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January 27, 2012

'Make It Rain': The Nets' 3-Point Thunderstorm

The Nets sculpted a team of shooters to complement the penetration of All-Star point guard Deron Williams and the post presence of center Brook Lopez. But when Lopez broke his foot before the season started, it threw the plan into disarray. Only in recent weeks, after a slow start, have the shooters begun to show why they were brought in: to drown opponents in a three-point thunderstorm.

Here's a preview of this exclusive NJNets.com feature:

The staccato sample from Travis Porter's lascivious rap cut blares from the speakers. Or would. But the game is on the road, and the Nets can't control opposing soundsystems.

At the Wells Fargo Center, guard Anthony Morrow settles for crowd silence. His three has put the Nets back ahead of the Sixers, 80-78, with 1 minute, 9 seconds to play. The game goes into overtime, but the Nets hit two more three-pointers, the second a dagger by Deron Williams on a vicious crossover step-back that left Jodie Meeks scrambling to his left and then, desperately, lunging back right with an outstretched arm nowhere close to the shot's release. They win, 97-90.

The Nets finish the game 12-of-27 from downtown, a .444 percentage that pulls their season total up to .354 ndash; middle of the NBA pack (13th), but well above the 30-percent plateau they hovered below for the season's first seven games. Since breaking out with a 15-of-31 (.484) barrage that beat the Raptors on January 6, the Nets have bombed away at a .389 clip. That mark would rank fourth in the league, just ahead of the Heat (.388) and tucked behind the Magic (.392), Pacers (.395) and Celtics (.416).

"That was a shock at the beginning, when Anthony wasn't making his 3s, and a lot of our three-point shooters weren't making shots, because I thought that's something we could do," says general manager Billy King. "And I think a lot of that was the fatigue and leg fatigue. But I think now they've got their legs under them, and that's who we are right now, when you don't have a post-up game."

Click here to read the full article.

--Posted by Ben Couch at 1:07 p.m.



January 21, 2012

Damion Under the Knife, Again

During pregame media for Saturday's game against the Thunder, Nets coach Avery Johnson revealed that forward Damion James will undergo surgery Tuesday on his sore right foot. James originally broke the fifth metatarsal in December 2010, and had surgery on December 13 of that year, with the doctors placing a screw in the bone to aid the healing process. That screw will be replaced Tuesday by Dr. David Porter at Indiana University Health Hospital in Indianapolis.

Here's what Coach had to say:

Avery: It's disappointing. Here's a kid that we drafted last year. We had (Damion) inked in as our starting 3 man, and as you know, in the Eastern Conference, and even tonight against Durant, you need big, 6-8 defenders that can make it tough on these guys. So right now, because of that, we've got to play DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Morrow and even MarShon Brooks out of position. So hopefully the surgery will go well, and hopefully for us, and for him and for his career, we can get this corrected and we won't have a problem with it anymore.

"We were hoping he would recover. He actually irritated it toward the end of last year, but we thought with the long offseason, that he would recover and he wouldn't have any problems with it. But unfortunately Doc has to go in there and take care of it again. Unfortunately."

And with the Thunder in town, the media spoke with star forward Kevin Durant, a college teammate of James (the pair were freshmen at the University of Texas, along with Bobcats guard D.J. Augustin):

Gotta be tough to hear that about Damion.

Kevin Durant: "Yeah. He worked so hard. It's unfortunate; he was starting. I think he was playing pretty well, he was coming along pretty well and it's tough to see him go through that, but he's a tough kid and he's positive, so everything's going to be fine, I think."

He said he was bummed about missing the game for a second straight year.

KD: "Yeah, I missed going up against him too ndash; that's my brother for life. And to play against him at the highest level is something we always talked about: when we were freshmen in college, 18 years old, we talked about playing against each other in the NBA. It's unfortunate we didn't get to play, but down the line I'm sure we will."

We saw you talking to him. How's he doing?

KD: "Of course, he's a little frustrated going through it again. But I just tried to tell him he's going to be fine and they have the best doctors working with him. He said it's going to take him a little bit of time to get back, but we'll see. I'm looking forward to his return. He's my brother and I follow him all the time, and hopefully everything goes well this time."

He said y'all played a lot this summer, during the lockout. How has he improved in the years since college?

KD: "Damion, he has a lot of skills, man. With him, I think the biggest thing is the mental aspect of it: having confidence, him believing in himself. He's grown a lot in that area, and he'll know how to play the game and learn the game. His ballhandling has gotten better, his jump shot has gotten a lot better (and) he always plays hard. Once his confidence and everything comes around, he's going to be a pretty good player."

--Posted by Ben Couch at 7:40 p.m.



January 18, 2012

Billy King Media Transcript

Nets general manager Billy King met with media before Wednesday's game against the Warriors. Here's the rundown of the 7-minute session:

What prompted today's series of moves?

Billy: With the injuries, Avery's been making due with three guards with Shawne Williams being out, and with Damion James' injury, I thought we needed a small forward. Our guys scouted him at the (D-League) Showcase in Reno, they gave me a list of guys they thought could be ready to play, and he had been in the league a little bit.

What do you like about Larry Owens?

Billy: His athletic ability is one that I like; his length, long arms; defensively, he will give us a presence, a guy that can at least athletically challenge those guys. You can't stop a lot of guys at small forward ndash; but he can challenge them and plays that as his natural position.

Why did you decide to assign Jordan Williams to the Springfield Armor?

Billy: The one (thing) is, we talked to Jordan: 'It's not a demotion ndash; it's a chance for you to play. Being where you are on the depth chart, you weren't going to get minutes.' It'll give him a chance to go down there and play games, and get himself in game shape, because sometimes when you're riding on the treadmill, riding on the bike, you don't get that game conditioning.

Is there a timetable for him there?

Billy: No, not really. They play tomorrow, and I think have practice today, so that gives him a chance really to play, and we'll re-evaluate it after today, because we have three games coming up and ndash; with our luck, injury-wise ndash; you've got to evaluate it day-by-day.

Has watching the slow start to the season been tough?

Billy: The watching part, it's my job to watch, so it's not 'tough.' Just the fact of injuries and the schedule has been 10 out of 14 on the road, not having a lot of practice time. But a lot of people are in the same boat: Golden State, they're without Stephen Curry; Dwyane Wade sat out (recently for Miami). When you build a team around your center, and you bring in guys to space the floor and make 3s, when you lose that, it sort of changes your philosophy a little bit, on how you play. But the good thing is, Brook's coming back ndash; he's in shoes, he's not in the boot anymore. I saw him shooting on the court today, standstill, so that's a positive.

Have you offered Brook Lopez an extension?

Billy: No, not at this time.

What about before the deadline?

Billy: I'm sure I'll probably have a conversation with Arn Tellem. He's pretty busy today ndash; he just got (2011 Heisman Trophy winner) Andrew Luck in football and so he's going into an adventure on that. I'm sure I'll have a conversation with Arn, but I don't know if we'll do anything with him at this point in time.

Why would or wouldn't you? What's the advantage or disadvantage?

Billy: The advantage is you have him under contract. The disadvantage is you don't have him under contract. [Laughs] Nah, I think you've got to weigh it and see. Injury-wise, we know he's going to come back from that. You never know. They may throw a number at you that makes sense.

Did his foot injury change that?

Billy: Obviously, the injury had an impact on it.

Do you think the team is past the worst of it?

Billy: If I knew that, I'd be in Vegas! We've had a bad stretch of games, we played some very good opponents. I do think we're getting better. Injuries have hurt us a little bit, because we're short at the 3 spot. I do think we're getting better and I think having some days off now will give the guys a chance to recuperate. We do have the three-game stretch coming up, but we'll get some home games. The one thing about it ndash; and you talk to everybody ndash; everybody's got a part of the schedule that's going to be a bear; ours happened to be at the beginning.

How often do you take Deron Williams' temperature?

Billy: I talk to him, I talk to all our guys. Obviously, I talk to Deron quite a bit. He's frustrated: losing and trying to figure it out. I don't think he's playing as well as he'd like. I think, as you've said, this part's been tough for everybody.

How much of a surprise has MarShon Brooks' success been this year?

Billy: You know what's really surprised me is his level of confidence. I knew he was a confident kid, but when he goes out there, and he's being challenged by some of the better defenders and they're isolating him and he has the confidence and the knowithall to get shots off and to score, you don't see a lot of rookies with that kind of confidence step in the league and say, ndash; I can score on Joe Johnson.'Or Dahntay Jones, or different guys. But he's willing to take the challenge of scoring. Now, if we can get him to take that challenge on the other end ndash; I've told him, 'You don't have to be a great defender ndash; you just have to stay in their way a little bit.'

Have you seen improvement on that end?

Billy: He's got some steps to take, but if you're scoring 20 or 25 points ndash; I had a guy in Philly (Allen Iverson) who scored 30 ndash; if his opponent got 20 and he got 30, we lived with it. World B. Free said it best, though. Gene Shue asked him, 'How you gonna defend your opponent? 'He said, 'If he gets 40, I've got to get 50.' So we'll take that from MarShon until he learns how to get better on the defensive end.

Has the team's recent three-point shooting been more in line with your initial vision?

Billy: Yeah. That was a shock at the beginning, when Anthony (Morrow) wasn't making his 3s, and a lot of our three-point shooters weren't making shots, because I thought that's something we could do. And I think a lot of that was the fatigue and leg fatigue. But I think now they've got their legs under them, and that's who we are right now, when you don't have a post-up game.

Has it been frustrating to see that vision unrealized due to Brook's injury?

Billy: That's sports. If you look at football, a couple years ago, New England started out with Tom Brady for the year, and he goes down and now you have the backup in there. That's sports, and I think other guys have got to step up and play. I think other guys have done well, but they're not gonna be Brook Lopez; they've got to be who they are.

But Brook remains on schedule?

Billy: Yeah. I think there's nothing that has changed the timetable on that at all.

--Posted by Ben Couch at 7:03 p.m.



January 18, 2012

Larry Owens Q&A

On Wednesday, the Nets ndash; looking for more options at small forward with Damion James injured ndash; waived PF Dennis Horner and called up F Larry Owens from the NBA D-League's Tulsa 66ers.

Owens has spent the last two-plus seasons with the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League. In 10 games (7 starts) this season, Owens has averaged 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.6 blocks in 34 minutes, shooting .453 (53-117) from the field and .944 (17-18) from the line.

Owens met with media for the first time this morning at shootaround. Here's the transcript:

How's it feel?

Larry: It feels great. I told myself to stay humble and be hungry, because you never know when the phone call will be.

Is this something you saw coming?

Larry: Not even. I went to the showcase tried to play my game, tried to be the leader on a young team and got an opportunity.

For someone who doesn't know, how would you describe your game?

Larry: Energy guy. Defensive guy. If I get a chance to get in the game, I'll try to bring a spark to the team and just try to be a lock-down defender.

Talk to coach about your role?

Larry: Not yet. I'm looking forward to speaking with coach and just asking what they expect of me and just going from there.

This must've been a crazy 24 hours …

Larry: A little weird. [laughs] I was going to get on the bus to go to Dallas ndash; Frisco, Texas for a game and got the phone call. So I scrambled, got some clothes, packed real fast and got on a plane.

Hard to believe it?

Larry: It hasn't set in yet, but I'm pretty sure later on it'll set in. [laughing]

--Posted by Ben Couch at 2:40 p.m.



January 10, 2011

A Point of Information, from Avery

With Avery Johnson making a conference call to the team's beat writers today, wanted to share a great quote about how aware he ndash; and Deron Williams ndash; are of the big picture:

"He's not going to be one accepting losing. Like I've told him, it's not about seeing ndash; it's about having vision. Because what he sees right now is a 2-8 team. But what's the vision of where we're going? We have a plan, we have a bright future, like I keep saying. We've got to develop MarShon Brooks.

"There's a reason to put on that uniform every day. I told him I'm just excited every day we come in and practice. He sees a focused basketball coach, coaching staff that prepares hard, works hard. We don't sleep on airplanes, we're constantly back here working and watching video. We call players from time-to-time to take a look at certain situations. We get off the plane (today), we're gonna go practice in Denver.

"Again, he sees and I think he appreciates how consistent I am day in and day out, because it's not about what you see, it's about having a vision. And even though we want to be 8-2, we're not 8-2, we're 2-8. But now we have a chance to start in Denver and start this road trip against one of the best teams in the Western Conference right now, and we're going to have to play well."

--Posted by Ben Couch at 2:22 p.m.



January 7, 2012

Brook Lopez Q&A

Center Brook Lopez, currently rehabbing a broken right foot that will keep him out for another few weeks, made his first public appearance since undergoing surgery just before the holidays. The 7-footer, wearing a boot, met with media after the first quarter of Saturday's game against the Heat, speaking about his recovery.

Here's the transcript:

How're you doing?

Brook: I'm doing well. We just took an X-Ray about 30 minutes ago, and ndash; I was going to say it came out 'very positive,' but I guess the proper term is 'negative,' right? I don't know exactly. It was great. It went very well, and I think we are definitely moving forward.

How have you been rehabbing?

Brook: I've been doing a lot of upper body work with Jeremy (Bettle, the team's strength and conditioning coach) this last week. It's been tough, great stuff. I think we're going to work more in the pool this week, with the underwater treadmill. Hopefully, by next week I'll be standing up and doing some workouts and maybe even some spot shooting, if I'm lucky.

Have they given you a target date?

Brook: They might've, but I barely know what today is. I've been pretty out of it lately in regards to the calendar, so I couldn't even pinpoint a date if they had given me a timeline.

What's it like being out after not missing a game in three years?

Brook: It's tough for me. I really don't enjoy watching games or hearing about the NBA. I really want to be back out there, helping my team in any way I can. So I just want to continue to rehab and take care of myself as best I can, so I'll be out there as quick as I can.

Encouraging your brother Robin recovered quickly from the same injury?

Brook: He's been doing well, so I guess if somehow the injury runs in the family, hopefully the recovery runs in it as well.

Is it encouraging to find out fans are even dressing their dogs like you?

Brook: I'd like to see the dog, no question. That's very admirable, and I definitely take that to heart. I love hearing about that, and I can't wait to be back out there. Even if it's sitting in a suit on the bench, if only for a little bit.

Thought you'd be out this long initially?

Brook: Oh, I was extremely shocked, no question. I didn't see it coming at all. I thought it was just some sort of tweaked ankle or something like that ndash; nothing big. Thankfully, Timmy (Walsh, the athletic trainer), whenever someone tweaks an ankle or something like that, he always has them get an X-ray, just in case. And it worked out for the best this time ndash; who knows what would have happened if we didn't catch it?

Any sign ahead of time?

Brook: Nah. I don't even really think it was the fracture, just the tweak of the ankle, like I said. It hadn't bothered me and just caught us off guard, snuck up on me completely. It's fortunate that Timmy's so vigilant in his care.

How've you been passing your time?

Brook: I've been reading a lot: comics, novels as well. I've been writing, drawing. I hadn't drawn in a few months prior to this, so it is good to get a chance to create a lot and spend some time doing that.

How long for the boot?

Brook: I think about another week, and that's too long. Another minute's too long.

Then a brace?

Brook: I think I'd be wearing high tops, nothing too loose ndash; they want to keep it tight. A high top with an orthotic in it.

Get frustrated thinking you can help?

Brook: No question. I talk to guys on our team: I text coach, I text the players. I try to watch the games every now and then, but it's tough for me. I enjoy seeing the team do well, and I can't watch games that don't have the Nets in them. I don't really like hearing about the NBA in general; I feel kind of left out. There's no question that I enjoy playing the game.

Talk to doctor's about possible recurrence?

Brook: I've never spoken to them about that. I'm confident in the quality of care we have here – one of the doctor's attended Stanford; I think that speaks for itself. There's no question we have probably one of – if not the best ndash; staffs in the NBA. Being near New York, there's a lot of great facilities. I had my surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in the City. Obviously, they take their jobs very seriously, and they performed them well. They said it was great right after they did it and I felt no pain. It's been progressing very well.

As a big man, tough to see Yao retire because of foot problems?

Brook: It's definitely scary. But, again, I feel like I'm in capable hands, I have the best doctors taking care of me, I can't say enough about Timmy Walsh, obviously he's taken care of me in my time here, and I'm very confident this is going in the right direction.

When was the last injury that kept you out?

Brook: Six years ago now, right before the start of the season in college, I missed up to conference play. A few things in high school. What was it?

Brook: Ruptured disk. A discectomy on the L-4 (vertebrae), I think. ... What? I heard about it a lot...

--Posted by Ben Couch at 11:29 p.m.




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