Here are just some of the questions that still start getting answered Tuesday night as the Nets open their preseason schedule vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv.
--Is everyone healthy ... and can they stay that way?
Brook Lopez had his right foot reconstructed and his left ankle ligament repaired and stretched which kept him off his feet for two months. Deron Williams had surgery on both ankles to remove bone fragments and a bone spur, immobilizing him for part of the summer. And let's not forget Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko, ages 38 and 33, missed more than 50 games last season to back spasms.
So far, so good. Neither needed any time off in practice and went full-on in scrimmages. Williams in particular seems fully recovered and playing, for the first time in two years, at a high level. Lionel Hollins predicted an All-Star berth. Lopez is getting used to playing again, but has been visibly frustrated at times during scrimmages. Other than Alan Anderson's sore abdominal muscle, everyone on the 17-man roster is healthy. Kirilenko had some back tightness --he wouldn't even call it soreness-- and came back earlier than expected. KG looks and acts like he's in great shape.
--Is Bojan Bogdanovic ready for the NBA?
For three years, the Nets have been VERY high on their 2011 second round pick and as he has said, he's a better player now than he was back then. He became one of Europe's most dangerous --if a bit hot-and-cold-- scorers. He can hit the long three, post up, drive the lane and finish as well as initiate the pick-and-roll. He fits well in Hollins motion offense and everyone credits him with a high basketball IQ. He's an emotional player so it will be interesting to see how plays Tuesday night, when he will presumably start. It's been a long wait for No. 44.
--Did the Nets finally make the right choice on their coach?
Hollins is extremely grateful for this chance to get back in the NBA and has said so, calling the opportunity a "miracle" job. He knows it's probably his last chance to do the job he loves. He's about to turn 61 and was out of the game for a year, despite a great record both in the standings and in player development with Memphis. Irascible, old-school, analytics-averse, etc. was the rub. Hollins was shunned when other openings arose, but he seems to be a good fit. He'd better be. He's the Nets fourth coach since they arrived in Brooklyn, following Avery Johnson (28 games), P.J. Carlesimo (54 games) and Jason Kidd (82 games with Joe Prunty actually coaching two of those). Nets ownership needs for Hollins to be good, very good. And like health, so far, so good.
As for his offense, it's built for Williams and for the team's surplus of shooters. Moving the ball side to side, looking for cutters and the open man should benefit a number of players, including Joe Johnson, Bogdanovic and Mirza Teletovic as well as Kirilenko. He and D-WIll ran a version of the flex offense for six years in Utah.
--How's the bench?
Williams says this year's team is deeper than last year's. That's quite a statement. The Nets lost Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche, adding Bogdanovic, Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev as well as rookies Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson. Of course, they're getting Lopez back and there's been a lot of internal improvement as well. Mason Plumlee is fresh off his confidence-building gig with Team USA and a lot of his teammates expect Teletovic to have a breakout year. Everyone hopes Jack can get back to where he was in Golden State and New Orleans before that. He has no doubt he will. And they still have Kirilenko.
--What to expect from KG?
Garnett had his worst season with Brooklyn in 2013-14. Not only were his numbers down but he seemed to have lost a lot of that quick-twitch athleticism. But after taking it a bit easy in the summer of 2013, he started six weeks earlier this summer. It's his 20th --and perhaps last-- season in the NBA and KG understands the history of the game and his legacy. He believes he can compensate for what he's lost. Expect him to translate that into blood, sweat and tears.
--Who's going to surprise?
We have two candidates: Teletovic and Markel Brown. There's been a lot of talk just below the surface about how confident and relaxed the big Bosnian has been. Watching him shoot in practice, he simply doesn't miss that often and Hollins has pointedly said he's come to realize that Teletovic is more than just a three-point shooter.
Brown has quietly caught the eye of the coach and his teammates. He has developed quicker than expected, notes more than one team insider, particularly with his passing and deep shooting. "Shot the peel of it," said D-WIll, the other day after practice. His ball-handling needs some work, but his defense is solid and his athleticism is Gerald Green-like. Expect to see him get minutes in preseason.
Oh yeah, don't forget Johnson, who's just hanging around, smiling that smile, winking that wink, making that shot. With all the attention devoted to Williams, Lopez and KG, Johnson's been out of the spotlight, but he WAS the Nets best player in the playoffs, period. He came into camp, all hot yoga'ed up, having lost some weight but none of that sly confidence that makes him, in Jack's words, "the stealth scorer."
--Who makes the final cut?
The Nets have 13 players with fully guaranteed deals, three others with some level of partial guarantee --Jorge Gutierrez with $25,000; Cory Jefferson with $75,000; and Jerome Jordan $100,000 if he makes the team. Willie Reed has no guarantees. The Nets can keep 15 players, but could hold open a spot for flexibility. Considering that the Nets went with bigs at the end of the draft and in camp invites, expect one or two of the bigs to get on the charter to Boston on October 29, but that's just a guess.
--Does Mikhail Prokhorov sell?
As we have reported and Dodger chairman Mark Walter has confirmed, the Nets are in talks with Guggenheim Sports and Entertainment Assets on a combination of assets. Despite what others may have written, that is the preferred way for everyone to cash in on some smart investments: Prokhorov, Ratner and the Guggenheim group. How soon? Not soon and it could fall apart, as have other such deals. Will it be a distraction? Not if it, like the team, is below the radar.