Williams and Both Johnsons Ready to Lead
Training Camp officially began with Tuesday's morning practice at the PNY Center in East Rutherford, N.J. But the Brooklyn Nets had a three-week head start on chemistry and conditioning: point guard Deron Williams had organized informal workouts eventually attended by the entire roster. Coach Avery Johnson said Williams promised to take care of that, and Williams did.
"(Deron) has taken the reins there, he's confident, he knows the systems, he's back," Johnson said of his point guard. "He's been a part of two gold-medal winning teams – that gives him a lot of confidence. He knows his role. It's a big responsibility but he's embraced it and I love it."
Williams believes the team's position entering Training Camp to be "night and day" relative to last season, and he's encouraged by team's talent, attitude and veteran presence. He said the players have set an informal goal of not losing two games in a row, and that he's been excited for this week ever since re-signing in July.
A big part of that enthusiasm stems from Williams' pairing with All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson, whom Avery Johnson believes to be a quiet leader who sets his example on the court. The coach went on to praise Johnson for his ability to make shots, on-balance or off-, at any point during the 24-seconds available each possession.
"I'm excited for the opportunity," Williams said. "I think he is, too. I've never played with somebody that dynamic in the backcourt. He can definitely score, but he knows how to play the game. He knows how to pass, he can do a lot of things that we're gonna need and I'm going to enjoy pairing up with him."
Avery Johnson seems confident Joe Johnson will seamlessly slot alongside Williams, and Williams believes both he and Johnson are at a stage in their careers where winning supersedes the stats and any need to be ball-dominant. Johnson often seems relieved when discussing the possibilities playing alongside Williams and center Brook Lopez should provide; after seven seasons dealing with double- and triple-teams in Atlanta, he knows his job will often involve simply finding an open spot on the floor.
Envisioning a fluid exchange of responsibilities, Johnson is ready to support Williams and help the team win games. After a few weeks of pickup games, he's looking forward to playing NBA opponents and discovering exactly how potent a combination they can be. And that started with the first practice.
"It was great, actually," Johnson said. "It was good to get out with the guys, try to develop a little chemistry on the first day. Everybody looks like they're ready, man. Everybody is eager to get this thing really jumped off. I'm glad that everybody came in focused."
Though Deron missed a scrimmage-tying 3 with less than a second left on the clock, he coolly hit both free throws to end the opening practice. Here's the video:
Coach Avery mentioned that – right now – Andray Blatche had established himself as the backup center, and Mirza Teletovic, the backup power forward...Joe Johnson said this could prove a better combination than him and Steve Nash, citing the options provided by Deron's ability to play in the post and more physical drives...Johnson also said he can't envision Brook Lopez being guarded by a single defender.