Derrick Favors gets first NBA start

NEWARK, N.J. -- The time has finally come.

New Jersey Nets rookie power forward Derrick Favors made his first NBA start on Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls.

Head coach Avery Johnson announced the move during his pregame news conference with reporters.

"This has been planned for some time now for him to start his first game here in the new year at home," Johnson said. "He's had about 34 games to get some experience coming off the bench and he's played against the Bulls before so we thought this would be a good game for him to get his first NBA start."

The 19-year-old, the youngest player in the league, had come off the bench in his previous 33 games. He did not play on Dec. 9 against the Dallas Mavericks.

"I'm excited," said Favors before the game, who is averaging 6.4 points and 5.1 rebounds and shooting .564 percent from the field in 18.7 minutes per game. "I'm pretty much just going to start the game with a lot of energy and just try to get myself going. Trying to just block shots, play defense, just play hard."

Johnson said he spoke with former starter Kris Humphries about the plan after the Nets took on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Dec. 29.

"He clearly understands what is going on," Johnson said of Humphries, who had flourished ever since the team inserted him in the starting role on Nov. 10 and is averaging 7.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.

Johnson had been receiving questions frequently on when Favors would finally join the starting unit after he announced early in the season that the team's No. 3 overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft would start approximately 30 or so games into the season. It took 34.

Favors has been the subject of persistent trade rumors involving Denver Nuggets superstar swingman Carmelo Anthony. And speculation is that the Nets are putting him into the starting lineup to showcase him to the Nuggets and other teams who might be interested in his services.

"I still might get traded," Favors said. "You never know. The NBA is a business so I don't know."

Favors was asked if he felt more secure about his future in New Jersey now that he's going to be starting regularly.

"I don't feel that it does," Favors said. "The NBA is a business. Just because I'm starting now, doesn't mean they're not going to trade me."

Johnson said that Favors' minutes will likely go up from the "18-22" range to the "22-26" range depending on how the game progresses.

"We've been working him in the starting unit in practice for a week or two now," Johnson said. "We think this is going to be a great opportunity for him.

"He got a new haircut. And he probably couldn't sleep last night."

Favors said he feels a lot more comfortable now than he did at the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign.

"I think I'm ready now to take on the responsibility that Coach gave me," Favors said.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.