Josh Newman, SNYNets.comEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Any coach at any level will tell you that the best problem to have is figuring out the depth chart for a team loaded with talent. With a revamped roster and tons of fresh faces, Brooklyn Nets head coach Avery Johnson has just such a problem, especially with opening night now less than 30 days away.
Coming into training camp, the Nets' starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez was virtually locked in, and that remains so after two days of practice.
Beyond that, coach Johnson is trying to determine whether his rotation will feature nine or as many as 11 players, with C.J. Watson, MarShon Brooks, Josh Childress, Mirza Teletovic and Andray Blatche comprising his second unit.
That's already 10 players worthy of minutes, and key veterans Keith Bogans and Reggie Evans can respectively defend the perimeter and patrol the paint to the point where they will be fighting for minutes. Additionally, coach Johnson has to figure out what he has in his versatile (but raw) rookie, 6-foot-9 Tornike Shengelia.
"It's... Do you go with a 10-man rotation? Or do you go with nine? Do you go with an 11-man rotation?" That was coach Johnson's dilemma after practice on Wednesday. "It's gonna be pretty interesting to see how it all shakes out," he said. "But the main thing is whether we go with nine or 10, I don't see it being any less than nine."
Coach Johnson won't start to get some answers until the Nets open their preseason on Oct. 13 in Atlantic City, when they battle the Philadelphia 76ers at the historic Boardwalk Hall.
Pushing the pace
Towards the end of the Nets' third official practice on Wednesday, Johnson picked up the pace when he ran an up-tempo 5-on-5 drill with his team. With 12 seconds on the clock, the five-man units sprinted up and down the floor. By the end of the drill, the players were noticeably gassed, missing layups and short jumpers.
After practice, coach Johnson said that he wanted his team "to play a little bit faster," but the drill was also put in for conditioning purposes.
"We ran pretty hard today, this was probably a harder practice than the one yesterday morning," Johnson said. "You can see, sometimes, a little fatigue here and there, but they fought through it and that's the main thing."
Going a little harder and a little faster early in camp is fine with this group after weeks of pre-camp workouts organized by team captain Deron Williams. Afterwards, many of the team's players agreed with their coach's assessment: the entire team has come into camp in shape and ready to go.
The Nets practiced twice on Tuesday and twice on Wednesday. They are scheduled to practice just once Thursday morning before holding another dual-session on Friday.
Taylor could return Friday, Blatche tweaks back
Rookie point guard Tyshawn Taylor was limited in practice for the second straight day with a strained right quadricep. Johnson noted the injury is not considered serious and that the Hoboken native may practice at full-speed on Friday.
Eighth-year big man Andray Blatche sat out the second half of practice with back spasms. Like Taylor, Johnson said there was no need to be overly concerned about the 6-foot-11 Blatche. Blatche is in training camp on a non-guaranteed deal after being amnestied by the Washington Wizards in July.
Johnson expects Blatche back by Thursday, though Blatche said he would attempt to participate in Wednesday's second practice session. According to Blatche, the injury occurred during Wednesday's morning session while he was guarding Brook Lopez in the post.
Josh Newman is SNYNets.com’s Field Reporter. Follow him on Twitter for up to the minute news and banter on all things related to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA.