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Nets make their moves, prepare for opening night

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Ready or not, Nets coach Avery Johnson said once Mehmet Okur joins the team Saturday for practice, he'll have his full cast of characters when the lights come on to start the regular season Monday night against Washington.

But he did warn against forming any conclusions on what the teams looks like opening night.

“I don’t think we’re going to be the same team opening night or the first home game that we’re going to be 10 days or two weeks into the season,” Johnson said.

The Nets made the DeShawn Stevenson signing official Friday, the morning after the team scrambled to replace injured Brook Lopez and traded for Okur, a former teammate of Deron Williams. Injuries to his Achilles and back relegated Okur to just 13 games last season for Jazz. Johnson would not say whether Okur would start against the Wizards but promised that he would see some time.

“We need another guy to fill in,” Johnson said. “He’s not just filling in. He’s a veteran player, who’s had a solid career. He knows how to play. He knows how to pass. He still shoots the ball pretty good.”

Williams expects that chemistry will come quickly with the Nets new big man. The pair played together until Williams arrived in New Jersey at the end of last season. Williams also played against Okur in Turkey during the lockout and said the he appeared ready to play.

The Nets have become a much better defensive team just in the last week by bringing back Kris Humphries Wednesday and the addition of Stevenson. The 6-11 Okur averaged 13.5 points two seasons ago in Utah and will make $10.8 million this season. Stevenson signed for one year at $2.5 million. The Nets are now over the salary cap at $60 million.

“This is our team,” Williams said. “Whether I’m comfortable or not, this is our team. I think we have some good guys. We have some guys that know how to play basketball and that can hit shots and make plays. That’s all we need, as long as our defensive is locked in. We need guys that can get shots and see what they can do. I like DeShawn because he can hit shots but he also brings us toughness and can get out and guard people.”

Williams said that Okur was shocked initially by news of the trade, that sent a Nets second round pick to a Utah team looking to get younger. The point guard said that adding Stevenson was “one of my suggestions,” and likely had some influence in bringing in Okur as well. Williams added that his former teammate is warming to the idea of a reunion.

Although the Nets have improved defensively, they are still looking for scoring options, especially in the frontcourt with Lopez potentially out for two months. Okur gives the Nets another shooter that can hit outside shoots when Williams penetrates the paint. Johnson said Humphries and Stevenson will need to help as well.

“Humphries can score,” Johnson said. “He’s not a scorer, but he can score. You gotta guard him when he’s out there. He’s a threat. DeShawn can score. He’s not a scorer but we’ve seen him have stretches where he can knock down some threes. That’s a plus for us, adding guys that are not just defensive players.”