“We are going to kick butt and take names. There’s something in the air here that says the Brooklyn Nets will be the NBA champions next year.” -- Jason Terry, July 18, 2013
This is just a small sampling of comments out of the Brooklyn Nets over the last two seasons. But all of that talk -- combined with several high-priced upgrades to the roster -- has produced just eight playoff wins over the last two seasons.
And so, Brooklyn GM Billy King told the New York Post, Daily News and Newsday on Monday, the team is trying something new going forward.
“Two years in a row, it was something we created ourselves. We beat our own drum. This year it’s more of let’s just play basketball,” King said.
King’s goal, the previous two years, he said, is to finish with a top-4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs standings, which means homecourt advantage in the first round.
• That could be tough without Paul Pierce, who left for Washington in free agency.
(We broke down the reasoning behind his departure from Brooklyn’s prospective here).
“We did [want him back]. That was the plan of attack and I think as we started negotiating, the numbers that they asked for were,” King told reporters. “And I thought at one point that he was definitely leaving. And then you started switching gears because you start hearing that he's going to end up at a different place. So then you start preparing. And then when he came back to us [to try to negotiate again], we already moved on.”
• King also told reporters that Brook Lopez (foot/ankle) played 5-on-5 for the first time on Monday. The GM added that Lopez probably won’t do both sessions of two-a-day practices early in training camp, as the Nets look to ease him back.
• The Nets are bringing in Willie Reed, a 6-10 big man, for training camp, King told reporters. That would give them 17 players -- 13 with fully guaranteed contracts.
Today’s question: What will be the best position battle in training camp?
As we’ve written on the blog before, we know four of the five players that are going to start for the Nets next season: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez.
Andrei Kirilenko will be the starting small forward.
Or maybe he won’t. And if the latter is the case, that means Alan Anderson, Mirza Teletovic and perhaps Bojan Bogdanovic could potentially vie for the position.
As it stands, if Hollins started Williams, Johnson, Kirilenko, Garnett and Lopez, there would be room for Jarrett Jack, Anderson, Bogdanovic, Teletovic and Mason Plumlee, assuming the Nets coach decided to go with a 10-man rotation.
If Hollins decided to give Jack a starting spot, the backup point guard competition between Marquis Teague and Jorge Gutierrez could become interesting.
The Nets have 13 players who have fully-guaranteed contracts for 2014-15 -- Gutierrez, rookie Cory Jefferson and training camp signee Jerome Jordan not among them.
What intrigues us is:
- Will Kirilenko be named the starting small forward or will someone else get the nod?
- Will Bogdanovic, giving his learning curve, be inserted into the rotation from Day 1 or have to earn his way in?
- Will Jordan be given a real opportunity to make the team given they may want a third center? And will that decision affect Jefferson, who the Nets spent $300,000 to acquire on draft night?
- Will Markel Brown, who adds some serious athleticism, be given a chance to play regular minutes?
- Will the Nets decide to carry three or four point guards?
The starting small forward spot could provide the best position battle -- assuming it’s even a battle to begin with. Otherwise, it’s just about reserve roles, and figuring out how much Hollins trusts his younger players versus his veterans.
Official: @drayblatche has signed a 1 year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers.— ASM SPORTS (@ASM_SPORTS) September 20, 2014
Blatche, 28, averaged 11.2 points and had an 18.85 Player Efficiency Rating for the Nets last season. But the team ultimately decided not to bring him back after he opted out.
Blatche was an extremely talented player -- a 6-11, 260-pound big man with the unique ability to make plays off the dribble -- but he also made headlines for the wrong reasons during his tenure in Brooklyn.
In 2012-13, Blatche was questioned and ultimately cleared as part of a sexual assault case that occurred in a Philadelphia hotel room. Last season, he was suspended indefinitely by the Nets due to a lack of conditioning and preparedness, sources told Grantland. He returned after missing four games. Team brass was also not happy with his partying lifestyle, sources said.
Recently, Blatche gained dual citizenship in the Philippines and averaged 21.2 points and 13.8 rebounds per game for the country during the FIBA World Cup in Spain.
The team had inked Ndiaye to a training camp deal Wednesday.
With Ndiaye out of the mix, Jerome Jordan's chances of earning a spot on the team may have increased.
The Nets now have 16 players signed for training camp -- 13 with fully guaranteed contracts.
Cory Jefferson, Jorge Gutierrez and Jordan do not have guarantees.
Training camp begins Sept. 27.
Today's question: Who needs to break out this season?
There are plenty of potential young breakout candidates for the Nets this season. The Nets are eager to get their first look at Bojan Bogdanovic against NBA talent. But it might be unfair to expect Bogdanovic to have a breakout season in his first full year in the league.
The Nets like Sergey Karasev's potential, but he likely has a way to go before we can think about a breakout. Mirza Teletovic had a breakout season of sorts last season when he showed what he can do with consistent minutes.
Rookie Markel Brown certainly looks as if he can provide some highlight dunks, but he may not see enough minutes to deliver a breakout season.
In my mind, the Net who needs to have a breakout season is Mason Plumlee. He surprised with an All-Rookie first season with the Nets. He averaged 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 18.2 minutes as a rookie who did most of his damage off putbacks and exciting dunks. Jason Kidd wouldn't allow his rookie to take many shots in the offense.
Plumlee, though, should be even better this season after spending the summer winning a gold medal with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup. He gained invaluable experience practicing with stars like James Harden, Derrick Rose and Stephen Curry. He had to go up against big men like DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried and Andre Drummond every day in practice. He received daily coaching from Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Thibodeau, among others. More than anything, Plumlee had to gain incredible confidence from just making the team after initially being brought into the mix to practice against the veterans.
Plumlee certainly has plenty of time in his career to develop a back-to-the-basket game and inside offensive moves. But the reason the Nets could use a breakout season from Plumlee -- in just his second season -- is the uncertain health of the Nets' big men.
Kevin Garnett is entering his 20th season and the Nets simply have to do what they can to keep KG fresh and healthy. Who knows how many games Garnett will play in this season, let alone his availability for back-to-backs. Then there's Brook Lopez, who is returning from surgery. Lopez is trying to show that he can come back strong and be a force again. But the Nets would also be wise to keep their big man healthy by monitoring his minutes and games.
With Andray Blatche gone, Plumlee's rapid development becomes key. He should see plenty of minutes from Lionel Hollins, given the health of Garnett and Lopez, and could see his share of starts when one of the other big men needs a night off to rest. The Nets will be looking for one more big man in camp to step up and earn some minutes. Plumlee will have plenty of opportunities to show that he can do more than just throw down a spectacular reverse dunk or come up with some sensational blocks.
If Plumlee can take a big step forward in his second season, the Nets could be in great shape while also having the luxury of resting Garnett and Lopez on certain nights.
Question: Who do you think needs to have a breakout season for the Nets this season?
As for the Brooklyn Nets? Well, they’re just fine with it.
“It’s good. I think that’s good,” Deron Williams said Monday when asked if lower expectations are motivating him and his teammates.
“We’re flying under the radar. We’ve got a lot of work to do. When you get between the lines, anything can happen. So it’s our job to get better, gel as a team over training camp an the first month and be ready to go in November.”
Brooklyn’s summer was not supposed to be very hectic. A few tweaks here and there. That was supposed to be it.
But then Jason Kidd left for Milwaukee, and all of sudden, the Nets needed a new head coach. Quickly, they got one in Lionel Hollins.
Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, two key cogs in the team’s turnaround, also departed via free agency.
Nets GM Billy King traded for Jarrett Jack and brought Bojan Bogdanovic over from Europe as part of a roster re-tool.
The Nets, who were in win-now mode last season, have gotten younger, but their core remains intact.
How far they will go in 2014-15 largely depends on how Williams' surgically-repaired ankles and Brook Lopez's surgically-repaired foot hold up.
“We’ve got to step up, myself included, especially leadership-wise,” Williams said. “I think having myself healthy and having Brook healthy, that makes up for a lot. I think that’s what people don’t really understand. Let’s talk about Brook. Missing Brook, that’s 20 points a night and a big man who can score on anybody in this league. Right there changes the landscape of things, just putting him back in the lineup.”
That lineup also will include Kevin Garnett, who is returning for his 20th, and perhaps final, season in the NBA. Hollins said Garnett will start at power forward and receive more than 15 minutes of playing time a night -- assuming he’s healthy.
“Health is the No. 1 issue for this team going in with Brook, KG and Deron,” Hollins said. “If they are healthy and we can create continuity and a foundation of a group playing together, then I think things will fall into place.”
Training camp begins Sept. 27 in East Rutherford, N.J.
“I think [not having the attention] is very good,” Andrei Kirilenko said. “I think last year we had too much pressure from the outside. I think this year we have the chance to step back before the season and then make that jump.”
Ndiaye went to Rutgers. The 27-year-old has 33 games of NBA experience, most recently 14 games last season with the Sacramento Kings.
The Nets now have 17 players signed for training camp -- 13 with fully guaranteed contracts.
Cory Jefferson, Jorge Gutierrez, Jerome Jordan and Ndiaye do not have guarantees.
Training camp begins Sept. 27. Ndiaye, like Jordan, will have an opportunity to impress there.
Today’s question: Who has the most to prove in training camp?
There are probably a bunch of different ways I could go here, so feel free to disagree.
The 25-year-old import looked really good at the FIBA World Cup, averaging 21.2 points for Croatia during the tournament.
Bogdanovic should eventually be able to thrive offensively and get plenty of open looks from deep playing alongside guys like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez.
But it’s on the defensive end where he needs to make significant improvements so he can gain the trust and respect of his head coach Lionel Hollins. Everyone knows about how well Hollins’ teams played defense in Memphis. The Grizzlies finished in the top-10 in defensive efficiency in each of the coach’s final three seasons there.
Bogdanovic gambled on D a lot in Spain -- and the results weren’t pretty. In this respect, patience is going to be necessary -- especially since the 6-7 sharpshooter will be getting acclimated to the NBA game.
Hollins was very complementary when asked about Bogdanovic’s game. The Nets think very highly of the prospect, and they’re probably very eager to see what he can do on the court.
But he’s probably going to have to earn his minutes. Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko, a pair of hard-nosed, defensive-minded players, also can play small forward. Anderson and Kirilenko have track records. They are veterans who have garnered respect.
Bogdanovic has to earn his. He’s about to get a lot thrown at him. If he’s going to become a solid rotation player -- or more -- in the years to come, he’s going to have to be able to handle it.
Mirza Teletovic, who went through the same type of transition just a couple years ago, should be a big help.
But Bogdanovic must gain the trust and respect of both his coach and his fellow teammates. He’s got a lot to prove.
If Hollins decides to go the traditional route, Andrei Kirilenko would be a candidate to start. Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson or Jarrett Jack are other options Hollins could pick from to join the starting five.
Kirilenko, who completed his 12th year in the NBA last season, has started 546 games during his career. But when he came to the Nets in 2013-14, Kirilenko didn’t care if he started or came off the bench. He just wanted to get consistent minutes.
And that stance hasn’t changed heading into the 2014-15 campaign. “If the coach wants me in the starting lineup, he’s going to put me in the starting lineup. If he wants me to come of the bench, I will come off the bench. I’ve never had a problem to be the guy who’s worried about the position. I’m more worried about the game time,” Kirilenko told reporters at D-Will’s Celebrity Dodge Barrage charity event in Manhattan.
“If you’re playing 25-30 minutes a game, it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from: the bench or the the starting lineup, that’s the only concern I have.”
Kirilenko’s minutes fluctuated frequently under former coach Jason Kidd. In the playoffs, they looked like this: 0, 20, 17, 15, 4, 14, 3, 13, 0, 19, 15, 26.
When asked if he believes he’ll have a better, more solid understanding of his role under Hollins, Kirilenko responded, “I’m 100 percent sure it’s gonna be different.”
Most professional athletes like consistency. They like to know their role. It makes perfect sense.
Kirilenko was supposed to have a huge impact last season. He did sporadically. But persistent back injuries caused him to miss 37 games.
Asked how he feels, Kirilenko responded, “pretty good,” adding that he has been working out with his teammates and coaches at the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J.
Kirilenko likes that Hollins’ teams in Memphis always played “structured basketball,” and believes the coach will bring that structure to Brooklyn.
Throughout his career, Kirilenko has been known for his versatility and unique ability to guard multiple positions. He plays with energy and enthusiasm.
Hollins, a defensive-minded coach, will probably enjoy having Kirilenko on his roster -- assuming the 33-year-old can stay healthy, of course.
Instead, Williams and Kidd’s partnership in Brooklyn lasted just one season, after Kidd departed for Milwaukee in late June.
Williams said the two haven’t spoken since Kidd left.
A year ago, Williams and Kidd were about to begin their first season together as player and coach. Kidd was supposed to get Williams back to playing like an elite point guard.
Williams, though, was not healthy and had issues with his ankle going into training camp. He would need surgery on both of his ankles after the season.
Williams said he is looking forward to being healthy and ready to go for the start of camp Sept. 27.
“Last year was tough," Williams said. "I missed pretty much all of training camp, most of the preseason. I practiced one time, played nine minutes in a preseason game and was thrown into the fire. I was probably about 60 to 70 percent. It is definitely different this year. I think it’s great that I will be able to participate in training camp and I am practicing with the guys right now.”
"[Returning to All-Star form is] definitely the plan," he continued. "Anytime you can’t walk, you can’t run, you can’t jump, it’s hard to play basketball, especially in this league. The only thing I wish is that I would’ve gotten surgery earlier. But what can you do? ... I’m ready to go now, and I’m excited about the season."
Williams is looking forward to forging a “great relationship” with new coach Lionel Hollins. But he also wishes Kidd the best.
“I don’t even know enough about the situation,” Williams said when asked whether he was disappointed to see Kidd leave. “I have heard a lot of different things, as you guys probably have. I don’t know what exactly happened, but we are excited about Lionel Hollins being our next coach. We wish J-Kidd the best of luck in Milwaukee, but we are excited about Lionel.”
Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge -- Williams held his annual Dodgeball charity event, and several of his teammates joined him. Andrei Kirilenko, Mason Plumlee, Jarrett Jack, Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson, Sergey Karasev and coach Hollins were among those who attended the event.
"There is nobody in the gym that I would put in his place," Hollins said at Deron Williams' Celebrity Dodge Barrage event at Basketball City. "He has earned the right to have that opportunity to be the starter from Day One. Somebody has to knock him out, it's got to be like a heavyweight fight. I don't really see that happening."
Hollins said he got to sit down with Garnett after the forward decided to return for a 20th season with the Nets. This is his final season under contract with Brooklyn worth $12 million.
Garnett spent the early part of the offseason laying low in California. It was a busy and dramatic offseason for the Nets with the departure of Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce. Garnett waived his no-trade clause last summer to accept a deal to the Nets from Boston to join Kidd in Brooklyn and continue playing alongside Pierce.
Garnett recently has been working out with Nets teammates in New Jersey.
Yeah, that’s something we didn’t think we’d write when this offseason began.
One minute, Plumlee was playing in the Summer League with the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando.
The next, he was playing in the Gold Medal game with Team USA in Spain.
Team USA ended up easily defeating Serbia, 129-92, on Sunday.
Plumlee had one point and four rebounds in the game. He averaged 2.2 points and 2.0 rebounds during the nine-game tournament.
Remember when some were complaining that Plumlee was selected to the team?
Yeah, that proved to be a big waste of time.
Plumlee performed just fine in his role as an end-of-the-bench big man. And he has a gold medal to show for his efforts.
Now, the 24-year-old should be pretty confident once he begins training camp with the Nets in two weeks.
Today’s question: Who is the Nets’ most important bench player?
In his first season as a Net, Jarrett Jack will be the most important sub for Lionel Hollins.
The Nets are hoping Jack can be the super-sub that he was for the Golden State Warriors. Jack averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists while hitting 45.2 percent of his shots just two seasons ago, and he hit big shots in the postseason for Golden State.
With the Nets, Jack could be Hollins’ sixth man. He can spell Deron Williams at point guard and run the second unit. He also could potentially play alongside Williams.
In many ways, Jack will have to replace Shaun Livingston, who signed with Golden State in July; he could play multiple positions and often played alongside Williams.
The Nets have plenty of key contributors coming off the bench this season. Mason Plumlee is looking to continue his rise after helping Team USA win gold at the World Cup. With Brook Lopez coming off surgery and Kevin Garnett likely playing on minutes restriction this season, Plumlee will be a key big for the Nets and should see more minutes than his rookie season.
Andrei Kirilenko will be needed to provide energy, defense and his unique hustle plays. Mirza Teletovic will be looking to show that last season’s breakout year was no fluke and that he will continue to provide dead-eye shooting. And Alan Anderson should play a key role as Hollins’ best defender off the bench.
The Nets also hope to develop youngsters like Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev and Markel Brown.
But Jack will be needed to provide a bit of everything. He has to give the team a boost off the bench, be able to heat up and hit some big shots, spell Williams, be ready to play both guard positions, and give the team an edge and provide some leadership with the second unit.
With Williams coming off surgeries on his ankles, Jack could see a bigger role early in the season and provide the Nets with a potential starter if Williams needs a night to rest his ankles. If Jack plays the way he did two seasons ago for the Warriors, the Nets will be thrilled with their offseason acquisition.
Question: Who do you think is the Nets' most important bench player?
“I have known him since we were 15 years old,” King said Thursday. “He is like a brother to me and he is the furthest thing from a racist.”
Audio obtained by ESPN and other media outlets confirmed that Ferry used racial comments during a conference call with ownership in the offseason regarding free agent Luol Deng.
" Andrei Kirilenko’s home in Utah was burglarized this past weekend, according to the Desert News.