Plumlee thinks he'll make Team USA roster

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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NEW YORK -- Despite not getting any playing time in Team USA’s 105-62 blowout exhibition victory over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, Brooklyn Nets big man Mason Plumlee remains confident that he is going to make the World Cup-bound squad.

And why shouldn’t he?

[+] EnlargeMason Plumlee
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty ImagesMason Plumlee has made the most out of his Team USA opportunity.
After all, Plumlee has made the most of his opportunity since he was promoted from the Select Team in Las Vegas, impressing in both practices and games.

“It is [nerve-wracking],” Plumlee said. “But it’s been such a long period of time. I was nervous in Vegas, but at this point, I’m just gonna show up, play my game, do what I can do.

“I feel very good about how I’ve played ... so I’m very confident with where I stand.”

Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said they wanted to get a look at fellow reserve big man Andre Drummond on Wednesday night, which meant Plumlee would have to sit out. Coach K added that there will be no cuts before Friday night’s exhibition game against Puerto Rico at MSG. Sixteen players are currently vying for 12 spots.

“Some guys didn’t play in Chicago, and then some guys didn’t play here, so I was just one of those guys,” said Plumlee, who had nine points, four rebounds and three steals in 15 minutes off the bench in Saturday’s 95-78 exhibition victory over Brazil. “I’m not looking too much into it. I feel like I’ve had a strong body of work since Vegas, so I’m just getting ready for Friday.”

Drummond, the freakishly athletic 20-year-old, who possesses a world of potential, had 12 points and five rebounds in 16 minutes on Wednesday night. But the Dominican Republic isn’t exactly considered a favorite, so it’s unknown how much stock the coaching staff and managing director Jerry Colangelo will place on Drummond’s performance.

DeMarcus Cousins, who is also in the mix for a frontcourt reserve spot behind projected starters Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried, had two points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes.

Many feel Plumlee, who is entering just his second NBA season after being named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2013-14, is only getting this opportunity because he played for Coach K at Duke. But Plumlee continues to maintain that there is no “favoritism,” -- something we discussed in the blog previously.

In this case, it’s about fit, not necessarily overall talent. But while Plumlee may be the least accomplished player in the mix, he’s certainly getting better by competing against some of the best big men in the world.

“You can’t play a pickup game like this in the summer,” Plumlee said. “It’s a great experience for all of us. And we’re going to become better players because of it.”

“I’m stick around until they tell me to go home.”

Brook Lopez: I'll be ready for regular season

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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NEW YORK -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez, looking noticeably slimmer at a community event Wednesday at Barclays Center, reiterated that there is “no question” he will be ready to play at the beginning of the season.

Lopez, who said he just got cleared to begin running last Monday, is recovering from foot and ankle surgery. He was limited to 17 games last season.

“I’ve tried to remain positive. Finally being back is a great feeling. I’ve never been so excited to do little things like jump rope, stretch and run a little,” Lopez said at a Coca-Cola-sponsored event to promote healthy lifestyles for Boys and Girls Club teenagers in Flatbush. “But there’s no question I’m going to be ready to go at the beginning of the season.”

[+] EnlargeBrook Lopez
David Santiago/Getty ImagesBrook Lopez is recovering from foot and ankle surgery.
Lopez has been working at the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey, running, jumping, shooting and doing defensive slide drills, as he makes his way back from injury.

He says he currently weighs just under 275 pounds -- a weight he says is normal for him.

“I’m definitely more comfortable, but I think that just comes with being more active again,” Lopez said.

Asked about learning how to run again after having a bone repositioned in his foot as part of the surgery, Lopez said, “It’s good. I feel like I still have to get more power under my legs in general. I’m not worried about my feet. It’s getting the power back in my lower legs I lost when I had to lie around.”

He doesn’t know when he will be able to play 5-on-5, noting that many of his teammates are still away, meaning it would be pretty hard to make that happen. The Nets open training camp on Sept. 27.

The Nets are going to need their 26-year-old center to be healthy and productive. They lost Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards but are hopeful that Lopez’s ability to score in the post makes up for the departure of the championship-winning veteran.

“I view it that Washington made a great pickup,” Lopez said. “It’s a great place for ‘Truth’ to be. But we have to focus on what we have here and the way Mason [Plumlee] has been growing this summer and the fact that D-Will [Deron Williams] will be healthy, I will be healthy, and the other players will continue to grow. We’ve gained a lot.”

Plumlee is currently vying for a spot on Team USA’s roster in advance of the World Cup.

Lopez believes the two young bigs could form a formidable frontcourt tandem for Brooklyn.

“I think we complement each other very well,” Lopez said. “He likes to get up-and-down the floor, he’s athletic, but I think the most important thing, though, is as long as we have high basketball IQ players who are unselfish and are willing to do whatever it takes for the team’s game, five of those players on the floor and we’ll be all right.”

Lopez has spoken with new coach Lionel Hollins.

“I’ve met with him. I love what he did in Memphis,” Lopez said. “He had some great teams out there, and my high school teammate Quincy [Pondexter] played for him and learned a lot under him and grew as a player, so I hope to do the same.”

Lopez should be able to play in the post in Hollins’ offensive system, something he may have had to change with Jason Kidd at the helm.

“I know I can go out there and play, but whatever role he has for me, I’ll gladly accept it,” Lopez said.

Burning Q's: What to expect from Bojan?

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining some burning questions with the Brooklyn Nets.

Today’s question: What can be expected from Bojan Bogdanovic?

In the history of the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award (1952-53), only two players who were born outside the United States have ever captured the honor: Pau Gasol (Spain, 2001-02) and Kyrie Irving (2011-12, Australia). (Disclaimer: Irving moved to the U.S. when he was 2).

That doesn’t mean Bojan Bogdanovic can’t become the third. It just means the odds are heavily against him.

Reason being, many foreign players struggle to get acclimated to the NBA game
(I examined this in more detail on the blog here).

Bogdanovic, 25, played his last three seasons for Fenerbahce Ulker of the Turkish League after the Nets acquired his rights on draft night in 2011.

The Nets finally brought Bogdanovic over this summer, giving him a three-year, $10 million contract.

I’ve asked several people in the know what type of player the Nets are getting. The consensus: Bogdanovic projects as a rotation piece. He’s going to have a tough time on defense, but offensively is where he can really thrive. He’s a proficient perimeter shooter who possesses the ability to drive.

For his career in the Euroleague, Bogdanovic averaged nearly 14 points and shot nearly 36 percent from 3-point territory.

The potential is definitely there. Now it’s just a matter of Bogdanovic really engrossing himself in trying to get better and continually looking to improve his game.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Nets fans should definitely temper their expectations for Bogdanovic.

He’s going to have to prove himself to new coach Lionel Hollins. But, with the departure of Paul Pierce, it seems like Bogdanovic is going to get an opportunity to contribute.

It’s up to the 6-foot-7 sharpshooter to seize it.

Sore Derrick Rose sits out practice

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
4:15
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[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose sat out of practice Tuesday to rest his knees but is expected to play in Team USA's exhibition Wednesday night.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Derrick Rose sat out his second consecutive day of practice Tuesday to rest his surgically repaired knees but is still scheduled to play for Team USA in its exhibition game Wednesday night against the Dominican Republic at Madison Square Garden.

Rose participated in shootaround Wednesday morning and, according to one source present, moved "well" throughout after sitting out the last two practices.

A source familiar with Rose's condition told ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell that Rose has been bothered by knee soreness since his return to the floor Saturday night in an exhibition victory over Brazil in Chicago and requested the extra time to recover. But Team USA officials, to this point, have downplayed concerns about Rose's status.

The fact that Rose missed a second consecutive workout is bound to worry some Bulls fans back in Chicago, given the star guard's knee problems over the past two seasons, but Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski actually revealed in a radio interview Monday with ESPN's "Mike and Mike" that he was planning to hold Rose out of practice for the first two days of the week.

"We're gonna give him a couple days off because he's been going so hard," Krzyzewski said during the interview, which he gave en route to Team USA's all-day trip Monday to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Krzyzewski said after Tuesday's session at the Brooklyn Nets


(Read full post)


Can Hollins get D-Will back on track?

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
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Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King believes point guard Deron Williams, currently recovering from offseason surgery on both ankles, is ready to go physically and mentally.

“He’s out to prove to people that he’s still one of the elite point guards in the league,” King said Monday during an interview on SiriusXM Radio. “And I think that’s gonna benefit us as well.”

Williams
Williams
Williams, a three-time All-Star, averaged just 14.3 points and 6.1 assists last season.

But King believes new coach Lionel Hollins will be able to get the most out of the 30-year-old veteran. Hollins coached against Williams when Hollins was coaching in Memphis and Williams was playing in Utah.

“[Lionel’s] ready for the challenge to get him back to that level,” King said.

Asked about Hollins' taking over following Jason Kidd’s stunning departure for Milwaukee, King said: “I think he’s ready for the challenge. I’m excited because he’s gonna push these guys. He’s not gonna back off of them.”

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• King also reiterated his belief that big man Kevin Garnett will return for a 20th season in the NBA. Garnett, however, has yet to make that decision official. The 38-year-old veteran is under contract for 2014-15 at $12 million.

“I’ve said it every time; we’re expecting Kevin to be back,” King said. “Nothing has wavered. I haven’t wavered in anything I’ve said. He’s planning on being back, and so we expect him when the season starts. I think Doc Rivers said it best: Kevin is probably one of the few guys that when the season is over, he goes away and gets his body mentally and physically recharged. I know he’s been working out sooner this year than he did last year because his body felt better, so we expect him back.”

• King said his best advice to second-year big man Mason Plumlee, currently vying for a spot on Team USA, is to “take advantage of every day you have, whether it’s a practice or a game, because it’s only going to make you better this season.”

King is glad that Plumlee is getting a chance to compete against some of the best players in the league -- as far as improving his scoring and defense is concerned.

King: No restrictions placed on Lopez

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
1:48
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Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King said during a radio interview Monday that there is currently no plan in place to put any restrictions on center Brook Lopez this season.

However, King said team brass will meet with Lopez and doctors before determining how to proceed.

Lopez had recently been cleared to resume basketball activities as he continues to rehab from foot and ankle surgery.

“We will sit down with him and the doctors and come up with a plan,” King said during an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio.

lastname
Lopez
“Right now, there is no plan to put any restrictions on him, but I think as we do with all players through the preseason -- whether you’re looking at KG [Kevin Garnett] or Deron [Williams], who’s coming off of ankle injuries -- you build them up. You get them ready for the opening day of the season, but you’re really getting them ready for January, February, March and April. So I look at it like climbing a ladder throughout the season when you have veteran players. But I know [new coach] Lionel [Hollins] is gonna push all these guys and challenge them physically. And whatever doctors allow Brook and Deron to do, Lionel is going to push them to that point.”

Lopez, 26, suffered a season-ending right foot injury on Dec. 20 in Philadelphia. He underwent surgery to repair the fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot on Jan. 4. He also underwent a second procedure, called a first metatarsal osteotomy, in which another bone was repositioned in his foot to unload and protect the injured area.

Then on March 3, Lopez had surgery to repair a torn tendon and tighten lateral ligaments in his left ankle. He had been doing some shooting and workout drills before being cleared.

Former Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas underwent the osteotomy procedure in February 2001. He returned in December 2001 and averaged just 21.4 minutes while starting only 23 of the 62 games in which he appeared.

The next season, Ilgauskas missed just one game, averaging a career-high 17.2 points in 30 minutes.

Back in late June, King didn’t want to compare Lopez and Ilgauskas. But given Lopez’s importance to the Nets, it’s very plausible that they'll ease him back -- perhaps by limiting his minutes and giving him extra rest -- in order to make sure he’s healthy by the time the playoffs start.

Lopez was averaging a career-high 20.7 points and 56.3 percent shooting in 17 games before he was lost for the season in 2013-14.

“Brook is a big part for us,” King said. “If you look at what Derrick Rose meant to Chicago, I think Brook for us, especially offensively, was a big part of the success we’ve had here. Last year, I think we were able to overcome it and go far because of our depth, but I think missing Brook didn’t allow us to go further, because you needed that post presence, somebody that could get easy baskets.”

King added that Lopez has been working out at the team’s practice facility in East Rutherford, N.J., on a daily basis in order to get ready for the 2014-15 campaign.

Burning Q's: Can Brooklyn rebound?

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
11:32
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Last season, the Nets finished second-to-last in both rebounds per game and rebound rate (the percentage of missed shots that a team rebounds). Only the Los Angeles Lakers were worse in those categories.

Former coach Jason Kidd was asked about his team’s inability to rebound all year long, but the problem never went away. The Nets, who began thriving when they went small/long, were able to somewhat overcome that weakness because of their ability to force turnovers, but it definitely hurt them.

So how did they go about fixing their rebounding problem this summer?

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett
AP Photo/Kathy WillensKevin Garnett led the Nets in rebounding in 2013-14, averaging just 6.6 rebounds per game.
Umm ... Well ... they didn’t.

Therefore, it’s going to have to be rectified internally. The hope is that new coach Lionel Hollins can help in the rebounding department.

In his final three seasons in Memphis, the Grizzlies finished second (2009-10), tied for ninth (10-11) and 11th (11-12) in rebounding rate.

The difference, of course, is that Hollins no longer has board-snatchers like Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol at his disposal.

Kevin Garnett, who is expected to return for his 20th season in 2014-15, averaged just 6.6 rebounds per game last season, which led the team. Brook Lopez, who is coming off foot and ankle surgery, averaged 6.0 rebounds in just 17 games. Andray Blatche (5.3) and Paul Pierce (4.5) are gone.

The onus, then, falls on Lopez, who has never been a great rebounder, Mason Plumlee (4.4) and Andrei Kirilenko (2.3), who was hurt most of last season, to really step up and grab some caroms next season. Perhaps rookie Corey Jefferson figures in the mix as well.

We asked ESPN Stats & Information (via the Elias Sports Bureau) to provide some perspective on Garnett being the team’s leading returning rebounder given his low average.

Garnett’s average (6.6) was the lowest among leaders in the NBA (min. 50 games played). It was also the lowest by a team leader in a season since the shortened 2011-12 season (min. 40 games played): Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte (5.8) and Tristan Thompson, Cleveland (6.5).

Rebounding is obviously a key aspect of basketball. Hollins is known to utilize more traditional two-big-men lineups, which should help. And if Lopez and Plumlee improve and Kirilenko stays healthy, that should help as well.

But this rebounding problem is definitely something that could haunt the Nets if they don’t fix it.

Forecast: Team turmoil in 2014-15

August, 17, 2014
Aug 17
5:39
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Which team is headed for some unhappy times this season?

Our Summer Forecast rolls on with predictions for Team Turmoil -- the squad that will have some unsettling experiences in the 2014-15 season as voted on by our ESPN Forecast team.

To participate in the discussion and perhaps get your opinion published on this page, #ESPNForecast is the Twitter hashtag to use. Or you can just follow along @ESPNNBA.


(Read full post)


Burning Q's: How much does KG have left?

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
8:00
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Kevin GarnettESPN IllustrationIf Kevin Garnett returns, how much value can he still bring to the Nets?
With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining some burning questions with the Brooklyn Nets.

Today’s question: How much does Kevin Garnett have left?

The Nets have said that all indications are that Garnett is returning for a 20th season.

However, the Boston Globe recently caught up with Garnett’s old coach Doc Rivers. He said he has been in touch with Garnett and that he wasn’t totally sure what Garnett will do.

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“We talked a couple of times, but the worst time I could talk to Kevin is right after the season, but I hear both [that he wants to play and that he wants to retire],” Rivers told the Globe. “I get a feeling he still wants to play, but I just don’t know.

“Kevin, in the summer, goes into hiding. Which is something I’ve always had a lot of respect for. I think more players should do that instead of doing all the stuff all summer; you see players everywhere. The reason Kevin has been able to play so long is during the offseason he goes underground. He recuperates. Not just physically.”

Let’s just assume Garnett returns, which raises the question: How much does he have left?

That question is really more for the playoffs than the regular season. I just don’t see the Nets playing Garnett a lot in the regular season as Lionel Hollins will likely take a similar approach to Jason Kidd by resting Garnett on back-to-backs and limiting his minutes.

Garnett averaged 20.5 minutes a game last season and might average slightly less than that this campaign. He played in 54 games in 2013-14 and will probably play around that number or fewer if his health holds up. He averaged 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, but his value is more than statistics. It’s his ability to communicate on defense and get guys in the right place. His experience and leadership on and off the floor is valuable, and he can mentor Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee.

If Hollins can keep Garnett’s playing time down, I think KG can provide the Nets with 20 minutes of solid defense and rebounding in the playoffs. That could be plenty if Lopez is healthy and playing at full strength in the postseason.

If Lopez is healthy, the Nets won’t have to rely as heavily as they did on Garnett in the paint in the second round of the playoffs against the Heat. Also, Plumlee, a promising young big man, should continue to develop. So Garnett should have enough left in the tank to help the Nets similar to last season.

I know he faded down the stretch in that second round. I think he can be more like he was in the first round against Toronto, when he scored in double figures in four of the seven games and posted a double-double in Game 7.

Perhaps the bigger question with Garnett is how happy he will be this season. His close buddy Paul Pierce has gone to Washington after the Nets opted to go in a different direction. Kidd, the coach who helped persuade Garnett to waive his no-trade clause to come to Brooklyn in the first place, is also gone.

KG is a professional, though. If he decides to return, he will give all that he has on the court. And I think he has enough left in the tank to still be a key contributor.

Nets' Schedule Announced

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
7:45
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video

ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk previews the Nets' 2014-15 schedule.

Five Nets games to watch in 2014-15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
6:08
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It’s the middle of August, but the schedule is out, and here are five Nets games I'm looking forward to:

1. Nets vs. Knicks, Nov. 7: Some of the characters (Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce) have changed, but the storyline remains the same. The Nets and Knicks always enjoy playing each other. Even though the two franchises are splitting All-Star Weekend, James Dolan and Mikhail Prokhorov never mind a win over the local rival.

2. Nets vs. Bucks, Nov. 19: Kidd returns to Brooklyn after a sudden and dramatic divorce last June. Kidd may be in Milwaukee with his new team, but fans will remind Kidd that he’s back in Brooklyn -- and they'll let him know how they feel about his departure.
3. Nets vs. Cavaliers, Dec. 8: The Nets swept LeBron James in the regular season before being eliminated by James and the Heat in the second round. Now LeBron has moved to Cleveland. The Nets played a small role in helping Cleveland land James by trading for Jarrett Jack. Brooklyn is realistic about its title hopes, and that’s why it passed on re-signing Pierce. Still, the Nets will want to see how they fare against the East’s overwhelming favorite.

4. Nets at Raptors, Dec. 17: The Nets and Raptors renew their budding rivalry after a thrilling seven-game battle in the first round from this past postseason. This time, the Nets won’t have Pierce to come up with a big block. Nevertheless, Nets-Raptors should still have some spark to it as Brooklyn battles Toronto for the division.

5. Nets at Wizards, Jan. 16: After trading three first-round picks in a blockbuster deal to land Pierce and Kevin Garnett last summer, the Nets opted not to make an offer to re-sign Pierce this July. Pierce ended up going to Washington to mentor John Wall and Bradley Beal. Something tells us The Truth will be looking to remind the Nets what they passed up on this summer.

Rapid Reaction: Nets' 2014-15 schedule

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
6:05
PM ET
The Brooklyn Nets' 2014-15 schedule has been released. Here's our quick take:

Season opener: The Nets kick off the season in Boston on Oct. 29 at TD Garden. All indications are that former Celtic Kevin Garnett will return for his 20th season in the NBA, but nothing is official. Assuming they’re ready, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams will play in their first official games post-surgery, while rookie Bojan Bogdanovic will make his highly anticipated NBA debut.

Home opener: The Nets will open their Barclays Center schedule against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 3. Will Durant’s agent Jay Z be in attendance? The summer of 2016 can’t get here fast enough.

Kidd comes back: Former coach Jason Kidd, who abruptly left the Nets after just one season to become coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, returns to Brooklyn for the first time Nov. 19. The Bucks also come to town March 20.

East River rivalry: This season’s Nets-New York Knicks matchups will take place on Nov. 7 (home), Dec. 2 (Madison Square Garden), Feb. 6 (home) and April 1 (MSG).

Facing the King: The Nets take on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 8 (home), Dec. 19 (road), March 18 (road) and March 27 (home).

Walking in Memphis: New Nets coach Lionel Hollins, who coached the Grizzlies to a 56-win season and a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2011-12, returns to Memphis on Feb. 10.

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How far will the 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets go?

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No X-Mas game: Nope. Not this season. The Nets were blown out on Christmas Day the past two seasons anyway, so perhaps that’s a good thing. They also don’t play on New Year’s Eve, which means no beatdown in San Antonio.

Road warriors: The Nets play eight straight games away from home spanning three weeks from Feb. 7 to Feb. 28. They take on Washington (Feb. 7), Milwaukee (Feb. 9) and Memphis (Feb. 10). Then comes the All-Star break, so they don’t play again for 10 days. Trips to Los Angeles (Feb. 20 at Lakers), Denver (Feb. 23), New Orleans (Feb. 25), Houston (Feb. 27) and Dallas (Feb. 28) follow.

Remember me? Paul Pierce and the Washington Wizards visit Barclays Center on Jan. 17 and April 10. Shaun Livingston and the Golden State Warriors come into town March 2.

Back-to-backs: The Nets have 19 back-to-back sets this season: two in November, five in December, four in January, three in February, two in March, one bridging March and April and two more in April. Remember, Garnett and Lopez could be restricted as far as back-to-backs are concerned.

Other notable home dates: Nov. 5 (Minnesota, and Andrew Wiggins?), Nov. 30 (Chicago, Derrick Rose time), Dec. 3 (San Antonio, defending champions), Jan. 12 (Houston, will Dwight Howard ever play in Barclays Center?) and Jan. 30 (Toronto, the other Atlantic rival comes to town).

The good news: The Nets play eight of their last 11 games at home -- and one of the remaining three road games is in Manhattan. They close out the 2014-15 campaign with a home date against the Orlando Magic on April 15.

NBA releases 2014-15 schedule

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
4:35
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video

Playoff rematches, star players returning from injuries and a heavy dose of the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers are among the highlights of the NBA's early schedule, the full version of which was released Wednesday.

The always-anticipated Christmas Day schedule includes LeBron James' return to Miami as the featured game at 5 p.m. ET on ABC, a renewal of the Western Conference finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder visiting the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs and a rivalry game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers.

Perhaps the highlight of the schedule for players, though, is new commissioner Adam Silver's response to stars' request for a lengthier midseason break. Each team now will have a full week off around All-Star Weekend in February so players who take part in the events in New York still will receive some additional time off.

The season will open Tuesday, Oct. 28, with the traditional ring night ceremony as the Spurs host the Dallas Mavericks


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Burning Q's: Can Nets stay healthy?

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
2:17
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NetsJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesWill the Nets be doubled over in laughter or in pain this coming season?
With training camp six weeks away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the Brooklyn Nets.

Today's question: Can they stay healthy?

ESPN’s Summer Forecast predicted the Nets would finish in eighth place in the Eastern Conference next season with a record of 39-43. Many Nets fans weren’t exactly thrilled with that prediction when I posted it on Twitter.

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Sure, they still have to play the games, but based on what’s happened over the summer, Cleveland (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love?) and Chicago (Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah) appear to have emerged as the class of the East. The next tier includes the likes of Washington (John Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce), Toronto (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas) and Charlotte (Al Jefferson, Lance Stephenson, Kemba Walker).

The Nets could find themselves in that grouping -- if they stay healthy. And that’s a big “if.”

Obviously, they’re only going to go as far as Deron Williams and Brook Lopez take them. Both are former All-Stars and certainly capable of playing at an extremely high level. But Williams is coming off dual ankle surgery, and Lopez is coming off foot and ankle surgery. Both are progressing well in their rehab, but it’s unknown how much they will be able to produce this season.

Joe Johnson, 33, arguably the best player on the team, has been extremely durable throughout his career. He missed just three games all of last season. Andrei Kirilenko, 33, however, missed 37 games -- mostly due to back spasms. He says he’s healthy, but he’s obviously going to have to prove it.

Assuming Kevin Garnett returns for his 20th season, the 38-year-old big man will likely be on a minutes/no back-to-backs restriction as the Nets try to conserve him and his back for the long haul. Lopez could find himself in a similar situation. That’s why a guy such as Mason Plumlee is so important. Plumlee, 24, needs to stay healthy. No question about that.

Over the summer, the Nets lost three of their most durable players -- Shaun Livingston (76 games played), Pierce (75) and Andray Blatche (73) -- but Alan Anderson (78) is back, and newcomer Jarrett Jack has missed just five games over his past two seasons. Mirza Teletovic and rookie Bojan Bogdanovic figure to both see their fair share of playing time, too.

Last season, the Nets were decimated by injury, missing a combined 181 games due to injury and illness, which necessitated the use of 24 different starting lineups. They’re younger heading into the 2014-15 campaign, but they really can’t afford to have any of their key players miss significant time. New coach Lionel Hollins is going to be implementing new systems, and he needs to have his players on the court to do so. That job won’t be easy if guys are in and out of the lineup. Building and maintaining both continuity and chemistry is going to be key.

Is Joe Johnson a future HOFer?

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
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When I think about Joe Johnson's career, two games stand out above the rest: Game 4 against the Boston Celtics in 2008 and Game 5 against the Miami Heat in 2014.

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Do you think Joe Johnson is a future Hall of Famer?

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    48%

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Johnson was flat-out unstoppable in both games. He scored at will. He hit several jaw-dropping shots. It’s what he does best.

On Tuesday, ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton examined Johnson’s chances of making it to the Hall of Fame and surmised the following:

Career WARP: 66.0

Basketball-Reference HOF probability: 24.6 percent

Johnson's candidacy inspired this list, specifically because of his similarity to [Mitch] Richmond's numbers and career. Like Richmond, Johnson's advanced stats are unimpressive, but his consistent scoring has added up. While nobody thinks of it as a magic number such as 3,000 career hits in baseball, all but one eligible player with at least 20,000 career points has been voted to the Hall of Fame. (Tom Chambers is the exception.) Johnson, with 17,000-plus points at age 33, stands an excellent chance of cracking 20K. Add in seven All-Star appearances -- more than recent Hall of Fame shooting guards Richmond (6), Joe Dumars (6), Dennis Johnson (5) and Reggie Miller (5) -- and it seems probable that Johnson will one day be immortalized in Springfield.


If you’re so inclined, a couple more Joe Johnson YouTube links from last season for your viewing pleasure.

Question: Is Johnson a Hall of Famer in your eyes? Let us know in the comments section below.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Brook Lopez
PTS AST STL MIN
20.7 0.9 0.5 31.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsK. Garnett 6.6
AssistsD. Williams 6.1
StealsD. Williams 1.5
BlocksB. Lopez 1.8