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Nets reshuffle deck, attempt to move into new direction

One major key player is gone, which may open things up

POSTED: Oct 19, 2015 12:22 AM ET

By Lang Whitaker

BY Lang Whitaker

NBA.com

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The Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn three years ago, and new owner Mikhail Prokhorov made a splash by spending cash to assemble a big name lineup. Unfortunately, they never congealed as a team, and off-court changes (three coaches in three seasons) didn't help either. Now the Nets find themselves somewhere between that past and a new future. With no clear direction forward.

ICYMI

Brooklyn traded for Deron Williams in 2011 to jump-start their rebuild. He left this summer after the Nets bought out the remaining two years on his contract. As backcourt mate Joe Johnson said: "I didn't see that coming -- him getting bought out. I don't think it was that bad. It's not that bad here." ... As part of all the maneuvering the Nets did to assemble the roster of a few years back, they won't fully control their own first round pick again until the 2019 Draft ... The Nets are hopeful their new $50 million training facility in Brooklyn's Sunset Park waterfront district will be done by February.

THREE POINTS

1. The NBA is currently a point guard's league, and the Nets are giving their keys to the point position to Jarrett Jack. The last time Jack was a full-time starting point guard was for the Hornets in 2011-12, but he feels ready to step into the position: "You know, I've been in this League going on 11 years now, so I've seen things from all sides of the spectrum. Being able to help somebody personally or the team collectively is something that falls on me at this particular point and time."

2. Joe Johnson recently turned 34 years old, and last season he averaged just 14.4 ppg, his lowest total for a season since 2002-'03. But entering the final year of his contract, and with more shots to go around, it wouldn't be surprising to see Johnson take a larger role in the offense.

3. Entering his second full season as head coach of the Nets, Lionel Hollins says he's in a more comfortable place this season than he was a year ago. As Hollins told Newsday, "Last year was drastic because we tried to put a whole new system in on the presumption we had certain type of players that once I got to know them, I found out we didn't have it. And that's what happened to me in Memphis. I came in, I wanted to play a certain way and I found out we didn't have the personnel to play that way. So we had to back up and change."

MAN ON THE SPOT

With the change in cast, Brook Lopez now has a chance to step into a leadership role with the Nets. And while Lopez has averaged 19.2 ppg over the last five seasons, the 27-year-old center still hasn't truly established himself as one of the NBA's elite big men. And as Lopez told ESPN.com, he's looking forward to stepping up to the task and shouldering a heavier load: "I think it's again becoming more of a leader on the court, and becoming a playmaker in general. A lot of times in my career, I've been the end point, the termination point of a lot of plays, just scoring the ball. I'd like to be in a position to have plays run through me and share the ball, make plays. Still score, obviously, but make plays, as well."

STARTING FIVE

Jarrett Jack | 12.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.7 apg
Now gets chance to run the show full-time.

Bojan Bogdanovic | 9.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.9 apg
Should play prominent role this season.

Brook Lopez | 17.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 0.7 apg
Could still improve production on the boards.

Joe Johnson | 14.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.7 apg
Scoring has slowed but he's as durable as ever.

Thaddeus Young | 14.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.3 apg
Signed a new contract and still just 26 years old.

KEY RESERVES

Andrea Bargnani | 14.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.6 apg
Didn't work out for Bargs in NYC, so he'll try the other side of the East River.

Shane Larkin | 6.2 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.3 rpg
Another former Knick reclamation project.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson | Rookie
Will have immediate opportunity to contribute with Nets.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Nets are trying to do that most difficult of tricks: rebuilding without bottoming out. It won't be easy, but then, in the Atlantic Division they may be able to remain competitive while they reboot.

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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