Lawrence Frank, New Jersey Nets
Opening Statement: We're very excited. I think we've used the first three games of the preseason to give some of our newcomers and younger players an opportunity to have extensive playing time, give them the ability to play through their mistakes. Our guys have practiced extremely well. We've limited the minutes of our core starters, and now as we get into the second phase of the preseason entering the game against Boston, we'll try to get a little bit better feel for where we're at as a team.
Q: Tell us about bringing back essentially the same team you had last year.
Frank: I think we look at as we obviously felt very, very good about our core. I think if you look at our starting group from an effectiveness standpoint, it was one of the top three to five starting units depending on what your grade system is. We really like the core, plus we really like the things that Cliff Robinson contributed to our team, and we felt that Antoine Wright -- giving him an opportunity to continue to develop -- and we really didn't have a great feel for what Boki Nachbar can do, so basically we felt very good about the core pieces. We added some extremely young and talented guys through the draft, and then we got some guys who can fill the gaps in between, one being Eddie House, who we signed as a free agent and another being Mikki Moore, which we were able to acquire through a trade for a second-round draft choice. We felt that we wanted to maintain the core yet continue to develop the chemistry with some different role players who could hopefully provide us with a spark off the bench.
Q: How will you approach the frontcourt rotation this season?
Frank: I think based on ... it's hard to give you a definite commitment now ... based on performance when you look at the job that Jason Collins, Nenad Krstic and Cliff have done, they clearly all three of them have been significant contributors not just in the team, but in the league. And then a guy like Mikki Moore obviously brings an energy component to our team. We also feel we have the flexibility to play small, so we feel good about the guys we have and hopefully we've added some different versatility components that can make us more challenging on both ends on the floor.
Q: Do you see Josh Boone and Mile Ilic as contributors?
Frank: I think with Mile [Ilic], he's definitely made great strides and I think he's one of those guys that's a developing player, and typically when you look at guys who come from another country, just the cultural adjustment takes X amount of time, but he's a guy that works extremely hard and will continue to get better. We'll look forward to his continued improvement. With Josh, it's hard to give any sort of comment other than he was a significant contributor in the summer league in that for a young player, he knows exactly what he can do and he tries to maximize those strengths. Being that he's missed training camp and he hasn't been able to practice and won't be able to practice still for some time, it's hard to give an evaluation other than he was very, very good during summer league.
Q: Who do you think closed the gap most on Miami in your conference?
Frank: I think you'd have a better feel than I would, but I just think it's still premature ... it's just hard to get a true feel and read for where everybody is at. I think you probably have to look at after the first 20-25 games of the regular season to start making some, and then those would be still be preliminary discussions. Some teams take longer to gel than others. I think obviously there's been significant improvement from virtually every team in the East. Who eventually closes the gap? Who knows. I hope people didn't forget that Detroit did win 64 games despite not winning the championship. Chicago, obviously, when you look at adding an impact player plus going 10-12 deep; Cleveland with arguably one of the top three players in the league; Toronto with all their new faces; Orlando obviously having a great preseason and finishing up the year so strong. So I think there's a case for a lot of teams right now. As we get into the regular season and get further into the season, I think it'll be a little bit easier to figure it out.
Q: What do you think your team got out of the Miami series?
Frank: I think you learn. I think playoff basketball is so much about your ability to focus for extended periods of time. If you look specifically at the series, obviously, Game 1 and Game 2 were kind of out of character for both teams, Games 3 and 4 basically could have gone either way. And they were able to maintain their focus for different stretches of the game that a difference of three minutes could determine the outcome of the game, but yet that's the beauty of playoff basketball. I think especially this past year's playoffs was probably more indicative of it than other years in the past. You look at the San Antonio-Dallas series where one possession virtually every game decides the winner and the loser. We understand that and we obviously have respect for Miami (they won a championship), yet we hope that we can continue to make strides so we can get to their level.
Q: Thoughts on Marcus Williams. There was an article in a local paper quoting a scout who intimating he was a nice-looking player who wouldn’t earn minutes under you. Is he ready to be a backup point guard?
Frank: Well my first impression was that I hope that scout doesn't get a general manager's job. My second impression was that if anyone has watched our preseason games, they would realize that Marcus has some extremely high-level gifts on the offensive end of the floor. Without having a name to who that scout was ... Marcus has progressed very, very well. He like every other young player in the league is going to go through his growing pains, but we see him very much as a big part of our picture and we're very excited about his development throughout the season.