Williams and Johnson become Nets’ backbone
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY
BROOKLYN — Nets point guard Deron Williams said it in July when the Williams-Joe Johnson backcourt combo became official.
Nets general manager Billy King reiterated it as NBA training camps start opening.
“I think we have the best backcourt in the NBA,” he said. “That’s no disrespect to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. I just think where these guys (Williams, Johnson) are in their careers, they are. What I really like is that they’re both very physical offensively and defensively. They’ll be the most physical backcourt in the league.”
The backcourt is divergent from the All-Stars the Nets pursued in the last two seasons — forward Carmelo Anthony in 2010-11 and center Dwight Howard in 2011-12. The Nets ended up with neither, not for lack of trying, then committed to building around the backcourt.
King enters this season with relief from the constant questions about the future look of his team.
“For the first time since I’ve been here, we’ll go to training camp without the swirl of trade rumors,” he said. “We’re going into training camp without any distractions. We can just focus on basketball, and our players can focus on basketball.
“For me, it’s going to be great to watch training camp and not get that look out of the corner of the eye from your players, wondering if they’re leaving or not.”
He can concentrate on getting the Nets to be the best team in New York or even a team better than last season and contending for a playoff spot for the first time since 2006-07.
It won’t be with the names tossed around for the past two seasons, but the Nets have built a roster that should have flexibility and depth, the ability to play big or small, run more or play in the halfcourt.
It starts with Williams and Johnson giving opponents a tough decision. No longer can teams put a bigger guard on Williams and disregard his shooting guard. Both can shoot from the outside or drive to the basket, and Williams is capable of distributing the ball.
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