NEW YORK (AP) — The Nets are no longer concerned about getting back to the playoffs after a five-year drought.
The more pressing issue for Brooklyn's new team is getting a few more pieces so the franchise can challenge for the Eastern Conference title.
While it sounds optimistic, that's the mood of the Nets as they approach their first season in Brooklyn with a roster that includes an All-Star backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, a veteran small forward in Gerald Wallace and a talented young center in Brook Lopez.
Having Dwight Howard at center, of course, would have catapulted the Nets from woeful to wonderful in a split second, but the much ballyhooed deal with Orlando fell apart earlier this week. Still, the Nets should be a lot better than their 22-44 mark in the lockout-shortened season.
"I really believe this is a playoff team," coach Avery Johnson said Friday after the Nets held a news conference in Brooklyn's Borough Hall to showcase Williams and Johnson. "Once we can become a playoff team and get into the playoffs, then anything can happen.
"It's all about size, athleticism and versatility. You saw it with the Miami Heat last year and you'll see it again this summer in the Olympics."
The Nets will be much more athletic with Williams, Johnson and Wallace, combined with a healthy Lopez, who missed most of last season with foot problems. Second-year guard MarShon Brooks fits right in, as well.
Where the Nets need help at is power forward. Reggie Evans was acquired from the Clippers earlier this month and general manager Billy King said the team is close to re-signing Kris Humphries, the team's leading rebounder last season.
Brooklyn also this week signed Mirza Teletovic, a 6-foot-9 free agent who can play both forward spots, to a three-year, $10 million contract.
Humphries is a free agent, as well, but the Nets own his Larry Bird-rights, so they can pay him anything they want. Charlotte also has interest. King said the Nets have had serious talks with veteran Jerry Stackhouse, also. The other pressing need would be a backup point guard, preferably a veteran.