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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    Trades, picks result in solid draft for Nets

    Friday, June 24, 2011, 1:46 AM [General]

    After every draft, the team’s top executive or coach says they got who they wanted or never thought this player would drop to them. But the Nets meant it last night.

    They never expected shooting guard Marshon Brooks to drop anywhere near them, but he did. And when he did, general manager Billy King did what he does best on draft night – he made a trade.

    King now has been involved in draft-night trades in eight of 12 drafts he’s been part of as an executive.

    The Nets targeted scoring Euro swingman Bojan Bogdanovic so strongly that they brought him in for a second, private workout, yesterday morning and saw enough of him to decide they were going to move up in the second round for him.

    They liked the way Jordan Williams rebounded, especially in a difficult conference like the ACC, and had him on their wish list in the second round and got him.

    “I think we had a solid draft,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said.

    Johnson has to say that, but on the surface he’s right.

    You don’t know how these guys are going to do when they join the Nets. But when you think about what the Nets needed - athleticism, a wing player, scoring, toughness, rebounding and depth – they had a solid draft.

    As a Providence senior, Brooks averaged 24.6 points, ranking second in the NCAA behind just BYU’s Jimmer Fredette.

    No one knows for sure why Brooks fell. He had an ankle injury that kept him out of some workouts, including one for the Nets. But when they saw him slipping, the Nets were trying to put together a deal to get him.

    They sent the No. 27 pick and a 2014 second-round choice to Boston for Brooks’ draft rights. Officially, the Celtics selected Brooks 25th.

    “He knows how to score,” King said. “He’s a proven scorer and I think at times last year we struggled to score.”

    There are a lot of things the Nets like about Brooks.

    He’s 22 and played four years for the Friars. He improved every year, with his scoring average jumping 10.4 points from his junior to his senior season and was able to create his own shot. Brooks also filled out the stat sheet, grabbing 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks.

    You have to wait and see how this translates in the NBA. But it’s impressive that Brooks had some big games against some of the better teams in the Big East. He scored 52 against Notre Dame, had 43 and 10 boards against Georgetown, poured in 27 against Louisville and Syracuse and produced 25 and seven against UConn.

    “Billy and the whole scouting department they got the guy that we needed,” Johnson said.

    Bogdanovic is an intriguing prospect from Bosnia. He was one of the top scorers in Euroleague regular-season play for Cibona VIP.

    Minnesota took him with the 31st pick and dealt him to the Nets for cash and a 2013 second-rounder. He may not be able to play here this year as he’s expected to play in Turkey. But from all indications, the Nets acquired a talented, skilled player.

    Williams also seems to be a good pickup, especially as a second-rounder. He’s a hard worker, who has lost more than 20 pounds since his season at Maryland ended, and he’s a ferocious rebounder. He finished third in the nation, grabbing 11.8 rebounds per game.

    “One thing that’s proven is if you rebound in college you’ll rebound in the pros,” King said. “Once we got MarShon we felt that if we get Jordan he will give us somebody who’s proven he knows how to rebound.”

    The Nets didn’t become a championship or even a playoff contender with these moves, and they didn’t assure themselves that Deron Williams will sign on to stay. But they picked up three more assets that they hope will help them on the court or could be enticing in trades.

    You can’t know for sure until you see the players and how they fit, but when you think of what the Nets wanted and needed heading into last night, they seemed to have a pretty solid draft.


    ***

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

     

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    Could be busy draft night as Nets start addressing roster

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 1:45 PM [General]

    The Nets want to get more athletic across the board, add depth, find another shooter, a reliable small forward, a big man and would like to bring in defensive players.

    That’s their general offseason wish list and they can start trying to find some of those things in tomorrow night’s NBA Draft.

    When you’re picking at Nos. 27 and 36 you’re limited as to what you can get because everything depends on what happens before you select. But as you probably have read somewhere by now, Nets general manager Billy King rarely picks where he’s supposed to anyway.

    As we detailed in a story in The Record over the weekend, King made trades on seven of the 11 draft days he spent as a 76ers executive. He completed six trades during the 2006 and 2007 drafts and was a part of 15 total in 11 drafts. (His first was the 1997 draft, and involved sending Keith Van Horn to the Nets for Tim Thomas). This is King’s first draft since 2007 so he may try to make up for lost time.

    Maybe it’s because we’ve written about it so much, but we would be surprised if King and the Nets don’t move up, add another pick or make a trade to acquire a veteran. Our guess is King is not in love with anyone he’s going to get at 27.

    Also, you don’t expect someone taken that low to make an immediate and significant impact on a team that won 24 games. But the Nets are hoping to find some players who can help them.

    “It’ll be a pretty good player,” King said. “In my mind, there’s probably four guys I really like. And I think one of the four will probably be there.”

    We’ve heard and read plenty of names that the Nets are interested in or could take with athletic Georgia Tech combo and two-way guard Iman Shumpert ranking high on their list. The Nets may have to move up if this is who they want because he’s been linked as high as the Suns at 13, the Knicks at 17 and the early 20s. But the Nets like his athleticism, versatility and ability to defend.

    Others we’ve seen or heard include lean UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt, unproven yet athletic and potentially explosive Kansas guard Josh Selby, Richmond forward Justin Harper and Purdue’s four-year player JaJuan Johnson, a power forward/center.

    “I think we’re getting close,” King said. “Now, we’ve just got to get everybody else to cooperate.”

    Looking at the second round – and really after the top four in the draft no one can predict at this point how things will go – the Nets will have a number of players they would consider. But they may have to use some of Mikhail Prokhorov’s millions to buy another pick because some of the players they like may not be there at 36.

    Among them are Maryland rebounder Jordan Williams, Georgia power forward Trey Thompkins, forward Bojan Bogdanovich, who played in Croatia the last two years, and guards Travis Leslie of Georgia and Duke’s Nolan Smith.

    It’s important to note that King has done well with some late picks, though, as he took Lou Williams 45th in 2005, Sam Dalembert 26th in 2001 and Todd MacCulloch 47th in 1999. He also traded for the rights to Kyle Korver, Willie Green, John Salmon and Nazr Mohammed.

    Whatever the Nets do tomorrow, whoever they acquire, that player is going to become better right away from playing with Deron Williams. But it’s just the beginning of the Nets addressing their off-season wish list.

    They will be active through trades and free agency. But with a lockout possible, it’s hard to tell when that will be.

    History lesson: For what it's worth, the Nets only have had the No. 27 pick once and that was last year. Drafting for the Hawks, the Nets took Jordan Crawford and sent his rights and the No. 31 pick to Atlanta for Damion James, who went 24th.

    Some notable players taken with No. 27 pick include current Net Sasha Vujacic, ex-Net Jacque Vaughn, Dennis Rodman, Kendrick Perkins, Sergio Rodriguez, Aaron Afflalo, and Linas Kleiza.

    Follow me on Twitter: @Al_Iannazzone

    ***

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

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    Nets won the Lottery when they got Deron

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 9:56 PM [General]

    The Nets were never worried about what would happen in the NBA Draft Lottery. They were never concerned Utah would get the first overall pick, just as they wouldn’t have been if they made the deal with Denver for Carmelo Anthony.

    Billy King probably decided the day he took over as Nets general manager last July that getting an established All-Star and franchise-changing player is more vital to the organization’s growth than an unproven college player who may not develop for a few years.

    He’s right, especially since there is no Derrick Rose, LeBron James or Blake Griffin in this draft. If you have the chance to get Anthony or Deron Williams you do whatever it takes and if it costs you a No. 1 pick in a draft that doesn’t have star power you make the trade. And you make it again. And you make it again.

    Even if the draft has star power, you make the trade for Williams, considering where the Nets came from, where they were and where they want to go.

    So what that the Utah Jazz wound up climbing from sixth to third with the pick the Nets sent them for Williams. Utah will wind up with Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker or Enes Kanter. The Nets still have Williams.

    Even if Utah finished first or second and were in position to take Duke's Kyrie Irving or Arizona's Derrick Williams, the Nets still have Williams. They have a piece they can and plan to build around, someone who can attract players and who makes everyone around him better.

    He was a better get for the organization than Anthony would have been, and then holding onto Derrick Favors and their first-round pick.

    You don’t know what would have happened if the Nets never made the trade, and wound up moving Devin Harris to Portland or Dallas. You don’t know where they would have ended up in the standings and in the lottery. But King didn’t seem to care about it when we talked to him about the lottery last week.

    “There’s not a guy in the draft as good as Deron Williams,” King said.

    There aren’t many guys in the NBA as good as Deron Williams when he’s healthy, which he wasn’t at all with the Nets. He had surgery on his wrist and will be ready for camp, whenever that is since there is the potential for a lockout.

    If there is a team that can’t afford a lockout it’s the Nets. They want to keep in constant contact with Williams and work on improving the team and surrounding him with the type of players that will keep him in a Nets’ uniform beyond his current contract. The Dwight Howard pursuit will happen eventually.

    King can make some moves between now and June 30, but you wonder how much activity there’s going to be if no one knows what the new collective bargaining agreement is going to look like.

    What we do know after last night’s lottery is where everyone’s picking in the June 23 NBA Draft. The top five picks belong to Cleveland (from the Clippers), Minnesota, Utah (from the Nets), Cleveland again and Toronto.

    We also know because the Nets, who finished with the same record as the Kings, placed higher in the lottery than the Kings, they will pick later in the second round. The Nets have the No. 36 pick and the No. 27 choice in the first round, which they acquired from the Lakers.

    If they keep the pick – and King has a history for being very active on draft day – the Nets might find good role players there, some athletes they can bring off the bench who can change the pace of the game or provide some type of spark. But they’re not going to get an immediate impact player, and they may not have had they held on to their own first-round pick.

    That’s why it was a good move at the time and still a good move for the Nets. Now it’s all about using those two picks and other assets – young players on reasonable deals, salary cap space – and building a team that doesn’t make any more trips to the lottery.

    This was the fourth consecutive year the Nets missed the postseason. The other three teams got them Brook Lopez (great pick), Terrence Williams (disappointment) and Favors. He was the key to the Williams’ deal, but the two draft picks they included helped.

    The Nets didn’t mind giving them up, especially the lottery pick. They didn’t care what number it became. Williams was the Nets’ prize anyway. 

    ***

    Follow me on Twitter@ Al_Iannazzone

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

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