Morning began with breakfast with Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe in a relaxed setting where the biggest pancakes I’ve ever seen were served at Harold’s in Lyndhurst and then continued with a sit-down with anything but relaxed Lawrence Frank.
Training camp officially starts one week from today - and it seemed the coach was trying out his pre-season speech with the media.
“Our strength is going to be in numbers,” Frank said. “Our brand is none of us is as strong as all of us. We don’t have the first-ballot Hall of Famers. We don’t have multiple All-Stars right now but we have several good players. I think our depth chart at many positions as opposed to being vertical is going to be horizontal.”
That was the start of Frank and it continued for nearly 25 minutes. Not surprisingly, Frank was amped up. He is ready to get started right now.
The challenge is huge for him and everyone associated with the Nets, especially now that Vince Carter is in Orlando. Of course, they’re saying they’re going to be better than anyone expects. That’s what they always say and what they have to say.
“We lost a great player in Vince, and we’ve got a lot of real young players here who will be playing prominent roles,” Thorn said. “I think on paper…we don’t look that strong on paper, but we will be better than a lot of the pundits think we will be, and we’ll be very competitive.”
Frank stressed defense: “If we don’t get better we’re going to get our [butts] kicked.” He preached coming together, committing and buying in as a team. He also challenged his players, many of whom will have to increase their workload.
“If I’m a player it is an unbelievable opportunity,” Frank said. “Eighty-percent of the players in this league are role players; 80 percent. Every guy who’s a role player always aspires to be something more. Well, you’ve got an opportunity here.
“Opportunity, which is what every player wants – well, what you got?
“If we are not all buying in together, because we have a lot of different issues in play: You have what the perceptions are out there, which the players hear. You have youth. You have veterans. You have guys in the last year of their contracts. If we don’t commit to doing this thing together we have very little chance to be successful. If we do, there are enough examples in the past to show a group that quote-unquote maybe the name recognition individually isn’t high, can still find a way. There have been a number of examples in this league of guys buying in, totally committing, trusting each other, trusting the system and being as good as they possibly can be.”
See what I mean?
There’s more. Plenty more, but it’s all along the same lines.
Bottom line, the Nets need Devin Harris to be a leader and have another All-Star caliber year. They need Courtney Lee to bring a defensive mindset and show he can do more with more of an opportunity. The same goes for Brook Lopez, who will be someone the Nets run their offense through much more this season.
Everyone else has to do his part - particularly Yi Jianlian - but it starts with those three because they are the new Big Three of the Nets.
“We're getting away from this Big Three bull. Okay?” Frank said. “We are going to be about the team. Now if you're a bonafide Hall of Famer, you can be a Big Three. But we have to be about the team. Devin's our one all-star, he's a high level player and he's going to continue to get better. But this is about everyone taking ownership in this thing.”
Probably the best line from Frank came as the gathering was ending.
“It’s good seeing you guys,” Frank said. “It means I survived another offseason.”
Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov confirmed in his blog that he is in negotiations to help finance the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. According to his blog, Prokhorov's group Onexim would receive a controlling stake of the Nets and that things are moving forward. This is a machine translation so some of it isn't entirely clear but you canget the gist of it. Read his blog here.
When the ownership issue came up Tuesday, Thorn said, “Whatever happens I think it will get resolved in a timely fashion and I don't think it will have any effect on the players. Kiki and I are not in that loop. I go by what I read in the paper. Obviously, there's some smoke out there. Hopefully it will be resolved in a timely fashion and everybody will be happy.”
Like last year – and probably more so – this season will be about the development of the young players. The play of Harris, Lee and Lopez and what Terrence Williams shows as a rookie will have a major impact on what the Nets do next summer.
As we’ve said all along, no big-name free agent will come to the Nets just based on money alone. They will want to see there is a future there and those are the four players – as of right now – that make up the future of the Nets. But they know they need that big piece.
“We will be in position at the end of the year to be in the free agent market to be competitive for virtually anybody,” Thorn said. “We do anticipate our young core getting better. So I think at the end of this year, we are in a pretty enviable position going forward.
“We definitely want to be a team that can compete for the championship. We certainly would like to be in a position where it's not even a possibility we won't be in the playoffs. That where we'd like to be, where virtually everybody says, 'Hey you guys are going to be in the playoffs' and it's just a matter of how far you can go. That's where we'd like to be.”
Thorn said this likely would be the team that starts camp, but expects changes at some point in the early going.
“I’m reasonably sure that we probably won’t have any changes in roster that you would call major things,” Thorn said. “There may be some minor things. But I don’t see any major things.”
Everyone is in working out already except for Eduardo Najera, but he should be in New Jersey soon. … The Nets have their annual softball game at Yankee Stadium tonight.