NEWARK, N.J. - Avery Johnson finished up his pre-game chat with reporters, walked a couple steps to his office door and tried to turn the handle, to no avail.
He was locked out.
Yes, the New Jersey Nets were still working the bugs out Sunday night as they made their 2010-11 preseason debut in their temporary new home, the Prudential Center, with a 108-70 victory over Maccabi Haifa. On the bright side, rookie Derrick Favors missed his first shot and then made his next five -- all on dunks -- as part of a 14-point, nine-rebound performance in 21 minutes.
"After all the trade rumors, it was good to come out, feel fresh and play basketball," said Favors, who remains the centerpiece of the dormant-but-not-dead Carmelo Anthony-to-New Jersey trade rumors that will likely not subside until the trade deadline passes in mid-February -- unless Anthony is traded before then.
There were no Nuggets scouts in attendance Sunday night. For that matter, there weren't that many people in attendance whatsoever. I counted roughly 2,500 people in the stands just prior to tipoff, and the Nets announced a crowd of 5,174 for what was the first NBA preseason game of the 2010-11 schedule played on U.S. soil (the New York Knicks defeated Armani Jeans Milano in Italy earlier in the day).
The arena was so quiet, you could hear Nets sophomore Terrence Williams calling out to Damion James: 'C'mon, rook" as the Nets rebounded on the defensive end in the third quarter and looked to move the ball upcourt.
"I call everyone rook now," Williams said. "I even call Joe Smith a 'rook.' He's a reborn 'rook.'
Williams razzed Favors afterward, pointing out his 2-for-5 free throw shooting in a voice loud enough that everyone in the locker room could hear it and get a kick out of it. But Williams showed his voice can actually drop a few octaves, too, when he noted with amazement that reserve center Johan Petro has nearly 330,000 followers on Twitter, a happenstance for which Williams (just shy of 24,000 followers) has not yet received a satisfactory explanation. (Apparently, according to Ben Couch of nets.com, there was a locker room plot in Denver last season in which the goal was for Petro to end up with more followers than all of the other Nuggets combined).
Coach Johnson was more pleased with Favors (6-for-8, with the other FG coming on a nifty drop-step move) than he was with Brook Lopez (11 points, six rebounds in 23 minutes), who he described as "not good, not good" in a first half in which he was matched up against a 6-foot-6 center. But the Nets new coach was pleased with the outside shooting of Anthony Morrow (4-for-6 on 3s) on a night when one of the Nets' other main 3-point threats, Troy Murphy (strained groin), was unavailable.
The Nets will continue to call the Prudential Center their home for the next two seasons while their new arena in Brooklyn is being built (concrete has been poured, but no steel beems are in the ground yet), and this may go down as the smallest crowd they'll ever play before between now and the move to Brooklyn.
It was quite the sight for the eyes of Jordan Farmar, whose entire NBA career up until now had been spent with one of the league's marquee teams, the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Well, there are Lakers fans all over the world, really, and everywhere you go it's packed, sold out," Farmar said. "Here, we're trying to get to that level. But there's limits to everything."
There certainly are -- something Johnson found out when he found himself locked out of his own office on the Nets' Night One in Newark.