By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Deron Williams' face has been plastered all over Brooklyn the past couple of years as the Nets promoted their much-anticipated move to our fair borough.
But the Nets' $100 million All-Star point guard got some national exposure this week as the cover boy for Sports Illustrated's NBA Preview, the latest in what has been a steady stream of prime time p.r. opportunities for Brooklyn's first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles following the 1957 season.
“It’s nice," Williams said of the flashy, urban-themed cover, which shows Williams dribbling in front of a graffiti-covered wall featuring images of local icons such as Nets minority owner Jay-Z, former Nets legend Julius "Dr. J" Erving and, of course, the late, great Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color line here in 1947.
"I’ve just seen pictures of it. It was cool," added Williams, who signed his blockbuster deal in July with the hopes of leading the Nets into their new home and back to the playoffs for the first time six years. "I thought they did a great job. I think it’s one of the biggest publications out there as far as sports is concerned. It’s a great honor to be on there. It’s all good. It’s good for this organization and good for all of us as players. A lot of us haven’t been playing on TV lately. Hopefully, we can live up to it and win some games."
Coupled with the opening of a new arena, being followed by NBA TV's documentary camera crew throughout the campaign as the main subject of the cable channel's popular show, "The Association", and a $330 million summer spending spree that has many touting them as one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference, the Nets are suddenly a brand name after decades of wallowing in virtual obscurity on the tri-state sporting scene.
According to Williams' backcourt mate, six-time All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson, the preseason hype is nice, but doesn't add up to a single win in the standings.
"This is a new start for everybody," Johnson said following practice on Wednesday. "I think it's good, but I don't know. We'll see (how good we are). I've seen a lot of positives, but obviously we have a lot of work to do. We have to get the chemistry down."
Nets coach Avery Johnson was taken by suprise when informed of the Nets' prominent place on S.I.'s annual NBA preview edition. Noting the infamous S.I. cover jinx, Johnson had a question of his own for the media gathered in East Rutherford, N.J.
"They didn't pick us to win the championship, did they?" the raspy-voiced coach queried with a chuckle. "Because that's the kiss of death sometimes."