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March 3, 2011

NETS Again at O2, This Time with Feeling

With a blessedly late 10:45 departure time, the Nets again headed to London's O2 Arena for a practice ahead of tomorrow's game against the Raptors. The unsurprising news? Deron Williams didn't practice. The good news? The team feels "much better" about his chances of playing tomorrow. (i.e. "Now it'd be surprising if he doesn't." ... Mainly because he said he'll play. Ha.)

And what's this? More good news? Indeed. Jordan Farmar practiced at full capacity, less than a week after an ankle sprain that looked like it would leave him sidelined for the entire trip. Coach Avery Johnson said Farmar recovered much quicker than anticipated, though they'd have to re-evaluate him tomorrow morning after seeing how his ankle responds to the practice.

"It felt good today," Farmar said. "I taped it up; Ive been working on it non-stop, since it happened, trying to get ready. I feel okay. It was. The way I saw it the first day, I didnt really think it would feel this good. So Im pleased with the progress."

That eases the point guard burden on rookie Ben Uzoh, who was in line to start if Williams and Farmar were out. But it appears the Nets will be at close to full strength, if not 100% as individuals.

The team hung around after practice media, joining their Raptors counterparts to run an NBA Cares clinic for local schoolchildren, ages 8-12. The young'uns, led in counter-cheers by an enthusiastic instructor, chanted for their NBA teams of choice. (Side 1: "We want the Nets!" Side 2: "We want the Rap-TORRRS!" <==Pretend you're hearing little British children say that, rather than the "Rap-TERS" we both know you're substituting. It's way cuter that way, I swear.)

After a few warmups, the players split off into groups of three or four, each running a station isolating a skill: one for dribbling; another, passing; a third, layups; etc. Though most of the interaction was offering encouragement and loose supervision, an attentive observer could catch Kris Humphries hopping over plastic cones or Sasha Vujacic racing up and down the court to pump up his winning relay team.

Good times were had, and with the afternoon off, everyone headed back to the hotel for a breather, easing into that most normal part of the NBA schedule: gameday. So close. So, so close.


--Posted by Ben Couch at 5:40/12:40 p.m.

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