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July 1st, 2010

T-Will Returns, Raring to Go

The Nets opened practices for their upcoming trip to the AirTran Airways Pro Summer League on Wednesday, and by the end of Day Two, Terrence Williams was reminding every observer just how far hed come since first stepping on an NBA court one year ago. As an intra-squad scrimmage wound down on Thursday, one point to go and the loser set for sprints, Williams took a pass at the left elbow, crossed the lane in one dribble, probed the defense with a second, stepped back and hopped to laser an overhand pass to Brian Zoubek for a wide-open game-winning layup.

Assistant coach Popeye Jones, wholl be running the teams summer league entry (Watch Video), praised Williams for positioning himself to take control, labeling it a sign of Williams applying his NBA experience. Williams who was the most vocal presence on the floor, directing traffic on both ends agreed.

Im older, Williams said. I feel like as far as basketball, going through 82 games and practices, you bring a different perspective to the team. Especially with young guys theres guys that are the same age as me that are asking me help for what to do: Whats a v-back? How many seconds can we be in the key? or What should I do off the pick-and-roll? I feel like the veteran, even though Im not one (yet). Just the veteran out here, compared to these guys.

After running through the practice, Williams kept chugging right through full-court conditioning, looking fit as ever as he gradually increased the height and velocity of his dunks at the end of each end-to-end sprint. He knows that an improved sophomore season begins not with training camp, but maximized effort in these practices and next weeks games.

The new staff has told Williams theyre aware of what he can when the offense is flowing through him, and theyd like him to focus on becoming the lockdown defender they envision stymieing opponents on the perimeter. Williams is thusly committed to defense and staying in shape, believing the rest will take care of itself.

The gregarious swingman has already begun friendly chirping with rookie forward Damion James, whom Williams knows from college. Williams joked that James fancies himself a guard and needles the rookie by constantly calling him a big man, a 4, a 5. During the viewable part of the scrimmage, James matched up with Williams on the perimeter, and held his own defensively, though Williams often denied James the ball and notably forced him into a tough turnaround jumper.

That missed J turned into one of the sessions highlights, as No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors seemingly fell out of the sky in an attempt to slam the loose ball (Watch Video). Had it gone down, its likely the players would have just agreed to end things there; as it was, the audience settled for chuckling at the sheer ridiculousness of Favors nearly hitting the shot clock (Williams words) but missing the putback.

Williams pointed to that moment as an example of Favors potential, and said that hes been discussing shooting with the 6-foot-10 forward, offering the pointer that thinking too much can disrupt the process. He also touted Tulsa product Ben Uzoh, citing the point guards restraint often a difficult concept for those transition from college to embrace.

And lets not forget the 7-footer who finished off that game-winning assist:

The big man, I like him, Williams said, of Zoubek. Every time its a pick-and-roll with me and him, something productive happens. I like the guys theyve got in for right now.

While the Nets observe Williams maturity and the four rookies adjustment to NBA-ready competition, theyll also be keeping an eye on the other 12 practicing players. Jones said the teams trying to find a diamond in the rough that might help during the season; the group includes accomplished college players like Texas guard AJ Abrams, former draft picks like Gabe Pruitt and even Polish center Cezary Trybanski.

Nets Sign Uzoh, Zoubek
Ben Uzoh and Brian Zoubek earned extra attention from the assembled media after a mid-practice announcement that the duo were signed to non-guaranteed contracts (See Release). Uzoh, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound combo guard, played four years at Tulsa, averaging 15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists while shooting .343 from three-point range and .457 overall. Zoubek, also a four-year senior, won a national championship at Duke last season while posting a nightly line of 5.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in just 18.7 minutes.

Well, theyve had great college careers, said Nets assistant Popeye Jones. (With) Uzoh, its hard to find big point guards; hes a big point guard. He can defend, but now weve got to see if hes capable of running an NBA team, so were trying to teach him that: Hey, know the guys youre on the court with, where they like the ball.

And then Zoubek: you can never have enough physical players on your team. Hes a physical presence in the paint we want to see: Can he protect the paint defensively? Can he finish around the rim offensively? Thats what were looking for him to do.

Uzoh said the Nets are looking for him to defend, be a leader and run the point. He feels capable, though he acknowledges theres a lot of information coming at him as they try to learn the foundations of Avery Johnsons offensive and defensive schemes. (Zoubek said everyone was running around like a chicken with their head cut off.)

Glad to have earned an extended opportunity to showcase his talents, Uzohs focusing on directing and getting players the ball in proper position, describing his game as steady, but aggressive. The Texas native is aware of all the recent moves made by the Nets, and is excited by the direction in which the franchise is headed.

Its a building process, They want to do something good. Theyve started bringing in pieces and planning for the future, and I want to be part of that. Theres good things happening here.

The 7-foot-1, 260-pound Zoubek holds similarly high hopes for his future contributions, ready to defend and rebound aggressively, with an eye on serving as a competent sub for starter Brook Lopez. Hes committed to improving on offense, but feels most confident in his ability to set screens for perimeter playmakers, a talent evident in the scrimmages final play.

Hey, man Ive been doing that my whole career, Zoubek said. I had three guys on the perimeter that I was setting screens for all day, and if I wasnt good at it, I wasnt going to play. I had to develop that skill, be aware off the pick-and-roll and had to set a good screen. I think our guards will like that.

Brian Zoubek Video Interview

--Posted by Ben Couch at 5:46 p.m.

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