Favors, James make LeBron pitch

NEW YORK -- Count New Jersey Nets draft picks Derrick Favors and Damion James among those who hope LeBron James lands in Newark.

"I'd love to play with him," Favors, who the Nets selected third overall in last Thursday's NBA draft, said during a visit to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday for the Yanks-Mariners game. "It would be an honor and I hope he decides to come here."

Most peg the Nets as a long-shot to land James, who officially becomes a free-agent at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday. Damion James, selected at No. 24 by the Hawks but traded to the Nets on draft night, hopes those predicting New Jersey out of the race are off-base.

"I would love for him to come here," said Damion James, a 6-foot-8 small forward who played four years at Texas. "I would love to be able to play with that guy man. Just one player like that can turn the whole franchise around."

The Nets reportedly have roughly $30 million in cap space to spend on the 2010 free-agent class after clearing $3 million on Tuesday when they dealt Yi Jianlian to the Wizards for Quinton Ross. ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported Monday that the Nets will meet with LeBron James on Thursday in northeast Ohio and have scheduled meetings with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade for Friday in New York City.

"I look forward to seeing who we get," Damion James said of the free-agent class that also includes Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson. "I think they're going to get the best fit for this team and they're headed on the right path to building this organization back up. ... I just know I'd love to play with any of those guys [who are] going to be free agents."

The two rookies were at the game after new Nets coach Avery Johnson introduced them earlier in the day.

Johnson has given the team's rebuilding process a nickname to rally around.

"I'm calling it, 'Erase and replace,'" Johnson said at the press conference. "We're erasing the long-standing mentality and replacing it with a new mentality. We're erasing some players and replacing them with better players. We feel we have two guys here who are going to replace some old parts."

The 6-10 Favors out of Georgia Tech is only 18 years old, but could develop into a perfect complement at power forward next to the Nets' budding star Brook Lopez at center.

"I see myself coming in and contributing right away," said Favors, who was the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year last season, averaging 12.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. "I don't think they're looking at me to be a savior. It's going to be a learning experience for me and by my second year, I should be able to help turn this team around."

Johnson doesn't know what role Favors will have right away with a team that won just 12 games last season.

"I won't say he's a project," Johnson said. "He just needs time to mature. I'm real positive about him. Whether he plays 32 minutes, 22 minutes or 12 minutes a game, the plan is for him to play for us. He's going to get a chance to play right away. We didn't draft him third for him to sit the bench. With his age, he should basically just be coming out of high school right now. It's going to take some time. I don't know how long, but he needs to be bigger and stronger."

Favors said that he's happy to be with the Nets.

"It's a good situation for me," he said. "I'm ready for the challenge. I just have to put a lot of work in right now, get in the weight room and try to work on my jump shot a little. I feel I need that to be a more effective player."

Johnson admits Favors needs some development to be a starter in the NBA.

"We talked about his jump shot as being one of the two things we have to develop," Johnson said. "We have to repair one or two flaws we see in his shot. When we do that, not only will he be able to post up, but he will move out and hit that 16-to-18 foot jumper consistently. We're not asking him to play 48 minutes right away. We understand that there is a process that needs to take place, especially with the physicality of the game."

Johnson said that he would eventually like to see Favors add about 20 pounds of muscle.

James came to the Nets for the rights to Jordan Crawford (the Nets' first round pick at No. 27) and the Nets' second round pick (No. 31 overall, which eventually went to Oklahoma City).

James played four years at Texas and averaged 18 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for the Longhorns.

"I'm looking forward to coming in and helping this team turn things around and get things going on the right track," James said. "We have a new coach, a new owner [Mikhail Prokhorov] and a new building [the Prudential Center in Newark]. We're definitely moving in the right direction. I think I will be able to contribute and be a part to turn this franchise around."

James thought he would be drafted higher than No. 24 overall, but isn't disappointed about where he ended up.

"Things happen for a reason," James said. "I'm just happy to be in a situation where I can help a team win. At the end of the day, I ended up in a great place."

Both rookies will play for the Nets' team in the Orlando summer league that begins play next week.

"These guys are going to get to know me real good early on," Johnson said. "We're an upswing franchise. If we get one free agent, then another can come aboard and we have a chance to get pretty good pretty soon."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.