NETS Rookies Brooks, Williams, Bogdanovic Raring to Go
June 27th, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—MarShon Brooks pledged to be a Net for the next 10 years. Jordan Williams proclaimed you can’t teach his best skill (rebounding). Bojan Bogdanovic said he’s ready for the NBA now.
These Nets rookies, before they’ve stepped on the floor, certainly don’t lack for confidence. And General Manager Billy King echoed that belief in their abilities during a Monday morning press conference at the PNY Center.
“For us to get Bojan, to get MarShon and to get Jordan is pretty special because I think they all they can provide something we’re trying to build here,” King said.
Brooks, a 6-foot-5 guard who played four years at Providence, dropped to No. 25 overall – King said the Nets had ranked him 15th on their draft board – and the Nets traded No. 27 JaJuan Johnson and a 2014 second-round pick to Boston to ensure they’d get their man. Having averaged 24.6 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting .483 as a senior, Brooks is expected to compete immediately for minutes at two-guard with incumbent starter Anthony Morrow, once his counselor at an Atlanta basketball camp.
Aware his role would change that final season, Brooks hired a trainer to rework his body last offseason. By the time the season started, Brooks found himself looking to draw contact on drives rather than shying from it. Extra trips to the free-throw line helped build confidence in his jumper, and gradually all aspects of his offense.
But Brooks remains aware that leaves an entire element of two-way play unmentioned. And he knows his commitment on the other end of the floor will help determine the amount of playing time he earns as a first-year player under coach Avery Johnson.
“Defensively, I’ve got to put more effort,” Brooks said. “I played a lot (of minutes) in college; I was playing 20 minutes a game at power forward. I think I would do a much better job guarding people my size, ha. I’m looking forward to it – growing up, I was a defensive stopper in high school, and (also at Providence) my sophomore year playing for the same coach. Defensively, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Williams, like Brooks, showed an aptitude for self-analysis, acknowledging that his body needed to change if he were to succeed at the NBA level. The 6-foot-10 big man, who now weighs 250 pounds after working off 15 during the draft process, set a goal of transitioning to the 4 after playing center for two seasons at Maryland.
Adding a 15-to-17-foot jumper to his arsenal and focusing on agility drills to improve his defensive foot speed, Williams was able to earn a draft-day commitment from the Nets, one of 17(!) teams that worked him out. They were enticed by the rebounding prowess (11.3 RPG in 2010-11; 3rd nationally) Williams shares with another Maryland forward: former Nets star
“I am familiar with (Buck),” Jordan Williams said. “He’s obviously part of the (Maryland) program – once you’re part of a college, you get friends that way and meet great people that way. Obviously, he did great things in the NBA and I’m just trying to find my spot, find my role, do what I do best and find out what spot I’ll be able to fit in. I know my game will be able to transfer to the NBA because I know one thing is rebounding; you can’t really teach rebounding. I’ve been able to do that consistently throughout my entire career.”
Though Williams’ was referring there to his amateur career, he’s seven years of professional play behind 22-year-old Bogdanovic, who began playing professionally for BC Zrinjski Mik Company Mostar (Bosnia/Heregovina) in 2004. The 6-foot-8 shooting guard broke through while playing for Real Madrid’s second team in 2008-09, averaging 20.3 points on .555 shooting (.397 3P%) in 30.1 minutes per game.
From there, Bogdanovic returned to his home country of Croatia for a two-year stint with Cibona VIP Zagreb, which culminated in finishing as the Euroleague’s second-leading scorer (18.0 PPG in 10 regular-season games) last year. Also an experienced member of the Croatian junior and senior Men’s National Team, against the United States in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Bogdanovic scored 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting (5-of-8 3Ps) with only one turnover in 27 minutes.
In that game, Bogdanovic frequently matched up with Philadelphia 76ers swingman Andre Iguodala, one of the NBA’s better defenders. He said he gained great experience from playing against the Americans, but also realized he could compete.
“He plays so physical; he’s so strong,” Bogdanovic said. “He’s not like players in Europe, so it was tough for me. In Europe, we play with a lot of helps; in NBA, everything is 1-against-1, almost. So I’ve got to be prepared to play like that. More defense.”
Prior to the draft, Bogdanovic signed a three-year contract with Turkey’s Fenerbahce, with a buyout currently possible after two seasons. King announced Monday that the Nets were aware of those terms and they would work to bring that down to one year if at all possible.
Bogdanovic explained that he expected to be drafted, but without knowing how the process would develop, signed the deal to ensure some certainty. He’s focused on improving his game, and should be able to, playing in one of the top international leagues for one of its top teams. But he’s glad to have secured an NBA future with the Nets.
“I’m very excited and proud, at the same time, to be a part of the Nets,” Bogdanovic said. “One of my idols – and the best player in Europe – played here: Drazen Petrovic. I’m very excited to play here.”
NOTES With no NBA Summer League scheduled due to the potential work stoppage, the players are headed to P3 in Santa Barbara for a weekend of workouts and testing that they'll leave with guidelines for a summer training program. While gaining NBA-caliber game experience is always important, Billy King isn't worried: "Summer leagues are great for playing games, but we’ve had a lot of guys that are MVP of the summer league that come back and didn’t play as well. If you have guys are willing to work, it doesn’t matter if you have a summer league or not – they’ll get better."