In an Eastern Conference that is wide open after Chicago and Cleveland at the top, Brooklyn could still make some noise. They may be trimming some payroll but they still have Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, which is a lot of firepower.
That is, if the latter two are healthy.
Williams was in-and-out of the lineup last season, getting shots in his ankles and starting only 58 games on his way to his worst production since his rookie season (both in terms of points and efficiency). Lopez appeared in just 17 games before a broken foot ended his season.
New Nets coach Lionel Hollins likes what he sees from those two on their road to recovery, he told Newsday in a phone interview from Africa where he is taking part in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.
“You can’t be where you want to be unless you’re healthy, and you can’t get in shape unless you’re healthy. If you are injured all summer, there’s no way you can work out. Deron is healthy, Brook is healthy and they are both able to work out.”
That’s a good sign.
The challenge for Hollins will be limiting their minutes and keeping them fresh next season despite a depleted bench.
The good news is that behind Lopez is Mason Plumlee, who has shown during Team USA camp he is ready to take on a larger role.
It’s a little more challenging at the guard spot. The Nets can play some Jarrett Jack at the point behind Williams but Jack is going to play some at the two so Marquis Teague will get minutes. They are going to miss Shaun Livingston.
But Hollins has no choice here — Williams ankles are made of paper mache at this point and while he is good during the summer he needs plenty of rest to stay that way during the season. As for Lopez, well, the history of big men and foot injuries is troubling. Controlled minutes will be key, even if it costs a couple wins along the way.