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December 23, 2011

'Right There': Adding Armor to the Nets

This season, the Nets begin their "hybrid affiliation" with the Springfield Armor of the NBA D-League, and invited three Armor players (G Jerry Smith, G JamesOn Curry, F Dennis Horner) to training camp, with a chance to play for the parent club. After watching all three go through training camp, I put together this feature, which shows how their journeys reflect the new relationship between the Nets and the Armor.

Here's a sample:

This is a warehouse. A loading dock, really. Metal shelving units, covered in matte gray, stacked to the ceiling with boxes well-worn at the corners and resting atop wooden pallets awaiting a forklift rescue that might only be imaginary. Their contents, unknown. Or unorganized, the list likely locked in a computer file somewhere around the office.

But today, there are drapes. Fabric lipstick on an industrial pig, the smoothed surfaces curving, bending the light of flash bulbs to aesthetically pleasing effect. It is the Nets� 2011 �Media Day,� and the compressed preseason means there�s no � media. Only the NBA�s official photographers and a YES Network production team have sojourned to the PNY Center, joined in its depths by the team employees commissioned to capture a �behind-the-scenes� experience.

Wearing a No. 30 Nets uniform, JamesOn Curry dutifully rotates 1/8th of a turn between photos, rotoscoped for a video game he might never appear in. He smiles. He offers his game face. He provides a closeup of each tattoo.

But JamesOn needs more than a jersey. More than the glamour moment of a photo shoot to remind him what the NBA feels like. Four years after being drafted by the Bulls (2007, 2nd Round, No. 51 overall), the shooting guard with all of the skill but none of the height (he stands �6-foot-4�) knows this doesn�t mean he�s back.

�I�m not going to lie,� Curry says. �It don�t. I�m not even going to sugarcoat it. Until I sign on the dotted line, until you know I�m here, then we�ll know. It�s just another part of the process of being a pro, coming here on time and getting all that stuff done.�

JamesOn, unfortunately, is right.

You can read more about JamesOn (and the newest Net, Dennis Horner!) in
the full feature article.

--Posted by Ben Couch at 1:17 p.m.



December 19, 2011

Observations from Open Practice

The Nets headed up Route 17 to put on their annual Open Practice for fans, played this year at Ramapo College in Rahway, N.J. In an intra-squad scrimmage, the Blue team (starters) topped the White, 53-52, on a running hook by second-year forward Damion James as time expired.

Here's a few things I noticed during the action:

  • The first bucket of the game was scored by � Johan Petro, who posted up Brook Lopez on the right block, pivoted himself into open space and hit a fadeaway over the starting center, who could do nothing but laugh. Someone spent the summer practicing, ha.

  • Anthony Morrow opened the game with two straight threes, missed his next attempt and was subbed out by Avery Johnson. "Really?!" Morrow asked replacement Sundiata Gaines. General Manager Billy King, seated by the bench, quipped, "Anthony � you're missing shots now." Morrow laughed.

  • The Nets better keep their heads on a swivel with Deron Williams healthy � their point guard showed a predilection for shuffling no-look passes into their hands at any time, from any angle. He also flashed solid post game, which allows him to take advantage of weaker guards.

  • MarShon Brooks might be a rookie, but his offense is advanced. His pullup fadeaway goes in too often to be lucky, and his athleticism can slice through defenses. If he learns how to utilize his length and skill on the other end, the Nets might prove to have a steal.

  • Jerry Smith can jump. The D-League invitee saw only three minutes in the first preseason game, but it was clear from warmups that he's packing serious hops. Smith elevated for exciting dunks, and almost made the highlight reel in-game, but launched from a step too far and had to settle for clanking a layup instead of the awesome throwdown everyone expected. He's too smart to do that a second time, and I bet he's a model of fundamental efficiency at tomorrow's practice.

I caught up with game-winner Damion James after the last-second victory, and he was as surprised as anyone that his shot decided the score:

"I ain't know the time was running out! I swear I didn't know the time was running out, man. It was just fun, man. I enjoyed it."

As for that hook shot?

"Just something I added to the repetoire this summer, man! I knew coach was going to post me up a lot more this year, so I looked forward to it."

Good time tonight, then?

"It was cool, man. I should've had more dunks, but we'll work on that."

--Posted by Ben Couch at 8:45 p.m.



December 18, 2011

NETS Camp � Week 2

The Nets' 2011 Training Camp continued through the first preseason game against the Knicks on Saturday, December 17. Stories from the week included the signings of free agents Shawne and Shelden Williams, the amnesty of Travis Outlaw and the incorporation of three invitees from the Springfield Armor, the Nets' D-League "hybrid" affiliate.

Click here to read more!

--Posted by Ben Couch at 2:45 p.m.



December 11, 2011

NETS Camp � Week 1

The Nets opened their 2011 Training Camp on Friday, December 9, and we recapped practice over the weekend, with stories on the opening of camp, the point guards' experience abroad and Anthony Morrow's second season with the Nets.

Click here to read more!

--Posted by Ben Couch at 6:42 p.m.



December 8, 2011

First Practice? 4 p.m. Friday!

Just got a heads up from the good fellows in Public Relations that Training Camp will open tomorrow at 4 p.m., pending "timely ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement."

Get hype. It's actually here.

--Posted by Ben Couch at 4:40 p.m.



December 6, 2011

Avery's Excited, Though the Roster is Unformed

Meeting with media today at the PNY Center, Avery Johnson expressed his excitement that the season was about to get underway. You can read the full article here. Quotes of note that didn't make the cut are below.

On getting a full(-ish) season with Deron:

"We're excited about having him. We're a much better team starting this training camp without having signed or having done anything up to this point than where we were at the start of last year."

On roster moves, and re-signing Deron:

"We're confident – Billy and I, we've been confident all along. Last year, we had a pretty huge circus atmosphere when we were trying to make some deals for some guys. Hopefully, if we do anything, you guys won't find out until you kind of find out what we did with Deron. But the main thing is, the guys that were on our team, they're the guys we're moving forward with. They need to improve. We definitely need to add some guys to our roster – we have glaring weaknesses in certain areas, it's pretty much easy to see – but Deron definitely has some ideas."

On Brook possibly playing power forward:

"Brook, because of his versatility and the way he can shoot the ball, the way he can stretch the floor, even though we like him to play inside a little bit more this year, we don't want to take away his jumpshot, but with his versatility, he can move for a big guy, we think that's why we don't have to necessarily go the route of signing a power forward. We think he can play with anybody whether he's a power forward or center because of his versatility."

On the rookies:

"From MarShon's standpoint, one of the reasons why we drafted him was we feel he can be a guy that can put the ball on the floor and score. You can preach defense until you're blue in the face, but you've got to have guys that can put the ball in the basket – especially put the ball in the basket when plays break down. He's that type of player, he has that skill set – obviously, he's a rookie, there's going to be an adjustment period – but at the same time, he's going to have to improve, defensively, to get some minutes on the floor, compared to what we saw on video.

"Jordan is a terrific rebounder. We feel we're going to be an improved defensive team, but if we can't rebound the ball, that's going to compromise our defense. So both of those guys have a specific skill set that Billy and I were looking for when the draft came around and they fulfilled our needs."

--Posted by Ben Couch at 5:12 p.m.



December 5, 2011

Deron 'Plans to Stay,' Gives Great Odds

In an interview with Joe Beningo and Evan Roberts on WFAN 660 AM Monday afternoon, point guard Deron Williams declared that, despite choosing to opt out of his contract rather than sign an extensino, his "plan is to stay" with the Nets as they move to Brooklyn in 2012.

When Roberts asked Williams to "put a number" on the chances he would be announced as the starting point guard on Opening Night at the Barclays Center, Williams said, "I'd say like 90 percent."

Williams also said that he feels the organization is "perfectly run" and does everything "the best." The point guard repeatedly expressed excitement regarding the Brooklyn move, from the potential atmosphere to the under-construction arena itself.

"It's going to be big. I've been over to the site before I left. It's going to be amazing."

You can listen to the full interview on-demand at WFAN's Web site.

--Posted by Ben Couch at 1:13 p.m.



December 2, 2011

The NETS are Back – with an Eye on History

We're back! The season is scheduled to start on Christmas, and though everyone is excited for next year's move to Brooklyn, we're ready to celebrate the 35 years we've spent here in New Jersey. As you can see while browsing the site, we're honoring the franchise's lengthy history as the "New Jersey Nets" in this final season. Like the slogan says: "Jersey Strong, Brooklyn Ready."

The 35th-Year Commemorative Logo – which you'll see positioned prominently all season long – is a montage of the team's past marks, derivative of the current shield in overall form and shape while incorporating the lowercase "nets" script, the state silhouette and multi-colored basketball of earlier iterations. Celebratory ribbons at the base of the logo call out the first and final years of the team's stay.

That branding extends to the site design of NJNets.com, which is founded upon a commemorative collage made up of historic, New Jersey-specific elements, including tickets, photos, banners and more. Featured will be 20 of the team's top players, who appear individually throughout the ticket book sent to season-ticket holders, creating a memento for attending fans. Content on each game's featured player will appear in the nightly program, and he'll be showcased on in-arena highlight reels.

NETS Basketball will be celebrating with the community via six "County Nights" at the arena. Each of the team's most loyal fan outposts will be recognized during a game that features pre- and post-game activities, as well as integrated entertainment provided by local schools and groups, including anthem singers, dance teams and band performances.

Also, history buffs should be on the lookout for "Decade Nights" that play off that game's opponent and honor the great players and teams of that era.

To find out more about our 35 years in New Jersey, you can brush up on NETS History 101 and keep an eye out for upcoming features that will help you Know Your Nets and discover Where Are They Now?

--Posted by Ben Couch at 8 a.m.


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