The Brooklyn Nets have several interesting storylines to note as their first training camp in Brooklyn gets under way.
As Deron Williams and the Nets focus on the work necessary to become a contender in the Eastern Conference, several question marks—injuries and position battles—will most assuredly garner the attention of the media.
Overcoming the media crush will be the key to a successful training camp. Position battles, team weaknesses and even the move to Brooklyn will all be dissected, and the players will have to work just to keep their focus on the task at hand.
All of the storylines that are about to be mentioned will eventually play themselves out, but it's important to note them, even at this very early point of the season.
No team is 100 percent "set" during its training camp, so there will always be some new development to keep an eye on.
To answer your question, yes.
Well, at least according to Nets general manager Billy King. In a September interview with USA Today, King was quoted as saying, "I think we have the best backcourt in the NBA."
He defended his point by saying, "That's no disrespect to Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. I just think where these guys (Williams, Joe 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."
It seemed as if King backed off his initial "best" remark by replacing that with "most physical" but, either way, he has high expectations from Williams and Johnson.
As does most everybody associated with the team. As do Net fans. Williams and Johnson were brought together to eventually bring a title to Brooklyn.
Their play early on in training camp as a one-two punch will be covered closely by the media. While it is just training camp, if there's chemistry between the two, it should be evident early.
Bryant and Nash may have to watch their backs. If Williams and Johnson gel, then they may prove King right by the time the playoffs roll around.
Let me be clear here—I've yet to hear or read any rumors regarding head coach Avery Johnson's status with the team.
The season has yet to start, and he's got the pieces in place to have a contending team this season.
That's just it, though. With all the pieces in place, what happens if the Nets stumble out of the gate? The Brooklyn front office may not be a patient one if the team goes on a prolonged stretch of poor play.
Johnson has an extremely poor record in his short tenure with the team, but neither of those teams had the talent that the current roster has.
It'll be his job this training camp to see which units mesh and which guys need to be pushed a little harder. If he doesn't make everything click in training camp, there's a good chance the Nets get off to a slow start.
Should that occur, expect Johnson to be on the hot seat.
Tornike Shengelia, a 20-year-old rookie taken by the Nets in this past draft, has impressed Johnson early on.
His basketball IQ and high energy have impressed Johnson, while his defensive intensity has really stood out.
"Defensively, he's tough," Johnson said. "He doesn't quit on plays. We're going to give him every opportunity to see what he can do. He's playing well."
We haven't gotten much word yet on his offensive game, but his defensive skills alone have the potential to make him a very valuable asset to the team.
Mirza Teletovic, on the other hand, struggled in his first few days at Nets camp.
His shot was off in the first few days of practice, but learning how to get open and create shots for yourself in the NBA takes time. Many expect Teletovic to play an important role on the team this season, but it's unfair to expect greatness from day one.
Teletovic and Shengelia could very well be competing against each other for playing time this season. Both play the forward position, but each player has a different specialty.
It'll be interesting to see who leaves training camp with the edge.
The Nets have been lucky that they've yet to incur a major injury this training camp, but there are a few guys who have been banged up in the early going.
Newly signed Josh Childress left last Thursday's practice early with a sore Achilles. Though it was just precautionary, it's worth following over the next few weeks.
Rookie Tyshawn Taylor missed practice at the end of last week with a strained right quad that's been bothering him for some time. Johnson hinted at Taylor making his return this upcoming week.
Andray Blatche, who had been experiencing back spasms, was fine at the end of last week in practice. Blatche is looking to lock up the reserve center role on the team and revert back to his Washington Wizards form from just a few seasons ago.
While none of these injuries appear to have any long-term effects on the respective players or on the team, each one is worth keeping track of.
All it takes is a little carelessness by the training staff or the players themselves to turn a minor injury turn into something that lingers or resurfaces throughout the course of the season.
The interviewer then pointed out that Shaq could have meant Brook Lopez of the Nets, to which Shaq replied, "same thing. They're brothers."
Whether or not Shaq's delivery was comical is irrelevant, as his refusal to acknowledge Dwight Howard as the best big man in the game today is noteworthy.
It's a great honor for Lopez that O'Neal thinks he is better than the guy the Nets tried so desperately to obtain this offseason, but it'll be interesting to see how much this motivates Lopez to possibly take his game to the next level.
Nobody has ever questioned his ability to put the ball in the basket, but Lopez has had his fair share of rebounding problems the past few seasons.
Fixing his problems on the glass would definitely propel him into a higher tier of NBA big men—possibly one that includes Dwight Howard.
At this point, though, there's no big man in the game better than D12.