EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New Jersey Nets head coach Avery Johnson admitted Friday his team has little, if any, chance to make the playoffs this season.
But if the Nets trade for Carmelo Anthony, all bets are off.
The Nets, as currently constructed, met with reporters early Friday afternoon at the team's annual media day, on the eve of training camp. Johnson was asked about the bold statement new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov made after acquiring the team in the spring, saying the Nets would make the playoffs this season and win a championship within five.
"I think more than anything, that statement was made based upon pre-free agency," Johnson said. "Mikhail and I are on the same page. This situation is not gonna blow up in smoke if that doesn't happen in our first year. He's too smart of a business guy and has been too successful both in business and with his Russian professional team, CSKA, to know what we're dealing with here.
"We're all on the same page. And sure, we would love to be a part of the top eight teams [in the Eastern Conference]. Right now we're not ready to take that step."
Still, rumors have been swirling that the Nets are trying to acquire Anthony, the NBA's third-leading scorer last season, from the Denver Nuggets. And shortly after Johnson and the players completed their interview sessions, multiple news outlets reported the Nets were involved in serious discussions about a four-way trade that would bring Anthony to New Jersey.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the four teams involved would be the Nets, the Nuggets, the Utah Jazz and the Charlotte Bobcats. The Nets would send starting point guard Devin Harris to Charlotte, and the No. 3 overall pick in the June draft, power forward Derrick Favors to Denver. Draft picks likely also would be involved.
The deal appears far from complete, however, and certainly could fall through. During his media day session, Johnson was asked about the abundant trade rumors, and how they might affect his team.
"All year you're gonna hear stuff about not only our situation but every team. That's the way it goes," Johnson said. "We have a very strategic plan here. For us to disrupt that plan, it would have to be something that we think we would hit a home run with."
In the meantime, Johnson, who was hired in June to be the Nets' coach, sounded excited to begin training camp with the players on the current roster, which has been significantly overhauled following last season's NBA-worst 12-70 record. Only four players -- Harris, center Brook Lopez, swingman Terrence Williams and reserve forward Kris Humphries -- remain from last season's roster.
"We're a new team," Johnson said. "It's not about a team coming off a 12-win season, we're coming off a zero-win season. This team has never played together. This is nothing but up for us."
Lopez, a budding star entering his third NBA season and the current centerpiece of the franchise, said he is feeling a lot better after his offseason bout with mononucleosis, which forced him to withdraw from training with the U.S. national team for the world championships in Turkey.
"I'm really anxious to get out there and get going," Lopez said. "It feels like my rookie year all over again. It's very exciting seeing all these new faces. We've got a lot of new talented guys, and I'm really looking forward to playing with them.
"Hopefully we'll gel well as a team and it will lead to success on the court."
Harris, a former All-Star who had a down season in 2009-10, said he was looking forward to playing for Johnson, his former coach with the Dallas Mavericks.
"It feels great to be reunited,. Obviously, I was a big fan of him in Dallas," Harris said. "I'm excited for him to be here, I know what he's capable of doing and how he can turn us around. ... He's a natural-born leader."
Favors, who almost certainly would be involved in any trade for Anthony, has been dealing with trade rumors ever since he was drafted by the Nets.
"Really, I don't pay attention to none of it, to tell you the truth. I've been focusing on trying to improve my game," Favors said. "It was kinda hard at first when I had friends and family texting me about [rumors], but I just didn't pay attention to any of it."
Whether or not a trade goes down, this will be a season of new beginnings for the franchise. Along with the new owner and new coach, the team will be playing at a new home arena, the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Nets are scheduled to call Newark home for two seasons, before moving to an arena currently being constructed in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The only question now is, will Carmelo Anthony be going to China, too?