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Five keys for the Brooklyn Nets this season
1. BROOK LOPEZ
What the Nets can achieve this season rests predominantly on Brook Lopez's shoulders. Joe Johnson admitted Saturday that "obviously, we're gonna play a lot through Brook." The seven-foot center is making just less than $20 million this season as part of a new three-year deal he signed in the offseason. And with Mason Plumlee gone, Lopez is the lone center on the roster. He's coming off a 2014-15 campaign in which he started just 44 games as he tried to recover from multiple injuries. Lopez returning to his All-Star form on both ends of the floor will be crucial.
2. CONTRIBUTIONS FROM YOUNG PLAYERS
The Nets were among the oldest teams in the league the past two seasons thanks to trades that acquired aging stars. This year, though, general manager Billy King brought in a number of young but unproven players to add some energy to the roster. And some of the veterans have taken notice. Lopez raved about the Nets' youth movement, which includes 2015 first round pick Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who the Nets traded Mason Plumlee for on draft day, 23-year-old point guard Shane Larkin and 24-year-old former lottery pick Thomas Robinson. "I obviously see potential in guys like Shane running the team, his athleticism, making plays," Lopez said. "And just T-Rob's motor, he just keeps going, and I know he's making me better out there every day I play against him. I think he's doing that for every one of the bigs."
3. DEFENSIVE COMMITMENT
With so many new players, the Nets have yet to discover exactly what their identity will be on the court. But one thing's for sure: with the influx of young talent, the Nets can garner an advantage by forcing steals, playing aggressive defense and getting out in transition. "We're athletic. We can run. We can get up and down," Joe Johnson said. "We gotta cause havoc defensively to get out and get easy baskets. So I know coach wants to run. We've got the guys to do it." Brooklyn was 20th in the league last season in opposing turnovers per game. Expect the team to move up in that department this season.
4. STAYING HEALTHY
Quite simply, the Nets don't have the talent to lose any of their core players for an extended period of time. And so far in his career, especially over the past two seasons, Lopez has struggled to stay on the floor. In 2013-14, it was a foot injury that limited him to just 17 games. And then last year, he lost his spot in the starting lineup to Mason Plumlee as he tried to make his way back from a strained back. A healthy Lopez is paramount. But the injury luck needs to also impact the rest of the team. "Being healthy, that's probably the biggest key," Johnson said. "We keep guys healthy and keep them on the court, then we should be all right."
5. JOE JOHNSON CONTRACT YEAR
Joe Johnson's six-year, $123.65-million contract he signed with the Hawks before the 2010-11 season is set to run out of this year, meaning the 34-year-old shooting guard has added incentive to improve off his subpar campaign last year. After shooting threes at a 40-percent clip in 2013-14, his percentage was down below 36 in 2014-15. He also averaged his fewest points per game in more than a decade. In the final year of his mega deal, Johnson should have a resurgence, which is good news for Nets fans.
Source: Daily News