It took us a little while to get to the Prudential Center Thursday. A weather-related "signal problem at Newark" delayed our train, an inauspicious start to the Nets' promotion of mass transit. Still, we thought we saw enough to get a good read of the night's events. Here are our thoughts, players in the order in which they joined the Nets.
Star of the Show: It wasn't Devin or TWill or Brook or Derrick or even Avery. It was the venue. The Prudential Center will bring tears to the eyes of those who suffered through the last few years of the IZOD Center. It's more intimate, less cavernous, with better lighting, better access and a fresh feel. Only one NBA arena will be newer this season: the Amway Center in Orlando. As noted, we took the train. It took us 11 minutes to get from our seats in section 18 to our seats on NJ Transit (return trip had no delay) and that was without police directing traffic at the four intersections between the Rock and Penn Station. The practice was over at 8 p.m. We were home at 8:40. The media will get a quick look see at the new NBA locker rooms on Sunday. It's been a priority for Mikhail Prokhorov. (Note that the words, "NEW JERSEY Nets" do not appear on the court. It is, as we reported, "Nets Basketball".
Devin Harris: Yes, he looked bigger across the shoulders and he was somewhat aggressive going into the paint, feeding the post. His shot was off...so was everyone's other than Jordan Farmar. At times, he looked like he was holding back a bit, which isn't surprising. At one point, he made sure Damion James took his defensive role seriously.
Brook Lopez: We're always amazed at how big he is...not just tall, but big. Excelled in getting to the basket, hauling in passes and finishing. He seemed confident and showed no ill effects from his mononucleosis. He didn't seem like he was putting out maximum effort, much like Harris, but then as Allen Iverson said, it's practice. Did we see him complain to a practice ref?!
Terrence Williams: He had a contusion of his left quadriceps which looked worse than it was, apparently. Before that, he was as exciting as ever, but more controlled. He slashed and dunked, played some defense. Brought the ball up a couple of time when Farmar was on the court. If you liked what you saw at the end of the year or in summer league, you were happy.
Kris Humphries: Mixed it up with Derrick Favors all night long...looked aggressive underneath. Very determined play at both ends. He is still a black hole on offense, but as a back-up to Troy Murphy and Favors, he'll be fine. And remember, he is one of the team's young players, only 25.
Derrick Favors: Not that raw. He is athletic and big, with a legitimate 7'4" wingspan. He is strong, being able to take down some rebounds in traffic and putting them back up. Displayed good hands when Farmar found him. Fouled a bit too much, but remember he is the youngest player in the NBA this season and will be the youngest Net ever, by about six months, if he survives the Carmelo Anthony rumors.
Damion James: Didn't see enough of him. He hit a "J', made a nice pass, got inside. We wonder about his ball handling at the NBA level, but not his strength or his BBIQ.
Quinton Ross: Didn't see him at all. Toenail issue.
Brian Zoubek: Didn't see him. He's had a bad back.
Ben Uzoh: Looked nervous out there. He missed a number of shots, a few of them open. Needs some confidence...will probably get more time Sunday vs. Maccabi Haifa.
Travis Outlaw: We're sure he'll be fine, really, but he didn't show much on Thursday night. If there was a disappointment, it was Outlaw. Needed to be more aggressive, show why the Nets invested $35 million in him.
Johan Petro: As we've long said, the difference between a Knick fan and a Net fan is this: the Knicks sign a 24-year-old Russian seven footer to a three year $10 million contract and their fans think he's the savior of the franchise. The Nets sign a 24-year-old French seven-footer to a three year, $10 million contract and their fans think he's the ruination of the franchise. Petro looked very good considering expectations. Showed good hands, good interior defense and will be at least serviceable as Lopez's replacement. The big surprise...in spite of what Hollinger says ("He isn't any good").
Jordan Farmar: We weren't surprised by Farmar. Maybe we should have been, but he is a winner and a solid citizen who freed from the restrictions of the triangle may turn out to be a very solid back-up (or more). He hit two three's, the only one of Da Bomb Squad who did. More importantly, he seemed very secure and confident (two NBA rings will do that for you). He twice got the ball to Favors in the right place at the right time and hit Lopez with an over the shoulder blind pass.
Anthony Morrow: All his shots seemed to go in and out. Had an off night. Moved around without the ball. Didn't play a lot. Would like to see more of him and we expect we will. Keep shooting, Amo.
Troy Murphy: Didn't play, groin strain. Won't play Sunday either.
Stephen Graham: Kept turning to the person next to me and saying, "he is one big guy". He's 6'6" tall and about 6'7" wide. He moves well without the ball and can handle it a bit too. He was a point guard in high school. Looked more like a middle guard.
Eddie Gill: On his eighth tour with the Nets. Never say never, but Gill plays at the position where the Nets are strongest, with Harris, Farmar, Williams and Uzoh all capable of handling the point. Nice player, but unlikely to make it unless Harris heads south or west.
Overall: more positives than negatives, but we left wondering who is the Nets go-to scorer? Is it Harris, Lopez...or Anthony.