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Saturday, December 17, 2011
Christmas Countdown: New blood

By Mike Mazzeo

Continuing through Dec. 23, ESPNNewYork.com will run a series called "Christmas Countdown" examining a hot topic each day that involves the New Jersey Nets.

Today's Hot Topic: New blood

Last season, the Nets only had one 3-point specialist. This season, they have two.

So far, the Nets’ marquee free-agent acquisition has been Shawne Williams, who shot 40.1 percent from beyond the arc for the Knicks in 2010-11.

Williams is a welcome addition to a Nets’ team that ranked 22nd in the NBA in 3-point shooting last season. Opposing teams are not longer going to be able to hone in on Anthony Morrow -- the second-most accurate 3-point marksman in league history -- in the fourth quarter, and superstar point guard Deron Williams is going to find open shooters. That’s been his M.O. throughout his career. The way Deron Williams sees it, the more shooters, the better.

“You stick him in the game and he can make defenses pay when teams double-team Deron or Brook [Lopez] in the post and it gives guys room to operate,” coach Avery Johnson said of Shawne Williams, who signed a two-year deal worth a reported $6.1 million. “He had a bit of a breakthrough year last season, but he’s still a relatively young guy [25] and he wanted to be here.”

But New Jersey still has a major void to fill at the power forward spot. As of now, Shelden Williams, who was signed to a one-year contract worth the veteran’s minimum, is the starter. Shelden Williams can rebound and defend while providing a heady locker room presence, but he’s better served as a role player.

With $18.9 million remaining in cap space, the Nets could conceivably sign both Andrei Kirilenko and Kris Humphries to fill out their frontcourt, relegating Shawne Williams to the bench along with Jordan Farmar, rookie MarShon Brooks, second-year man Damion James and Shelden Williams, and giving the Nets a potentially potent second unit.

In a minor move, the Nets also signed 6-foot-5 forward Ime Udoka, who played 20 games in San Antonio last season, to a non-guaranteed deal. Udoka has experience and provides further depth. They also brought in assistants P.J. Carlesimo and Mario Elie to round out the coaching staff.

The Nets’ offseason haul hasn’t exactly turned heads, but Shawne and Shelden Williams and Udoka are all serviceable pieces that can help them reach their goal of making the playoffs.