Several hundred of the most loyal Nets fans showed up at Ramapo College's Bill Bradley Sports and Recreation Center in Mahwah Saturday to take a look at the New New Jersey Nets. With eight new faces on the roster and three non-roster players, it might have been tempting for the team to have players wear name tags as well as uniforms.
Sixteen of the nineteen players in camp played in a scrimmage--two six minute quarters--and then engaged in some shooting and "knockout" competitions with the help of fans. Overall, you had to be impressed with their energy level, particulary on defense. Offensively, they need work.
While noting that there's really little you can take away from a 12 minute intra-squad scrimmage (without instant replay!!), here's some of our individual impressions:
Vince Carter: As Gary Sussman said after a driving dunk, "He IS Vince Carter". Still is, actually. VC showed no effect from his off season ankle surgery, swishing and dishing and dunking.
Devin Harris: In an offense predicated on guards getting to the rim, Harris seems ideal. His ball-handling was mesmerizing, his crossover in particular fun to watch. Everyone predicting a breakout season would have to be encouraged by today's scrimmage.
Yi Jianlian: His shots weren't falling (and there were a lot of them) but with only one practice under his belt, you had to be impressed with his talent. He found Brook Lopez underneath on two beautiful passes, one off the dribble. He is indeed graceful and athletic. Went at it under the boards.
Brook Lopez: Didn't play a lot, but as everyone who has seen him up close will tell you, he is BIG. I mean really big...with a huge wingspan. When Yi found him with those two passes, he knew what to do with the rock: finish...once with a commanding dunk. Oh, one other thing, Lopez is BIG.
Bobby Simmons: Moved well, but like everyone else seemed to need some extra shooting help. Played energetic and solid defense and did hit a nice shot from the corner.
Josh Boone: Has bulked up big time. Didn't get the ball much so we didn't see whether he is a better shooter than last season.
Sean Williams: We will take people's word for it that he has been the best player in camp. We didn't see it. Played good defense, but was angry with himself on a couple of personals. He gets a pass considering all that his coach and Carter have said about him. What happened to the white knee-highs?
Stromile Swift: Okay, we admit it...we were impressed. He played well, looked like he deserves minutes. Very active on both ends, particularly defense. He is in a contract year, so he knows he needs to play well.
Ryan Anderson: All the players say it: he has impressed in camp. He can shoot, oh yeah, and he is not afraid to. Always around the ball, knows where it's going on offense, off the boards. Aggressive, confident. May have had the best scrimmage of anyone, considering expectations.
Chris Douglas-Roberts: He moves well without the ball and is, yes, deceptive with it. Won't be denied playing time. Had a few minutes at the point. Won the three-point shooting contest over Yi, Carter and Anderson.
Trenton Hassell: This is not a bad basketball player. Played his usual ball-denying defense and hit a nice jumper in his limited time on court.
Maurice Ager: played some point guard, but didn't get a lot of minutes. Missed on a long three.
Eduardo Najera: Didn't play because of injury, but put on a display of "footwork" in dribbling a basketball as if it were a soccer ball. Don't quit the day job, Eddie.
Keyon Dooling: Didn't play because of injury, but could be seen encouraging his teammates.
Jarvis Hayes: Didn't play because of injury. He was there, but we just didn't see him.
Brian Hamilton: Oh, so athletic. Had a great finish on a fast break that brought ooh's and aah's from the fans. A defender who wouldn't back down from Carter. Wouldn't take an open shot. We suspect there's a reason.
Eddie Gill: Played more minutes that the other backup PG contestants: Hodge and Ager. Nothing spectacular, but steady work.
Julius Hodge: Not as good a passer as Gill, but he can penetrate in this offense. Again, limited time on the court. Jump shot needs work...still.
Awvee Storey: Sorry, we didn't notice him.
Beyond the players, we wanted to disclose our assessments of two other "Nets", one a veteran, the other a rookie.
Gary Sussman -- Nets' P.A. announcer was ready with the old calls and you could hear his disappointment when Yi hit a deep two that was almost, but not quite a three. "Yi for...(pause)...two", he called out. You knew he so wanted to say, "Yi for THREE". He has been practicing that one, you know it.
Finally, we have to ask, what was T.J. Kidd doing playing "knockout" with the Nets? Wearing a Mavs uniform with the No. 2, he got in the Nets layup line. Where was this Kidd's adult supervision??