Williams' basketball 'Game of Thrones'

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
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Now that’s how you dress up for Halloween.

Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams and his wife, Amy, went to a Halloween party Thursday night — and clearly some thought went into their costumes.

Deron went as Khal Drogo from the popular TV show Game of Thrones, while his wife went as Khaleesi.

Wonder how long D-Will’s makeup job took ...

 

Hollins: 'We're a work in progress'

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
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Despite his team’s surprisingly poor start to the season, Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins is confident they’ll eventually get it together.

“We’re a work in progress,” Hollins told Mike Lupica on ESPN New York 98.7 a day after Brooklyn’s 121-105 loss in Boston. “We haven’t had as much work as we would’ve liked after going on the China trip. We didn’t really have the days of practice that we would’ve liked, but it’s all part of growing and becoming a good team.

“I still believe we’re going to get there, but it’s going to take a lot of work by us as coaches and by the players, as well. I think they’re willing to put in the work, and we’re not going to be the same team in January and February.”

Expectations too high for Bogie? Expectations are high for rookie Bojan Bogdanovic. But are they realistic?

Bogdanovic had seven points in 26 minutes in his NBA debut Wednesday night. At times he may not have been as aggressive as he should’ve been, and did have a few lapses on the defensive end.

“There’s a lot of high expectations for him. I think maybe too high,” Hollins said. “What I see is a guy who has a lot of versatility, who can do a lot of different things, but there’s still an adjustment period in him coming over from Europe.”

Hollins did say he has confidence in Bogdanovic because he’s more mature than most rookies at age 25. Still, Hollins noted that Bogdanovic is still learning the NBA game and how it’s much more physical than Europe. Also, the travel schedule is much more grueling. For example, Hollins said, in Europe, Bogdanovic would do two-a-day practices and then play once a week. In the NBA, you might practice once in a week and play 4-5 times.

“He is a young player who will have to adapt and we hope his learning curve is very flat,” Hollins said.

Normal minutes for Brook: Hollins said that when center Brook Lopez (right midfoot sprain) returns to the lineup, he will receive “normal minutes.” Hollins also reiterated that he expects to play Kevin Garnett normal minutes, as well. Hollins said he may let the bench play more in back-to-backs, but feels stronger that his players need to be on the court together and develop cohesion.

Hollins did admit that it would be nice to have Lopez back as an anchor on offense. The Nets don’t have any other bigs they can consistently feed the ball to in the post, so they had to use smalls like Joe Johnson and Deron Williams to fill that role.

It’s unknown when Lopez will return to the lineup. The expectation has been one of the first three games, though Hollins said Lopez will still feel pain when “going hard.”

D-Will’s debut: Point guard Deron Williams’ first game of the season turned out to be a mixed bag.

Williams shot 1-for-7 in the first half and had four turnovers overall, but wound up with 19 points and eight assists in 39 minutes. His shot began to fall in the second half.

Williams, sporting tape on his right hand/wrist, finished 6-for-16 from the field -- 0-for-3 from 3-point range.
He showed explosiveness when dribbling, and had some solid stretches of play. His surgically-repaired ankles certainly don’t seem to be hindering him.

“I felt pretty good,” Williams said. “It’s been a while since I played my last game [Oct. 20 in the preseason]. There’s been a little bit of time off, so I was kinda rusty out there -- especially in the first half I missed a lot of shots, missed some layups. But I’ll play better. I think we’ll all play better than we did tonight. We’re still trying to gel as a team, trying to get our timing down.”

Said Hollins: “I’m looking forward to him having a good year. I just hope everyone doesn’t expect him to go out there and average 25 points a game. I thought he was really aggressive in the second half and he got us going.”

No. 21 binds Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
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Isaiah AustinBrian Babineau/Getty ImagesIsaiah Austin, who has Marfan syndrome, was honored before Wednesday's Nets-Celtics game.
BOSTON -- The No. 21 means a lot more to Brooklyn Nets rookie forward Cory Jefferson now.

He sees it on the front of his jersey every day. And it reminds him just how fortunate he is to be playing the game he loves at the highest level possible.

Five days before the 2014 draft, Jefferson found out that his former Baylor teammate and close friend, Isaiah Austin, would not be joining him in the NBA.

Austin had been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome -- a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. His NBA dream, which he had come so close to fulfilling, was over.

“When he got the news, it definitely hurt him,” Jefferson said. “I remember when he told me that he couldn’t play. It was a Saturday night, five days before the draft. He told me he wasn’t going to play anymore, and I went right over to see him.

“We just talked -- talked about everything -- but he’s definitely turned it into a positive thing, gotten his story out and helped people however he can.”

Since his diagnosis, Austin has become an inspirational speaker, taking his words of wisdom across the country.

“I think I’m coping with it pretty well,” Austin said. “It’s just something that I have to deal with, and it’s been a new beginning for me. I’ve met a lot of families and children affected by Marfan’s syndrome. These kids are warriors, and their strength inspires me.”

Austin’s strength inspired Jefferson. After speaking with him that night, Jefferson decided that he was going to wear No. 21.

“I didn’t tell him,” said Jefferson, who wore No. 34 in college. “I just did it. He liked it, just being able to see No. 21 still out there. Like I said, it means a lot more to me now.”

Wednesday night, the Celtics honored Austin for his courage and presented him with a framed No. 21 jersey.

Later, Jefferson -- this year’s “Mr. Irrelevant,” who made the Nets out of training camp -- scored eight points in his NBA debut.

Fittingly, Austin was in attendance to see it.

“[Cory’s] a guy that’s really worked to get where he is, and I’m really happy for him,” Austin said. “Because he really deserves it.”

The two were able to go out to dinner and catch up Tuesday night.

Their friendship remains strong -- connected now and forever by the No. 21.

“I’m still getting over it,” Austin said. “I still miss the game every day of my life. At the same time, I know I have a different path that I’m taking and journey that I’m on right now. I’m not dwelling on it. I’m moving forward and I’m staying positive.”

Nets begin Lionel Hollins era with a dud

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
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BOSTON -- Lionel Hollins wants to foster a culture of toughness and aggressiveness with Brooklyn, especially on the defensive end.

If Wednesday night’s regular-season opener was any indication, the new Nets coach has his work cut out for him.

In what came as a surprise, the Nets were blown out of TD Garden by the rebuilding Boston Celtics, 121-105. Brooklyn allowed Boston to shoot 61.4 percent from the field and score 101 points through the first three quarters. The Nets surrendered 62 points in the paint and trailed by as many as 29.

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaIt was a very frustrating night for Kevin Garnett and the Brooklyn Nets.
“We just looked like crap out there,” Nets guard Deron Williams said, succinctly.

During the preseason, Williams said the Nets were “lazy” on defense and he was “disappointed” in the team’s performance on that end of the floor. The games matter in the standings now, yet nothing’s changed.

It was more of the same miscommunication and lack of effort. The Nets couldn’t defend the pick-and-roll, allowed the Celtics to get easy straight-line drives to the basket, didn’t rotate over to Boston's shooters on the weak side of the floor, and were abused down low.

They didn’t resemble the defensive juggernaut Hollins cultivated in Memphis -- not by a long shot.

“It was like open gate, and all the sheep got out of the gate,” Hollins said. “It was layup after layup. They had 62 points in the paint, and most of them were non-contested.”

Eight Celtics scored in double figures. Kelly Olynyk (19 points) took advantage of Mason Plumlee and Kevin Garnett inside, while Rajon Rondo eased his way to 13 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds.

Mirza Teletovic and Bojan Bogdanovic simply looked lost at times.

Hollins said it wouldn’t have mattered if Brook Lopez (right midfoot sprain) was out there. Perhaps he is right, but the Nets definitely could’ve used Lopez on offense. They had 21 turnovers, which led to 25 Boston points.

“I don’t want to say it’s good, it’s never good to lose like this,” Williams said. “But that should open our eyes up a little bit, and show us that if we don’t come ready to play, we’re gonna get beat.”

“It’s embarrassing,” he added. “We gotta play better than that.”

The Nets trailed 52-40 late in the second quarter when Hollins picked up a technical foul. But instead of igniting his team with the T, the Celtics countered with a 15-1 run to take a 26-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

“I was trying to fight for them, but they’ve gotta fight for themselves,” Hollins said.

The Nets have some All-Star caliber players and the NBA’s highest payroll, but their hopes of proving their critics wrong in 2014-15 will come down to defense and rebounding.

They did win the rebounding battle by four on Wednesday, but that was of no consolation at all.

The Nets have yet another new coach, and are learning yet another new system. The concern is that it could take them a while to figure it all out. And they can’t afford to get off to another 10-21 start.

It’s only one loss, in Game No. 1 of the season, if -- as Garnett said -- they don’t allow it to fester.

After an off-day Thursday, the Nets will head into Friday’s practice trying to correct their myriad issues before Saturday’s game in Detroit.

“We looked at the tape at halftime, and it was brutal to even watch,” swingman Joe Johnson said. “And then to come out in the second half and basically duplicate the same thing is mind-boggling. But it’s the first game, so we’ll try to put this one behind us and move forward.”

Celtics 121, Nets 105: Defensive breakdown

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
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BOSTON -- The Brooklyn Nets tipped off their 2014-15 season with a surprising 121-105 blowout loss to the rebuilding Boston Celtics on Wednesday at TD Garden.

Player of the game: Rajon Rondo dissected the Nets' porous defense with ease, posting 13 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. Brooklyn -- especially Mirza Teletovic and rookie Bojan Bogdanovic -- looked lost on D. This was not supposed to happen -- not under new coach Lionel Hollins. Well, it did. And it was a mess.

Stat of the game: The Nets allowed the Celtics to shoot 61.2 percent and score 101 points through the first three quarters. They trailed by as many as 29.

Turning point: Hollins, frustrated with the officials and his team’s play on the court, picked up a technical foul in the second quarter. His Nets coaching debut couldn’t have gone any worse. He’s got his work cut out for him. By the way, former coach Jason Kidd picked up just one tech in all of last season. The Celtics followed this up with a 15-1 run. Go figure.

Earth-shattering moment of the game: Mason Plumlee hit a hook shot in the third quarter. According to NBA.com’s shot chart, it was the first shot he has hit outside the paint in his NBA career.

Cheer of the game: Kevin Garnett no longer wears Celtics green, but that doesn’t matter -- Boston fans still love him. During the pregame player intros, Garnett received a raucous ovation from the crowd. Late in the fourth quarter, Garnett was T'd up following an altercation with Kelly Olynyk.

Class move of the game: The Celtics presented Isaiah Austin with a framed No. 21 jersey and made him an honorary "Celtic for life." Nets rookie Cory Jefferson went to Baylor with Austin and wears No. 21 in his former teammate's honor.

Up next: The Nets travel to Detroit to face the Stan Van Gundy-led Pistons on Saturday.
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BOSTON -- Rajon Rondo returned from a broken hand and had 13 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in the season opener Wednesday night to help the Boston Celtics beat the Brooklyn Nets 121-105.

Kelly Olynyk had 19 points and Jeff Green added 17 for Boston, which opened a 29-point lead at the end of the third quarter and coasted to the win.

Mirza Teletovic had 20 points and six rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench for the Nets. Joe Johnson scored 19 points for Brooklyn, and Deron Williams had 19 points and eight assists.

The Nets trailed for all but a pair of free throws that opened the game.


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Rajon Rondo starting for Celtics

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
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BOSTON -- Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is in the starting lineup for Wednesday's season opener against the Brooklyn Nets, returning to game action less than five weeks after undergoing surgery for a fracture in his left hand.

Rondo had playfully declared himself a nap-time decision on Tuesday. It appears the afternoon slumber was a success.

"Nap was pretty long and when I woke up I was like, 'OK, I'm playing,'" said Rondo.

Rondo, who missed the entire exhibition slate, is not expected to be limited in any capacity, though coach Brad Stevens did say he'd attempt to play Rondo in shorter stints while he gets his conditioning back up.

Rondo has appeared in only 68 games over the past two seasons after an ACL tear. The team has stressed that Rondo's knee is completely healthy now and, with the medical staff convinced the bone in his left hand has healed sufficiently, they have given the necessary clearance to get Rondo back on the court.

How does Rondo's return change things for the Celtics?

"It doesn't change anything," said Stevens. "This has been the plan all along, to play this way with Rondo. He's been able to do 5-on-0 and been able to do things like that for a couple weeks now. And he's been able to do contact, really, since last Thursday with a pretty heavy pad on Thursday and Friday. He's as up to speed as he can be."

Added Stevens: "He's been here every day and I think he's ready to roll. And he's obviously anxious to play."

Rondo is expected to wear a pad over the injury to prevent it from absorbing contact. He joked that reporters would have to zoom in with their cameras to identify exactly what sort of protection he is wearing to protect the injury.


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Bail denied for Tate George

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
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TRENTON, N.J. -- A former NBA player convicted in a real estate Ponzi scheme has been denied bail by a federal judge in New Jersey.

Tate George has been jailed since his conviction last fall on four mail fraud counts. His motion to be released on bail was denied by U.S. District Judge Mary Cooper on Wednesday.

George starred for the University of Connecticut and played for the New Jersey Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The U.S. attorney's office contends George persuaded pro athletes and other victims to invest in a purported real estate opportunity. Prosecutors say instead of buying the real estate he'd touted he used the money to pay off earlier investors and to cover personal expenses.

George accuses the government of prosecutorial misconduct. He has filed to have his conviction reversed.


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Brook Lopez out against Celtics

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
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[+] EnlargeBrook Lopez
AP Photo Brook Lopez will miss the Nets' regular-season opener Wednesday because of a sprained foot.

BOSTON -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez will not play in Wednesday night's regular-season opener against the Boston Celtics because of a right midfoot sprain.

"He's still having some pain when he goes hard," Nets coach Lionel Hollins said at the team's shootaround.

Mason Plumlee will start in place of Lopez alongside power forward Kevin Garnett in the frontcourt.

Lopez, 26, was expected to miss 10 to 14 days when the Nets announced his original timetable Oct. 16. He could return Saturday in Detroit or Monday in the team's home opener against Oklahoma City.

Lopez was limited to just 17 games last season after fracturing the fifth metatarsal of his right foot for the second time in his career. He has had to undergo multiple surgeries on the foot, which has caused plenty of concern about his ability to sustain long-term health.

Lopez suffered his latest foot injury when he was stepped on late in the first quarter of an Oct. 15 preseason game in China.


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Joe Johnson on 'Joe Jesus,' Nets' future

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
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Joe JohnsonAP Photo/Jonathan BachmanDespite a bumpy summer in Brooklyn, Joe Johnson says he has a lot to look forward to in 2014-15.
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Johnson is 33 now, and he frequently jokes about just how old he feels. Almost 1,000 NBA games and almost 36,000 NBA minutes will do that.

But his spirits remain high. He says he lost "at least" 10 pounds over the summer, in large part because of his infatuation with Hot Yoga. And he's coming off his best postseason yet, averaging 21.2 points per game and tying his career-high in playoff games played. His hopes remain high for the Nets in 2014-15, too, despite mild expectations from prognosticators.

Before his 14th season begins, Johnson sat down with ESPN.com to discuss his personality, his thoughts on Kevin Garnett calling him "Joe Jesus" and why he likes others believing that the Nets are "done."

Q: Many All-Stars in the NBA have egos. Despite all the points you’ve scored [more than 17,000], All-Star teams you've made [seven] and money you've earned [more than $150 million], you don’t seem to. How did you develop your personality?

A: Just growing up, being an only child, I've been quiet pretty much my whole life. I’m not expressive, but I’ll have my moments. I fell in love with the game of basketball and was very passionate about it. But my thing in this game is I never get too high and I never get too low. I like to stay on an even-keel, and that’s to keep my opponents off-balance.

I think one of the key things my mom [Diane, a single parent] taught me growing up was, "Never let anybody know what you’re thinking." And that’s how I play. You don’t know if I've got 30-40 points or I've got six points. I’m gonna keep the same demeanor pretty much and I’m gonna just enjoy the game. I mean, I might not always like the results, but if that’s what I had that night, that’s what I had. I've got to move on and get on to the next one.

Q: OK, let’s go back to last season. You’re having one of the best games of your career in Game 5 against Miami [34 points on 15-for-23 shooting], and you lose the ball on the last possession and you guys get eliminated from the playoffs. How tough was that?

A: When I first caught the ball, I was kinda in the corner, so I knew I was in a tough spot. I think [LeBron James] crowded me, and I think I tried to put it on the floor a few times, but I bobbled it a little bit. I know Ray Allen was in there helping. All I wanted to was just get a look at the basket. That’s all I wanted. I thought we had a chance to pull that one out, and that was a game that got away from us and it shouldn't come down to that, to be honest with you.

Q: You came to Brooklyn in 2012 with a lot of expectations. How would you evaluate your tenure as a Net so far?

A: I think each and every year we've progressed, especially in the postseason. Obviously, with the second year, last year, Brook [Lopez] being hurt a lot, Deron [Williams] being hurt a lot, the lineup kinda fluctuated a bit and it was hard to get any type of chemistry, plus adding KG and Paul [Pierce], I thought guys were a bit too unselfish at times and it kinda hurt us a little bit.

But I don’t know, man, my tenure here has been decent. It hasn’t obviously been what I would've liked throughout the regular season -- especially the first year and the first postseason being hurt -- but this year should hopefully be different.

Q: Why is this year going to be different?

A: I just think the focus is a little different. Obviously, we’re trying to keep Brook healthy and everybody’s mindset is different. We don’t have a lot of attention on us, which I think honestly it’s great. The first year, it was all about the Nets going to Brooklyn, so we had so much attention on us. Then, the second year, we got Paul and KG, so now we’re this championship team and now it’s like, "All right, the Nets are done. It’s over with." We’ll be quiet and just play basketball the right way, have fun and I think we’re gonna have great results.

Q: Recently at practice, you made a shot and KG yelled, “Good shot, Jesus!” Looks like the nickname [coined for his clutch scoring] has stuck, huh?

A: I told KG: His tongue is power. When he says something, people listen, and they kinda have a tendency to run with it.

Q: Do you like being called “Joe Jesus?”

It is what it is. I don’t look forward to anybody calling me that. It’s just at this moment or point in time it kinda is what it is. It’s just KG and he does it from time-to-time. It’s not an everyday thing.

Q: Many players shrink up in big moments. You’ve hit four game-winning buzzer-beaters as a Net. Why do you relish those moments?

A: Man, it goes back to my days in Phoenix, even playing with three All-Stars in Amar'e [Stoudemire], Steve [Nash] and Shawn [Marion]. I was still the guy who would take the big shot and make the big shot, and that’s kinda how it was. And as I went to different teams, that wasn’t necessarily my M.O. coming into those teams. It kinda developed that way, it just kinda happened that way. Even going back to when I first got here [and my first buzzer-beater against Detroit in 2012].

We had momentum going into that game. I think I made the shots to get us into overtime and Coach Avery [Johnson] was just like, "All right, we’re just gonna keep going to you," and he just kept coming to me. It came down to the last play of the game, and he came to me. And from that point on, it was just if it comes down to the end of the game, we’re gonna see if he can keep doing that.

Q: What’s the key to being cool, calm and collected in those moments?

A: It’s just focus, man. It’s just focus and determination, knowing that this could be the last play of the game. And you wanna do anything and everything that you can to get to that sweet spot or get a great look at the basket, and that’s all I try to do.”

Q: You’re 33 and entering your 14th season in the NBA. Have you started thinking about how much time you have left?

A: I’ve been in pretty good health. So I just hope, first and foremost, that continues, and I think everything else will take care of itself.

Q: You've accomplished a lot in your career. What’s left?

A: Obviously, a championship. And I think we have the ingredients here to do just that. We have to all be on the same page, man. And we all have to want it.

Q: How much longer would you like to play?

A: I haven’t put a limit on it, how long I wanna go. But when I’m done here, after my contract is up, I’ll be 35. We’ll see. I don't really know. Honestly, I don’t even like imagining it. But it’s coming. It’s approaching, and I understand that and I’m fine with it. I’m gonna give them everything I got.

Q: Have you ever thought about your candidacy for the Hall of Fame? ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton recently noted that only one player who has scored 20,000 or more points [Tom Chambers] has ever been left out of the Hall so far.

A: We’ll see, man. Hopefully, but I got a lot to go. Me being a Hall of Famer would be great, that would be a huge accomplishment, but obviously I wanna be labeled as a great teammate, a winner, and that’s what I’m trying to approach.

I know I’ve been a great teammate. I know I’ve done any and everything in my power to help the team -- whichever team -- whatever they’ve asked me to do. I just try to do my job, man. I don’t always come up with the best results, but I give them everything I’ve got.

Q: Obviously things can change, but would you prefer to end your career in Brooklyn if possible?

A: As long as things are going in the right direction. At this point in my career, I would hate to take a step back. We’ll see. I don’t know what the future holds to be honest with you. I just want to make this year the best year that we have in front of us, and next year we’ll think about that.

D-Will: 'What pressure do I have?'

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
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[+] EnlargeDeron Williams
Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY SportsDeron Williams, who has been plagued by ankle woes since 2012, feels more confident in his health after undergoing offseason surgery.

Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams said he does not think he has much pressure on himself heading into this season.

"Everybody's pretty much written me off," Williams told the team's official website. "People say I'm never gonna be like I once was. I'm on the downhill. And so what pressure do I have?"

The Nets open the 2014-15 campaign in Boston Wednesday night against the Celtics.

Williams finally feels healthy for the first time in three seasons after undergoing offseason surgery to clean out both of his oft-injured ankles.

"I'm a lot more confident," Williams said. "I just didn't have a lot of confidence in my ankles (the last two seasons). They wouldn't allow me to do the things I was capable of doing."

Williams missed 17 games last season due to injury. He averaged just 14.3 points and 6.1 assists -- his lowest averages since his rookie season (2005-06).


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Can Lionel Hollins fix the Nets' D?

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
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Lionel HollinsNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesLionel Hollins' teams in Memphis had a great defensive presence. Will his Nets?

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams recently offered a critical assessment of the team's defense during the preseason.

"We were a little disappointed in our defense," Williams said. "At times, I think we were a little lazy, we were standing up. There's definitely a lot of things we can improve on the defensive end. I'm not even looking at offense, really. What we need is defense.

"So when we're putting that type of effort up or kind of standing this early, it's going to be a problem."

Since 2007-08, the Nets have finished 25th, 23rd, 25th, 22nd, 29th, 18th and 19th in defensive efficiency. But if they're going to go where they want to go in 2014-15 -- which means a deep playoff run -- they're going to have to be better on D.

A lot better.

Enter new coach Lionel Hollins.

In 2012-13, Hollins' Memphis Grizzlies were the epitome of a defensive force. According to data obtained from Synergy Sports, those Grizzlies ranked second overall in points per possession allowed and first in points per possession allowed while playing man-to-man defense.

Synergy Sports ranks how teams defend 11 different types of plays (spot-ups, P&R ball-hander, transition, isolations, post-ups etc...). The Grizzlies ranked in the top-5 in seven of those 11 categories. Bruising center Marc Gasol was named the Defensive Player of the Year, while tenacious guards Tony Allen and Mike Conley made All-Defensive teams.

"He does not do anything magical on defense," one NBA scout told ESPN.com. "Many teams have similar defensive concepts, Lionel just held everyone accountable. Everyone knew their defensive responsibilities, and he created a culture where a lack of execution and effort were unacceptable."

Unfortunately, Hollins doesn't have that caliber of talented personnel in Brooklyn.

Despite being a solid post defender, the slow-footed Brook Lopez is no Gasol. Williams and Joe Johnson aren't Allen and Conley. Thirty-eight-year-old Kevin Garnett, a brilliant defensive coordinator throughout his career, can no longer play 30-35 minutes on a consistent basis. And rookie Bojan Bogdanovic has a long ways to go on that end of the floor.

So how will Hollins compensate?

"I think it is about trying to instill that same culture in Brooklyn," the scout said. "It is going to be tough, though. There are a lot of bad habits the Nets have that he is trying to change. Especially the guards, it is obvious that they are struggling at times with fighting through screens that they would have just switched last year."

Under Jason Kidd, the Nets found their identity after the New Year with Lopez out, going small, switching and wreaking havoc on defense. They forced oodles of turnovers and ranked 12th in efficiency after Jan. 1.

That won't be the case this season.

"In a more traditional lineup, it's a little harder [to switch], and Lionel doesn't like it," Williams said. "He likes you to know who your man is and stay with your man.

"A lot of times, when you start switching, it gets out of hand, and it starts to be the blame game. Like, 'I said switch, but you didn't switch.' So when you're not switching, you don't have that problem. You know your man scored, it's your fault."

The scout added: "A lot of their success is going to be dependent on the guards and wing defenders. One of the main defensive principles in Hollins' system is 'no middle' and forcing the ball along the sidelines and towards the baseline. This combined with no switching creates a lot of work for the guards and determines how successful they can ultimately be."

[+] EnlargeKevin Garnett
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty ImagesKevin Garnett is still a capable rebounder, but how much will the 38-year-old be able to contribute in his 20th season?
The Nets also need to be able to complete successful defensive possessions by grabbing the rebound, something they were largely incapable of doing last season, when they finished second-to-last in rebound percentage. Garnett did lead the NBA in defensive rebound percentage in 2013-14, so there is a small ray of hope there.

"You can guard for 23 seconds, the shot goes up, you give up an offensive rebound, you're back on defense again," Williams said. "So that's not a stop."

"Part of rebounding too is [guards] not allowing straight-line drives and penetrations, which causes guys to help, which leads to big guys on the glass with smaller guys," Hollins said.

Before Lopez went down with a foot sprain, the Nets looked really efficient running their new motion offense. Williams looked comfortable running the pick-and-roll with Lopez. There was a lot of player and ball movement, with plenty of shooters to space the floor.

If the Nets are healthy, scoring shouldn't be a problem. It's their defense and rebounding that could be.

"We've had moments where we look really good, and we have moments when we have two or three guys doing well and then a couple of guys are resting," Hollins said. "It has to be all five guys every defensive possession."

Can the Nets be a top-15 team in terms of defensive efficiency in 2014-15?

"I think top-15 is possible for this team and should be a good starting goal," the scout said. "I do not think they have the talent to be a top-10 defensive team, but if everything goes right for them, top-12 isn't out of the question."

Brook Lopez doubtful for Nets opener

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
4:56
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez has been listed as doubtful for Wednesday night’s regular-season opener against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.

[+] EnlargeBrook Lopez
David Santiago/Getty ImagesNets center Brook Lopez may need a few more days before he's able to take the court.
Lopez (right midfoot sprain) went through his second non-contact practice Tuesday. He was expected to be out 10-to-14 days based on the timetable that the Nets gave reporters back on Oct. 16.

If Lopez cannot play, Nets coach Lionel Hollins said Mason Plumlee would likely start in his place next to Kevin Garnett.

"That's the way I wanna do it [if Lopez can’t go]," Hollins said.

Nets GM Billy King has said the team is targeting one of the next three games for Lopez’s return. Brooklyn heads to Detroit on Saturday before returning for its home opener against Oklahoma City on Monday.

TAXED: The Nets will open the season with the highest luxury tax in the NBA ($35.6 million), according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. Their final number, however, cannot be computed until the end of the regular season.

Last season, Brooklyn paid a league-record $90.57 million in taxes.

OVERPAID: Joe Johnson is second and Deron Williams fourth in ESPN Insider Larry Coon’s most overpaid players based on the amount by which they are overpaid:

Johnson's expected salary: $7,880,777; actual salary: $23,180,790; difference: $15,300,013

Williams expected salary: $8,190,197; actual salary: $19,754,465; difference: $11,564,268

Coon also writes that the Nets are the most overpaid team in the league by $42,321,618. You can read the entire story here (Insider).

HEALTH IS KEY: Last season, Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko, Johnson and Williams missed a combined 148 games. The Nets have to hope that quartet is healthier in 2014-15.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOR: The Nets are tied for second in the league with six international players: Mirza Teletovic, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jerome Jordan, Jorge Gutierrez, Sergey Karasev and Kirilenko.

Rajon Rondo a 'nap-time' decision

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
1:15
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[+] EnlargeRajon Rondo
AP Photo/Steven SenneRajon Rondo, recovering from a broken hand, says he'll know after he wakes up from his nap Wednesday if he'll be able to play in the opener.

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is a nap-time decision for Wednesday's season opener against the Brooklyn Nets.

A playful Rondo didn't like the idea of being dubbed a game-time decision for the start of the 2014-15 regular season and suggested he won't finalize his game status until he wakes up from his typical game-day nap.

"When I wake up from my nap, I'll let [reporters] know. Around 4:30," Rondo said. "If I sleep really, really well tonight, and [Wednesday] afternoon with my nap, I'll let you know how I'm feeling."

On the eve of the start of the new season, Rondo was coy about whether his broken hand is ready for the typical game-caliber contact. On Monday, Rondo suggested he was 79 percent likely to play in the opener and, through coach Brad Stevens, he upgraded that number before Tuesday's practice.


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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Mirza Teletovic
PTS AST STL MIN
20.0 1.0 0.0 23.0
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsM. Teletovic 6.0
AssistsD. Williams 8.0
StealsD. Williams 2.0
BlocksM. Teletovic 2.0