The Brooklyn Nets begin training camp Saturday with their first of several two-a-day practices. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
The health of Brook and Deron: Deron Williams (ankles) and Brook Lopez (ankle/foot) are both said to be healthy. If the Nets want to go anywhere this season, their starting point guard and center need to sustain that health over the course of an 82-game regular season (and, perhaps, the playoffs). The Nets will likely take it easy on both players; GM Billy King already said that Lopez would probably not participate in both sessions of two-a-days, at least initially, and the team would play it by ear with Williams.
New coach, new system: Since moving to Brooklyn, the Nets have gone through Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo and Jason Kidd. Enter Lionel Hollins. Hollins’ teams in Memphis thrived by dominating in the post and playing tough, tenacious defense. Hollins will be implementing yet another new system for these players to learn. How quickly will they be able to pick it up?
We know four, but who is the fifth? Williams, Lopez, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett will start. This we know. What we don’t know is who Brooklyn’s fifth starter will be. If the Nets want to play bigger, Andrei Kirilenko and Mirza Teletovic are the obvious candidates. There’s also highly touted rookie Bojan Bogdanovic, too. And Alan Anderson. Hmm...
The ascension of Mase: Mason Plumlee, 24, just completed a surprising stint with Team USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup. It had to be a confidence-builder for the soon-to-be second-year pro. Plumlee figures to get plenty of minutes behind Lopez and Garnett, and probably some starts when the Nets play games on back-to-back days. The high flyer’s continued growth and development is paramount to Brooklyn’s success in 2014-15.
Keep an eye on: Bogdanovic, who just came off an extremely successful showing at the World Cup with Croatia. Jerome Jordan, on a training camp deal, was in camp for Hollins in Memphis before getting cut. The Nets could use more depth up front. Also, the third point guard competition between Marquis Teague and Jorge Gutierrez. Or will the Nets decide to take both? And we didn’t forget about Markel Brown, who is athletic and explosive. Is he a project and/or will Hollins have anywhere to play him if he shows he can contribute?