Coach Johnson evaluates team

From left, Kris Humphries, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace.
Photos by Lem Peterkin

It won’t be long now before the basketball season opens in Brooklyn. In fact, the Brooklyn Nets recently hosted Media Day at their new venue, Barclays Center, in down town Brooklyn, which was very well attended by officials of the team as well as those media who will cover them during the course of their schedule.

The Nets left their previous home in New Jersey to move into Brooklyn, and New York City now has two National Basketball Association franchises so close to each other-the Knicks and Nets,

Their goal, according to Coach Avery Johnson, is to make the playoffs, something that they could not do last year. They are confident that they can improve over last year’s miserable record and turn this thing around.

Everybody wants a winner in Brooklyn and so does the Nets’ management. They are ‘hungry’ for it.

Eighteen players recently reported to camp and, in fact, they are all battling for a roster spot. Some of the holdovers and veterans in the league are guaranteed a spot. Time has certainly come to a team that has struggled over previous years.

It’s a new era in Nets basketball!

We’re here in Brooklyn and it’s a long time coming for a lot of people. Everybody is glad to be part of such a team.

“I’ve been waiting for this kind of pressure for two years,” Coach Johnson said on Media Day. “Pressure is ( also) on us to win. Expectations are a lot higher. This is what we want and signed up for. When we don’t win, we get criticized. When we do win, the players get celebrated. That’s what it is all about.

“Hopefully, we’ll come together sooner than rather later. The main thing is that we want to have an upward trend throughout the season. We have to get better game by game and practice by practice. Going into the playoffs we’ll be one of the teams to beat.”

In taking a major step in the right direction, Coach Johnson will stress defense, as opposed to offense. In order to do so he expects to have a veteran team. Four players on the current roster have 10 or more years of NBA experience,. In addition, there are six rookies.

“We have to be in the top ten in the league in defense,” added Johnson. “We have a certain amount of points we want to give up this year. In the last two minutes of a game I want to see my team physically and mentally tough.

“And we have to improve significantly in rebounding. I know that is everybody. (Brook) Lopez at seven feet expects to lead this team in caroms). Team rebounding is (also) important. At the same time I believe in balance.”

Most of Johnson’s teams over past years were good on defense and offense. And offensively, the Nets must execute.

“That’s what Deron (Williams) and I spent a lot of time talking about during the off season,” continued the coach.

After a shortened 2011-2012 schedule, the Nets went out to sign as many players as they could and they also re-signed Deron Williams to run the show from the point guard position, Lopez, power forward Kris Humphries and small forward Gerald Wallace.

“My point guard often talks about (our Nets) being the best team in the NBA,” Coach Johnson added. “He’s a two-time gold medal winner. He wants to bring the same spirit to the rest of the roster. He wants to be an NBA champion. He’ll average about 18 points and 11 assists a game and help us achieve our goal of winning an NBA championship and not just a city championship.”

Meanwhile, Nets General Manager Bilie King feels good about the team’s potential.

“I think we brought together the right mix of guys,” he said. “I just did what I was supposed to do.”

The Brooklyn Nets will open their home portion of the schedule at the Barclays Center against the Knicks on Nov. 1.

Jerry Stackhouse.
Photos by Lem Peterkin

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