede a little more. In the meantime, Johnson continues to keep himself busy and prepare for when this madness ends.

    Johnson, one of the most outspoken and informative coaches there is, can’t say anything about the lockout. He doesn’t want to risk any fines. He won’t say he’s bothered that he can’t talk with his players or check on them, but as a coach, especially one as hands on as Johnson, this can’t be easy.

    “It’s been an adjustment,” Johnson said. “More than anything, you’ve just got to kind of manage your energy and your emotions because normally you have a bit more to do. But it’s been an adjustment. We’ll just keep adjusting until further notified.”

    Until the lockout ends, Johnson will keep watching film as well as some Euroleague games. There’s a Turkish team that has a Williams everyone associated with the Nets will keep an eye on.

    But Johnson would have an interesting take on the whole situation if he was able to talk about it. He’s an intelligent, articulate man who doesn’t lack opinions. And Johnson is one who has seen this situation from both sides now.

    He was the player who ended the 1999 season, the only one shortened by a lockout. His jumper in Game 5 of the Finals clinched the 1999 NBA Championship for the Spurs against the Knicks. There probably is a side of Johnson who wishes he could do something to end this lockout, too.

    As much as the players want to return to work, Johnson no doubt wants to work with some of his. He wants to be able to coach Williams for a full season, see how Lopez develops playing alongside a great point guard and all the way down the roster.

    That’s the way it is for all coaches.

    Lawrence Frank can’t wait to get started in Detroit. Erik Spoelstra wants to get back to work in Miami and see if his Heat can win a title. Mark Jackson has been waiting a long time to become a head coach. He can’t wait for the Warriors' season to start.

    But this is how it is for everyone involved. The players can play overseas or in exhibition games until the lockout is lifted. The coaches just keep meeting with their staffs and figuring out what it’s going to take to be successful when the time comes. Johnson thinks at least a 10-day training camp would be ideal to get his team ready.

    “But I just think we’re in a situation right now where whatever we get, we’ll take it,” he said. “I just think as NBA coaches, whether you talk to Tom Thibodeau, Gregg Popovich, Mike Brown, Doc Rivers, I just think we all just want to do what we love to do.

    “Right now we just don’t have any control over it, so we just prepare and plan and do what we do around this time of the year without having anybody to work with.”


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).

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    Nets need some big moves before the big move

    Wednesday, July 27, 2011, 11:15 PM [General]

    The Nets’ past and future converged Wednesday on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues where retired forward Albert King reminisced about growing up in Brooklyn and GM Billy King talked about what moving here will mean for the franchise.

    But the more immediate future remains very much on the Nets’ minds.

    They can’t do anything because of the lockout, but the Nets have plenty of work ahead of them in New Jersey before they get to Brooklyn.

    The Barclays Center is set to open for the start of the 2012-13 season and the only way to make sure Deron Williams is there is by getting the players that will keep the All-Star point guard.

    Naturally, none of this was said when Billy King and assistant general manager Bobby Marks gave beat writers a tour of the arena construction site. They can’t talk about any players right now.

    But almost as much as King talked about how great Brooklyn will be, he discussed the importance of putting together a winner now.

    “Wherever we play I’m trying to win this season upcoming,” King said. “There’s no guarantee you’re going to win when you get to Brooklyn so you got to build your team now and win.”

    This would be King’s attitude regardless. From the moment he took over the Nets, just over a year ago, he looked for ways to upgrade the roster. He went after Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and wound up with Williams. King, Marks, coach Avery Johnson, the Russian ownership -– all they want is to win.

    But it’s even more imperative to build a winner now or when they’re able to make changes because of Williams and because of Brooklyn.

    In a perfect world, the Nets will be much more successful during this free agency than last one. It should be different.

    The Nets were coming off a 12-win season, had no stars and Brooklyn still didn’t seem to be a reality. The Nets only won 24 games, but they have Williams -– and players want to play with elite point guards -– and Brooklyn is a very real part of the future.

    The Nets are hoping that will help them get some of the players they’ve targeted from this group of frontcourt players: Nene, Tyson Chandler, Kris Humphries, Tayshaun Prince and Caron Butler.

    Secure a couple of them and Williams is more apt to stay, the Nets are more likely to make the playoffs and Brooklyn will open with even more hoopla than already being planned.

    You have to believe the Nets are going to have a blow out when you consider they started talking about moving to Brooklyn in 2004, were supposed to be there in 2008 and now after all the lawsuits and appeals they’re getting closer to opening the Barclays Center.

    “I’m just excited it’s Brooklyn, five minutes from where I lived,” Albert King said. “I never thought it would happen –- and it’s my former team.

    “This will be the first time an arena like this will be built in a New York City area,” Billy King said. “I equate this probably to the opening of United Center in Chicago for what it did to the downtown area of Chicago or the Staples Center, what it did to that part of L.A.  I think this will do the same thing for this area. A lot of people fought it, but once it’s built I think they’ll realize five or six years from now this area will be booming.”

    King also believes the Nets will be more attractive to players, too.

    “Everybody says they want to play in New York,” he said. “We’re going to be in New York. We got the best owner and we’re going to have the best building. We’ll have all the tools. If a guy doesn’t want to come play here it’s just he doesn’t want to play in the City.”

    The most important thing is to make sure that Williams wants to play in this City, and that’s why the real work starts for the Nets when the lockout is lifted.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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    Nets vets should set up more group workouts

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011, 7:59 PM [General]

    After the Nets brought in draft pickups MarShon Brooks, Jordan Williams and Bogan Bogdanovic to meet the local media Monday, they promptly sent the ones that will be with them next season to California to work out.

    This made perfect sense because of the labor situation. If there is a lockout -- as expected -- starting Friday there can be no contact between the players and the teams.

    So Brooks and Williams flew to meet coach Avery Johnson and general manager Billy King at P3 in Santa Barbara for some training until they can’t talk to him anymore.

    Brooks and Williams were given what the Nets want them to do this summer, what workouts, what things they need to improve on –- basically everything they should do to make sure they’re ready when the work stoppage ends and/or training camp begins.

    The Nets can’t afford anyone, let alone rookies, to use camp to let them get ready for the NBA season. King said he thought about holding a rookie-free agent camp before July 1, but thought P3 was a better alternative.

    “I thought this would be better than bringing them in just to play basketball for a couple days,” he said. “I think for them it’s going to be more getting a foundation of lifting and testing and seeing where they are strength wise.

    “They train. They test them, [strengthen] different parts of the muscles. Give them a plan. Map it out for them for the summer. It’s more weight and training.”

    P3, which stands for Peak Performance Project, is a place the Utah Jazz had used. King heard about it and when Deron Williams mentioned it, the Nets GM looked into it and decided it would be good for his players to attend.

    That’s why earlier this month Williams helped organize a group workout where every Net under contract went to P3 to train. This is something that needs to happen again if there is a long lockout.

    It would be wise for someone –- Williams or Anthony Morrow or Jordan Farmar -– to try and organize such meetings this summer. It would be good for the Nets if it were Brook Lopez stepping up and showing some leadership and putting something together. That definitely would be a big step for him.

    It’s difficult to get everyone together, but it can be done.

    The summer after Jason Kidd was traded, Vince Carter helped organize workouts at the Nets practice facility and mostly everyone showed up for a camp a week or two early.

    That was the year everyone predicted the Nets would be terrible after the losses of Kidd and Richard Jefferson. But with Carter’s leadership and Devin Harris becoming an All-Star, the Nets hung in the playoff race much longer than anyone expected.

    These Nets should follow that lead.

    It can’t be at the Nets’ practice facility if there’s a lockout because you can’t have any contact with your team. They just have to find a neutral site the way the Giants did, holding their workouts at Bergen Catholic High School during the ongoing NFL lockout

    The bottom line is if there is a work stoppage and it’s lengthy, the Nets need to have chemistry and be as much on the same page as possible, and the rookies need some guidance so when they can reconvene with the team collectively, they’re a little ahead of the game.

    This is a critical year for the Nets, their last in New Jersey before the big move to Brooklyn. They want to go in with a competitive team, a playoff contender for so many obvious reasons.

    Management still must upgrade the roster with the main needs being small forward and power forward. King and assistant general manager Bobby Marks will put in the necessary work to try to do that. Re-signing Kris Humphries is the Nets’ power forward priority.

    But the Nets are under contract -- the ones who hate losing and hated being on a 24-win team last season and in Lopez’s case a 12-win team the year before that –- should have extra motivation to make sure they don’t experience that again. The rookies who will be under contract should have the desire to make sure they are as NBA ready as possible.

    Collectively, the Nets should continue to work on their bodies and game and find time to train together to develop familiarity with each other to improve the chances of being a playoff team whenever the 2011-12 season begins.

    The Nets’ players should do it anyway -- even if there isn’t a long lockout.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)



    Motivation, hunger could be key to new Nets' success

    Monday, June 27, 2011, 5:25 PM [General]

    Picking at the bottom of the first round and in the second round, a talented player who slipped further than expected and feels he has something to prove, or a hungry young player who wants to show he can play in the NBA, can be good finds.

    That’s why the Nets felt good about themselves today when they introduced MarShon Brooks, Jordan Williams and Bojan Bogdanovic to the local media today.

    Brooks, the high-scoring guard from Providence, was “really nervous” about falling from the Lottery to the bottom sixth of the first round and he’s going to use it as motivation.

    “Let’s just say during the draft process I played really well,” Brooks said. “Let’s just say that.

    “I feel like I still have a lot to prove. I have a chip on my shoulder definitely. I’ve always been an underdog so I’m used to it. I’m just humbled to be in this situation. I’m just going to play hard and it’s going to make me play that much harder.”

    We’ll see how Brooks uses that motivation, if it stays with him until the fall or whenever the basketball season begins. In some cases it goes away pretty quickly. In others, it’s channeled improperly.

    I remember Chris Douglas-Roberts saying similar things three years ago – with much more attitude and confidence – but he’s still trying to find his way in the NBA. He’s not backing up his talk enough.

    Brooks didn’t have the bravado of Douglas-Roberts, which the Nets probably like. But they hope Brooks will be one of those players that many teams get criticized for passing up on because he turned out to be a productive player on a good team at some point.

    Brooks was projected as a lottery pick or someone who would be taken in the top 20. The Nets didn’t think he would be there for them, but as he dipped they began looking for ways to move up.

    They did, sending the Celtics the No. 27 pick and a 2014 second-round choice for the rights to Brooks, who went 25th. The truth is if the Celtics were that high on him – and he played in Providence – they would have kept him.

    But everyone looks at players differently and the Nets liked Brooks’ game and potential and did what they had to do to make sure they got him.

    “I’m thrilled to be in this position to help the Nets organization,” Brooks said. “You guys will be seeing me for the next 10 years with this organization. I’m just looking forward to be a part of it.”

    You have to believe Brooks can help the Nets. He seems to have the right attitude. He had great stats for a losing team – 24.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals – and he won’t be asked to do as much on the Nets.

    Two things he admits he needs to work on are his shooting and his defense. Coach Avery Johnson will make sure Brooks does the latter and it’s up to him to do the former.

    Brooks should get open looks playing with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. If he doesn’t capitalize by making shots or finding ways to get to the basket, Brooks is going to make the teams who passed him look like they were right.

    “I would say I’m a scorer that can shoot,” he said. “Shooting definitely is not my strength. I think I get to the rim a little better than most shooting guards.

    “Defensively I’ve got to put more effort. I played a lot in college. I was playing power forward. I was playing 20 minutes a game at power forward. I think I would do a much better job guarding people my size. I’m looking forward to it.”

    Bogdanovic will play in Turkey for at least one year, but the Nets believe they got a first-round player with the second pick in Round 2.

    In Jordan Williams’ case, he put up big stats in a tough conference – 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds for Maryland. He was the seventh pick of the second round.

    The one thing he said, and the Nets have said, is that his rebounding should translate to the NBA. Williams made sure he was more ready for the NBA by shedding some of his weight and body fat since his sophomore season ended, dropping about 15 pounds.

    “I think I just had to change my body,” he said. “My body in college had a lot of weight I didn’t need and I didn’t look right. I think that going into the whole NBA process I had to really just focus on certain things in my body.

    “Now my game is much more versatile. I play longer and I’m in much better shape, so it’s just all-around a better change for me.”

    The Nets hope he stays hungry and that these roster changes are better for them.


    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone


    Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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